Telling their own story

Pasatiempo - - FRONT PAGE - Pasatiempo’s Khris­taan D. Vil­lela

In an ar­ti­cle pub­lished at the end of 2015 in Hyper­al­ler­gic, a pop­u­lar on­line arts mag­a­zine, on the 20 most pow­er­less peo­ple in the art world, the edi­tors listed Na­tive Amer­i­cans as No. 7, be­tween Per­form­ing Artists (No. 6) and Ch­eryl La­Porte, the Vir­ginia teacher who asked her stu­dents to copy the Is­lamic state­ment of faith as part of a les­son on cal­lig­ra­phy (No. 8). It men­tioned the glacial progress in de­col­o­niz­ing mu­se­ums and claim­ing sa­cred ma­te­ri­als from auc­tion houses, and called at­ten­tion to the near ab­sence of Na­tive artists in the in­au­gu­ral ex­hi­bi­tion of the new Whit­ney Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in New York City. The Hyper­al­ler­gic edi­tors con­cluded by say­ing that some Na­tive groups have set­tled for dig­i­tal repa­tri­a­tion, re­fer­ring to the new on­line ver­sion of the Codex Men­doza cre­ated by Mex­ico’s In­sti­tuto Na­cional de An­tropología e His­to­ria, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Bodleian Li­brary and King’s Col­lege, both at Ox­ford Univer­sity. The

Codex is a three-vol­ume man­u­script painted in Mex­ico City by Na­tive Aztec painters in 1542, 20 years af­ter the Span­ish con­quest of Moctezuma’s Em­pire. It is a com­pen­dium of Aztec life be­fore the con­quest, and it has been housed at Ox­ford since 1659. It should be noted that the Codex Men­doza was not repa­tri­ated to any liv­ing Na­tive group, but was in­stead vir­tu­ally re­claimed by an agency of the Mex­i­can govern­ment, which for the past cen­tury has con­sti­tuted a na­tional iden­tity by claim­ing fic­tive roots in Moctezuma’s Mex­ico. Nev­er­the­less, the case raises is­sues of in­tel­lec­tual and cul­tural prop­erty salient to the sit­u­a­tion of Na­tive peo­ples in the South­west­ern U.S.

Last sum­mer, Pen­guin and its re­lated im­print Vik­ing pub­lished two books on the his­tory and tra­di­tional Na­tive Amer­i­can re­li­gion of New Mex­ico’s Pue­blo of Acoma: How the World Moves: The Odyssey of an Amer­i­can In­dian Fam­ily and The Ori­gin Myth of Acoma Pue­blo. Both were projects of Peter Nabokov, a pro­fes­sor in the Dept. of World Arts and Cul­tures at UCLA, and au­thor of many schol­arly works on Na­tive Amer­i­can his­tory and ar­chi­tec­ture. Three days af­ter the books were re­viewed in Pasatiempo on Sept. 18, 2015, Ray Rivera, editor of The Santa Fe New Mex­i­can, re­ceived a let­ter of protest from Hon. Fred S. Vallo Sr., then gov­er­nor of Acoma Pue­blo. When Nabokov ap­peared for a read­ing at Al­bu­querque’s Book­works on Sept. 23, he was con­fronted by mem­bers of Acoma Pue­blo and oth­ers who de­manded to know what right he had to pub­lish the Pue­blo’s sa­cred nar­ra­tives. A sim­i­larly tense scene en­sued at a read­ing the next day at Col­lected Works Book­store in Santa Fe. What went wrong? Aren’t book­store read­ings usu­ally love fests? Since Septem­ber, mem­bers of staff and I met twice with Acoma Pue­blo lead­er­ship and with the Pue­blo’s le­gal coun­sel, the Chest­nut Law Of­fices. We also con­tacted Nabokov. Al­though we do not pre­sume to speak for the lead­er­ship of Acoma Pue­blo, or in­deed for any Na­tive Amer­i­can group, this ar­ti­cle ex­plores the is­sues in­volved. The mat­ter re­duces to a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence of opin­ion and world­view about cul­tural knowl­edge and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. On one side, we have the mod­ern Western idea that all knowl­edge is avail­able to ev­ery­one with­out any re­stric­tions, while with re­gard to Acoma Pue­blo, we un­der­stand that some kinds of knowl­edge are not for ev­ery­one. It is an open ques­tion whether such seem­ingly in­com­pat­i­ble view­points can co­ex­ist with­out sup­port from state or fed­eral laws.

