This web site was begun as a response to a situation in which we (David Cole, Jordan Dill, Tara Prindle & Karen Strom) found ourselves. We were each approached, individually, to allow the WWW sites that we maintain to be downloaded and included in their entirety in a CDrom project being put together for Virgin Records. We were told only that the product would include " powerful music videos from the Sacred Spirits disc, an ambient world music with a Southwest Indian beat." In addition to the music portion, sections would be included on "art and artifacts, rituals, and culture of Native American Indians" and on "sacred and historical sites." A fourth section was proposed to contain a selection of WWW sites relevant to Native American issues. The Sacred Spirits album, distributed by Virgin Records, has sold approximately 2 million copies in Europe, although it has never done well in the U.S.
After the first rush of excitement about being selected to participate in a project that appeared on the surface to be a well financed project presenting a positive view of Native American culture, several questions appeared to require answers. The description of the music seemed a bit suspicious and no musicians or bands were named. One of us (KS) asked for the names of the musicians and for identification of the other web sites under consideration for inclusion of the CDrom. While a list of web sites being considered was promptly returned, no names of musicians could be supplied. Since there was already almost daily communication among a few of us (DC, JD, KS), it was decided to poll everyone on the list to assess their feelings about the project.
At the same time, Arlie Neskahi, owner of Rainbow Walker Music, was consulted about the album. Arlie had recently removed several albums from his offerings because the musicians had misrepresented themselves as native. He reported that no musicians were credited on the album, and he kept selling album only because the claim was made that part of the proceeds were going to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). As a result of this information a call was made to the Boulder offices of NARF, which onfirmed that they would be receiving money from the record proceeds. However, they could answer no questions about the music on the album and said that they refered all such questions to Virgin Records.
Another aspect of the proposed CDrom deal was the lack of any compensation for the use of our Web sites. Most of us maintain sites as volunteers for the Native American community, some with ties to a specific group. An attempt was made to secure charitable donations in the name of each of the Web sites to an organization selected by the site maintainers. Although Virgin Records is hardly a small operation, it was deemed impossible to find any such funds in the project budget. However, a published analysis of the profits and costs for the Sacred Spirits album from the Associated Newspapers Ltd./Evening Standard under the byline of Tim Cooper shows that there is remarkably little splitting of the profits from this project. The album producer, Claus Zundel, is also the composer, lyricist and arranger. The entire 6.25% of the album proceeds which is usually split by these people. In this case, all goes to Mr. Zundel, who bills himself as The Fearsome Brave on the album cover material. The only true Native American connection with the album comes from a set of Native American chants that were mixed over the "ambient and techno" music that forms the base of the album. The "rights" to these chants were purchased 3 years ago for Approximately $2000 from the Recorded Anthology of American Music, a non-profit-making foundation in New York. This foundation has its own record label, New World Records. They collect authentic 'roots' music; their products are usually used in schools and colleges. The four tribes from whose music these chants come had each negotiated their own terms with New World Records, sometimes for a flat fee and in other cases for royalties. At the time of these negotiations there was no prospect of a hit record in sight. Apparently the costs of producingthe album were minimal. Nonetheless, it was decided that there was no money available for any compensation for the use of these Web sites on what was obviously a project for which there were high hopes for profits such as those seen in Europe.
We also raised questions about copyright clearance, particularly about the use of images of Native American art. The reply received was that there were no problems in this regard. Once a piece of art was sold by the artist, the artist no longer had an interest in or control over the use of images of their work. The example used was of a van Gogh picture in a museum. Other than the fact that van Gogh painted at a time prior to modern copyright laws, this is a common misconception, but still a misconception. The image of the work still belongs to its creator, a fact clearly spelled out in U.S. and International copyright law. Think of it this way: when you buy a book, do you also acquire the copyright to the work? Of course not! This is an important issue. We wish to make it impossible that anyone can plead ignorance on this issue again.
Another matter of concern to us was the proposal to include materials on Native American sacred sites, even though we were never able to obtain any information about what was intended. This is a sensitive issue for several reasons. First, many Native Americans do not appreciate uninvited guests at their ceremonies. These are not shows put on for the entertainment of the audience. New Age groups will also make use of these sites if they know of them and may even add their own "shrines" in regions considered sacred by Native Americans. Material on these sites sacred to Native Americans for centuries must be handled with great sensitivity.
In most cases we have been asked permission for the use of our sites, in Internet directories, in cultural awareness programs, on CDroms for eductaional uses. These requests have come from the U.S. Army, profit-making publishers and educational organizations as far away as China. Most of the time we grant permission gladly; occasionally a small fee is asked for use of the graphics or screenshots. However recently there have been some very disturbing occurances. Graphics from the site run by one of us (KS) were found in use on the site of a contract archaeology company. When it was requested that the graphics be removed, they were, slowly, one at a time, necessitating additional requests. Now a flagrant theft of copyrighted material has occured. A New Age site has stolen entire pages of HTML tagged material, stripped off the logo and signature material, replacing them with their own. They then republished the material on their own site, taking full credit except for a single line thanking all of the people who contributed to putting the site together! This kind of blatent theft cannot be tolerated. We give links to sources of legal information and ways to obtain remedies.
Because of the importance of these issues and the wide-spread ignorance in the commercial and online world, we have decided to bring together here an organized list of pointers to information both for people who are attempting to put together projects and for those who just wish to educate themselves.
There are other issues closely related to those discussed above: cultural stereotypes, cultural property. ethics in archaeology and anthropology, sovreignty, and cultural suppression, to mention a few. We also plan to address these issues and others as they arise. While we provide references and suggested reading, both fiction and non-fiction, even poetry, where some of these issues are addressed, we hope eventually to have essays addressing these issues specially written for this site. Of course, none of the work will appear here until we have a copyright release from the author!