Traditional Cultural Expression, Third Panel

November 16, 2008

“Indigenous Perspectives on Intellectual/Cultural Property Rights and Access” was the theme of the third panel at the We Shall Remain, scheduled to air on public television in April 2009, on developing a multimedia toolkit to help libraries use the American Experience series to establish native history as an essential part of American history. New Zealander Spencer Lilley, Maori services manager for the Massey University Library System, began his talk with an ancient Maori chant, leading into a discussion of Maori cultural and intellectual property rights. He presented a brief history of New Zealand and showed examples of Maori tattoos being used in fashion marketing and in sporting events in ways that native people find offensive and exploitative. Martin Nakata, chair of Australian indigenous education at the University of Technology in Sydney, reported on his research on indigenous knowledge in Australia.  He pointed out that 40,000 to 60,000 years of knowledge being passed on through oral tradition is not to be interpreted as entertainment. He offered an off-the-cuff, spot-on answer to the question, What does it mean to be indigenous? "We didn’t name the place, the place named us," he said.