Nabokov’s silent part­ner in th­ese books was an Acoma Pue­blo man named Day Break (18611948), whose fas­ci­nat­ing fam­ily saga is re­counted in How the World Moves. Nabokov’s well-re­searched ac­count is based on in­ter­views he con­ducted with Day Break’s last sur­viv­ing son, Wil­bert, over 15 years, be­gin­ning in 1993. Like so many Na­tive Amer­i­cans of his gen­er­a­tion, Day Break was sent to an In­dian School, and there he took the name Ed­ward Proc­tor Hunt, found in­scribed in a Bi­ble do­nated to the school. Nabokov re­lates how Chris­tian­ity be­came im­por­tant to Hunt dur­ing this pe­riod, and af­ter he left the school he had dif­fi­culty rec­on­cil­ing his faith with the tra­di­tional be­liefs and prac­tices of his fel­low Acoma. Clashes with the Na­tive religious au­thor­i­ties at Acoma led Hunt to move to Santa Ana Pue­blo. But his trou­bles per­sisted, and by the mid-1920s, he had also been ex­pelled from Santa Ana. In 1927, Hunt and his fam­ily signed on with an Ok­la­homabased Wild West show, and the troupe spent a sea­son at a cir­cus in Dres­den, Ger­many. As Nabokov notes, this kind of Western spec­ta­cle was still pop­u­lar in Europe in the 1920s, though its hey­day was decades ear­lier, with “Buf­falo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Rid­ers of the World” show (1883-1906). In Ger­many, Hunt be­came Chief Big Snake, a Plains In­dian car­i­ca­ture. While the Hunts spent only one sea­son in Europe, the ex­pe­ri­ence would es­tab­lish a life­long vo­ca­tion of per­form­ing dif­fer­ent Na­tive Amer­i­can iden­ti­ties for An­glo Amer­i­cans. The Hunts re­turned to the U.S. in 1928, and soon had an op­por­tu­nity in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., which leads di­rectly to the Nabokov con­tro­versy. Over the course of two months, Hunt, his sons Henry and Wil­bert, and Philip Sanchez, an adopted son from Santa Ana Pue­blo, worked as paid in­for­mants with a team of an­thro­pol­o­gists from the Smithsonian In­sti­tu­tion’s Bureau of Amer­i­can Eth­nol­ogy (BAE). The BAE was founded in 1879 as a re­search in­sti­tu­tion ded­i­cated to col­lect­ing and pub­lish­ing data on the lan­guages, cul­ture, and re­li­gions of Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes, which at the time were thought to be in im­mi­nent dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion. At the BAE of­fices in the old

Smithsonian Cas­tle, Hunt re­counted Acoma Pue­blo’s foun­da­tional nar­ra­tives, from the cre­ation of the first hu­mans, two girls, to their emer­gence into the world, the pop­u­la­tion of the Earth with plants and an­i­mals, the com­ing of the kachina spir­its, the cre­ation of Acoma religious so­ci­eties and au­thor­i­ties, and fi­nally a cy­cle of sto­ries about the War Twins. The in­ter­views, as well as about 70 rit­ual songs, were recorded on wax cylin­ders, and one of Hunt’s sons drew im­ages of the kachi­nas men­tioned in record­ings, as well as of al­tars, prayer sticks, and other items, like the weapons given to the War Twins. When the book, The Ori­gin Myth of Acoma and Other Records, was fi­nally pub­lished by the BAE in 1946, the Hunts were not iden­ti­fied as in­for­mants, and were in­stead de­scribed as “a group of Pue­blo In­di­ans from Acoma and Santa Ana vis­it­ing Wash­ing­ton.” The re­port’s by­line read Matthew W. Stir­ling, who in 1928 was the new di­rec­tor of the BAE. By the time the Acoma ori­gin nar­ra­tive ap­peared in print, Stir­ling was mak­ing his name for his work re­lat­ing to the pre-Columbian Olmec civ­i­liza­tion of Mex­ico.

Stir­ling’s pub­li­ca­tion is the most com­plete ac­count of the ori­gin nar­ra­tive of any Pue­blo group in the South­west, and it re­mains a touch­stone for out­siders who are in­ter­ested in Na­tive Amer­i­can spirituality, mytho-his­tory, world­view, and cul­ture. An­thro­pol­o­gists of Stir­ling’s era com­monly took credit as com­piler and editor of the data they col­lected from the field and from in­for­mants. But by not pub­lish­ing the Hunts’ names — in­deed, in sup­press­ing them, as Nabokov writes — Stir­ling also pa­ter­nal­is­ti­cally acted to pro­tect the men. It is no se­cret that the pueb­los of New Mex­ico main­tained and con­tinue to as­sert tight con­trol over the re­lease of sen­si­tive religious or cul­tural in­for­ma­tion to out­siders. Ac­cord­ing to Nabokov and Wil­bert Hunt, Ed­ward was ex­iled from both Acoma and from Santa Ana, an­other of the Kere­san-speak­ing pueb­los, for be­ing vo­cal about his Chris­tian faith and for fail­ing to par­tic­i­pate in tra­di­tional cul­tural and religious ac­tiv­i­ties. Rea­sons for the close con­trol over rit­ual knowl­edge in­clude the Catholic Church’s at­tempts to stamp out Na­tive Amer­i­can re­li­gions dur­ing the Span­ish Colo­nial pe­riod and the sim­i­lar ef­forts of Protes­tant mis­sion­ar­ies from the 1840s on­ward. Be­gin­ning in 1884, U.S. law for­bade the prac­tice of Na­tive Amer­i­can re­li­gions, a law that was not en­tirely su­per­seded un­til the pas­sage of the Amer­i­can In­dian Religious Free­dom Act in 1978. And an­thro­pol­o­gists them­selves have not al­ways be­haved ac­cord­ing to pue­blo stan­dards of deco­rum. At Zuni Pue­blo, in the 1880s and 1890s, BAE an­thro­pol­o­gists Frank Hamil­ton Cush­ing and Matilda Coxe Steven­son com­ported them­selves so poorly that they have never been for­got­ten. It is said they forced their way into closed rit­ual per­for­mances and ki­vas, or un­der­ground rit­ual cham­bers. Al­though Cush­ing some­how got him­self ini­ti­ated into Zuni’s Bow Priest­hood, he was also been im­pli­cated in the re­moval and repli­ca­tion of sa­cred ma­te­ri­als like kachina masks and im­ages of the War Gods.

Gov. Vallo’s let­ter of protest, which was pub­lished in full in The Santa Fe New Mex­i­can on Sept. 23, 2015, de­tails the re­sponse of the lead­er­ship of Acoma Pue­blo to the pub­li­ca­tion of Nabokov’s books and to Pasatiempo’s re­view of the books. Vallo writes that Nabokov agreed to sub­mit the man­u­script of his new edi­tion of the Acoma ori­gin nar­ra­tive to the Tribal Coun­cil, and to ap­pear be­fore that body to dis­cuss pos­si­ble pub­li­ca­tion. He writes fur­ther that while the man­u­script was sub­mit­ted to the Pue­blo for re­view, Nabokov never ap­peared be­fore the Tribal Coun­cil and that his ac­tions and the even­tual pub­li­ca­tion evince a fun­da­men­tal lack of re­spect for tribal be­liefs and prac­tices. Vallo con­tin­ues that the Ori­gin Myth of the Pue­blo of Acoma is the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty of the Pue­blo, and that since Ed­ward Proc­tor Hunt did not have per­mis­sion to re­late the nar­ra­tive to any out­sider, nei­ther did Nabokov have per­mis­sion to re­pub­lish it.

Can a tribal ori­gin nar­ra­tive be in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty? The lat­est Ge­orge R.R. Martin novel and the new

Star Wars film are both pro­tected by U.S. copy­right law. But what about the Bi­ble’s Book of Gen­e­sis, the Lotus Su­tra, or the Quiché Maya Popol Vuh? While a spe­cific edi­tion or trans­la­tion of a text can be pro­tected, aren’t sa­cred texts global hu­man pat­ri­mony? The an­swer de­pends on who you are, whom you ask, and to which epis­te­mo­log­i­cal sys­tem you sub­scribe. In the Euro-Amer­i­can West, since the En­light­en­ment of the 1700s, many peo­ple and na­tions have been liv­ing with the as­sump­tion that knowl­edge is free to all. Th­ese sen­ti­ments have only been re­in­forced by the dig­i­tal age and the in­ter­net, where an amaz­ing breadth of hu­man­ity’s works and knowl­edge are at our fin­ger­tips. But is all knowl­edge re­ally free to all? Ed­ward Snow­den proved that it is not. Those with­out in­ter­net con­nec­tions and smart devices know this as well. Many peo­ple in the U.S. prac­tice re­li­gions in which the knowl­edge base is es­o­teric, and re­vealed only grad­u­ally, and to those who are qual­i­fied. In meet­ings, Acoma Pue­blo lead­er­ship and le­gal coun­sel have stressed that the Pue­blo’s religious and cul­tural knowl­edge is care­fully con­trolled, and im­parted only grad­u­ally to tribal mem­bers. In a meet­ing with Pasatiempo staff, Acoma Pue­blo’s Kurt Ri­ley — then se­cond lieu­tenant gov­er­nor (and now gov­er­nor) — stated that rit­ual knowl­edge is con­veyed on a need-to-know ba­sis, and that the Pue­blo lead­er­ship should de­cide what to share and what to con­ceal. He con­tin­ued that some in­for­ma­tion is never shared with the en­tire mem­ber­ship of the tribe, and is kept pri­vate by the tra­di­tional religious au­thor­i­ties. Acoma Pue­blo is a sov­er­eign body, with its own le­gal tra­di­tion. In­di­vid­ual Acoma peo­ple are not em­pow­ered to dis­cuss any sen­si­tive ma­te­rial with out­siders, and must ap­pear be­fore the Tribal Coun­cil if he or she wishes to work on a pro­ject such as Nabokov’s. It is tempt­ing to com­pare the po­si­tion of Acoma Pue­blo lead­er­ship on the ori­gin nar­ra­tive with the wide dis­sem­i­na­tion of the Navajo tribal cre­ation sto­ries. As Sey­mour H. Koenig and Har­riet Koenig write in Ac­cul­tur­a­tion in the Navajo Eden: New Mex­ico, 1550-1750 (YBK Pub­lish­ers, 2005), ver­sions of the Navajo cre­ation nar­ra­tive were first pub­lished in the 1860s. Navajo religious ex­perts, the

On one side, we have the mod­ern Western idea that all knowl­edge is avail­able to ev­ery­one with­out any re­stric­tions, while with re­gard to Acoma Pue­blo, we un­der­stand that some kinds of knowl­edge are not for ev­ery­one.

so-called medicine men, are the tra­di­tional guardians of this knowl­edge, and for most of the past 150 years, no cen­tral au­thor­ity has pro­hib­ited them from di­vulging cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive ma­te­rial. There has been more pres­sure with re­spect to vis­ual cul­ture, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing the record­ing and pub­li­ca­tion of sand-paint­ing de­signs, which are re­garded as pow­er­ful, even dan­ger­ous em­bod­i­ments of the Holy Peo­ple, and not to be fixed on pa­per, film, or in dig­i­tal for­mats. In con­trast to this, among the pueb­los of New Mex­ico, each town group is sov­er­eign, and ex­erts con­trol over the dis­sem­i­na­tion of its cul­ture.

Doc­u­ments ob­tained by Pasatiempo from Acoma Pue­blo’s le­gal coun­sel re­veal com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Nabokov as early as June 2007, when the Pue­blo be­came aware of the pro­ject to re­pub­lish the ori­gin nar­ra­tive. Two months later, an­other let­ter to Nabokov (and to the chan­cel­lor of UCLA) de­manded that he com­ply with Acoma tribal law and ap­pear be­fore the Tribal Coun­cil to re­quest per­mis­sion to pub­lish. An­other let­ter sent in Jan­uary 2008 asked for a copy of the man­u­script. While Nabokov replied to the Pue­blo each time, no meet­ing hap­pened and no man­u­script was for­warded to Acoma. Two fur­ther com­mu­ni­ca­tions in 2008 from Nabokov state that the work was de­layed. Then there was no in­ter­ac­tion un­til March 2015, when the Acoma Pue­blo le­gal coun­sel dis­cov­ered that the ori­gin myth book was avail­able for pre-or­der from sev­eral on­line re­tail­ers. Af­ter con­sult­ing with the Tribal Coun­cil, the at­tor­neys again con­tacted Nabokov, reaf­firm­ing the de­mands of eight years prior: that he ap­pear to re­quest per­mis­sion, sub­mit the man­u­script, and adding the new de­mand that he dis­trib­ute all roy­al­ties earned to the Pue­blo. Be­tween March and Au­gust of last year, let­ters show the Pue­blo con­tin­u­ing to make the same de­mands. Nabokov sub­mit­ted a lengthy doc­u­ment jus­ti­fy­ing his re­pub­li­ca­tion of the ori­gin nar­ra­tive. He fi­nally sub­mit­ted the man­u­script at the end of May, but the Pue­blo was not able to re­view it un­til Aug. 11. The idea was to then set a date for a meet­ing with the Tribal Coun­cil. By this time, the book was ac­tu­ally pub­lished and the read­ings in Al­bu­querque and Santa Fe had been sched­uled. As the read­ings ap­proached, Acoma’s le­gal coun­sel sent Nabokov a let­ter ask­ing that all sales of the ori­gin nar­ra­tive book be halted un­til af­ter he could meet with the Tribal Coun­cil. That did not hap­pen. Acoma Pue­blo at­tor­ney Ann Berkley Rodgers told Pasatiempo that she does not be­lieve that Nabokov ever se­ri­ously in­tended to work with the Pue­blo.

Both in writ­ing and in per­son at the Col­lected Works read­ing, Nabokov de­fended his pub­li­ca­tion of a new edi­tion of The Ori­gin Myth of Acoma based upon the grounds that the orig­i­nal 1946 ver­sion is in the pub­lic do­main, that it has been re­pub­lished be­fore (for ex­am­ple, by For­got­ten Books in 2008), and that the text is widely avail­able on­line. From a le­gal stand­point, Nabokov is on firm foot­ing. Noth­ing the Bureau of Amer­i­can Eth­nol­ogy pub­lished was copy­righted. It may have been il­le­gal in Acoma Tribal Law for Ed­ward Proc­tor Hunt to di­vulge the ma­te­rial, and in hind­sight, Matthew W. Stir­ling’s ac­tions ap­pear un­eth­i­cal. But Stir­ling broke no U.S. law when Hunt’s party was in­ter­viewed in 1928, and none in 1946, when the book was pub­lished. New Mex­ico Sen. Martin Hein­rich’s of­fice told Pasatiempo that he has been in close con­tact with Acoma’s Tribal Coun­cil re­gard­ing its re­quest to re­lo­cate the ar­chives of the BAE from the Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory to the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian. In a let­ter to the Smithsonian, Hein­rich wrote that “the ma­jor­ity of the in­for­ma­tion con­tained in the ar­chives is re­lated to

in­dige­nous peo­ple of the Amer­i­cas,” and that he does not be­lieve the Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory is the ap­pro­pri­ate lo­ca­tion to store the ar­chives.

One so­lu­tion would be to fold th­ese pub­li­ca­tions into the Smithsonian In­sti­tu­tion Press, which does copy­right its pub­li­ca­tions. An­other idea is to have the newly copy­righted BAE ma­te­ri­als ad­min­is­tered through the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Rodgers be­lieves that this would be an im­por­tant step in re­duc­ing what she char­ac­ter­ized as “aca­demic freeload­ing.”

On Sept. 25, the day af­ter the Col­lected Works read­ing, Nabokov and his at­tor­ney, James Kawa­hara, fi­nally ap­peared be­fore the Acoma Pue­blo Tribal Coun­cil. Al­though the coun­cil never re­leases min­utes,

Pasatiempo ob­tained a brief sum­mary from Acoma’s le­gal coun­sel of the pro­ceed­ings that had to do with Nabokov. The Tribal Coun­cil re­solved not to re­quest roy­al­ties from the sale of the Ori­gin Myth of Acoma or dis­cuss any fur­ther res­o­lu­tion un­til that body had an op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss the mat­ter with Acoma com­mu­nity lead­ers. When that process is com­plete, the Coun­cil will ask Nabokov to re­turn to Acoma to again meet with the Tribal Coun­cil. The Coun­cil also or­dered that in the mean­time all sales of the ori­gin myth book should be halted. Pasatiempo’s re­quest for a state­ment from Nabokov was de­clined on the ba­sis that pur­suant to his meet­ing with the Tribal Coun­cil, he was re­quested to make no fur­ther pub­lic com­ment. Our at­tempts to ques­tion any­one at Pen­guin Books were also un­suc­cess­ful.

If Acoma Pue­blo has no re­course in U.S. copy­right law, are there other op­tions to pro­tect its cul­tural pat­ri­mony? What about NAGPRA? In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Na­tive Amer­i­can Graves Pro­tec­tion and Repa­tri­a­tion Act (NAGPRA). The act stip­u­lates that ma­te­rial cul­ture items of a sa­cred na­ture as well as hu­man re­mains be­long­ing to a rec­og­nized Na­tive Amer­i­can tribe must be re­turned to that tribe upon ap­pli­ca­tion. It also re­quires that ev­ery mu­seum or in­sti­tu­tion that re­ceives fed­eral fund­ing must un­der­take an in­ven­tory of its col­lec­tions to de­ter­mine what ma­te­ri­als might qual­ify for NAGPRA repa­tri­a­tion. As a re­sult of the leg­is­la­tion, in the past quar­ter cen­tury, a great quan­tity of sa­cred ma­te­ri­als, grave goods, and sets of hu­man re­mains have been re­turned to tribes from ev­ery kind of cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion in the U.S., from the Smithsonian to lo­cal his­tor­i­cal so­ci­eties. It is fair to say that both cul­tural and sci­en­tific in­sti­tu­tions as well as tribes are still ad­just­ing to life un­der NAGPRA. Not ev­ery­thing has been repa­tri­ated. Nor can ev­ery­thing ever be repa­tri­ated. Many tribes are not rec­og­nized by the U.S. govern­ment; many ob­jects can no longer be at­trib­uted to a known tribe; there are prob­lems with the def­i­ni­tion of sa­cred or rit­u­ally im­por­tant ob­jects (is ev­ery­thing sa­cred?); and then there are those ob­jects which can­not be repa­tri­ated be­cause to do so would present a health haz­ard, mean­ing those works which were doused with ar­senic or mer­cury com­pounds to re­tard de­cay and kill ver­min. Brian D. Vallo, di­rec­tor of the In­dian Arts Re­search Cen­ter at Santa Fe’s School for Ad­vanced Re­search (and Fred S. Vallo Sr.’s son), also pointed out the sig­nif­i­cant cost of NAGPRA claims. In to­day’s world, are tribes that have casi­nos the only ones that can af­ford to file NAGPRA claims to re­cover sa­cred ma­te­ri­als? An­other is­sue is that NAGPRA ap­plies only to ma­te­rial cul­ture and tan­gi­ble as­sets, like skele­tons. It does not cover in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, like the Acoma ori­gin nar­ra­tive. For­mer gov­er­nor Vallo and other sources have told me that dis­cus­sions are un­der­way to de­vise pro­pos­als to ex­pand NAGPRA’s scope to also en­com­pass in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

Acoma and other South­west­ern Na­tive Amer­i­can pueb­los have had some suc­cess re­claim­ing sa­cred ma­te­rial from mu­se­ums, auc­tion houses, and even pri­vate col­lec­tions. Be­tween 1978 and 1992, Zuni Pue­blo ne­go­ti­ated the re­turn of 69 sa­cred sculp­tures of the War Gods, twin he­roes who are key pro­tag­o­nists in Zuni cos­mol­ogy and re­li­gion. The sculp­tures were re­moved from Zuni over the past 150 years un­der many cir­cum­stances, and some were even copies com­mis­sioned by or for an­thro­pol­o­gists. Frank Hamil­ton Cush­ing made at least one. But in Zuni, no one per­son owns the War God im­ages. As col­lec­tive prop­erty, they can­not be sold or oth­er­wise alien­ated from the Pue­blo. Acoma’s at­tor­neys told us that they reg­u­larly shut down eBay auc­tions of cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive ma­te­ri­als. In many cases, the sellers have no idea that they are vi­o­lat­ing NAGPRA or the An­tiq­ui­ties Act of 1906, and they of­fer to vol­un­tar­ily re­turn the items to Acoma. Last year the Pue­blo col­lab­o­rated with Hopi to protest two auc­tions of rit­ual masks in Paris. But th­ese cases all in­volve tan­gi­ble prop­erty.

Un­til NAGPRA can be amended, or other laws passed, pueb­los must set­tle for case-by-case res­o­lu­tion of in­tel­lec­tual-prop­erty dis­putes, such as the law­suit the Navajo Na­tion has brought against Ur­ban Out­fit­ters, for its use of Navajo weav­ing de­signs on women’s cloth­ing, es­pe­cially un­der­wear. Also, New Mex­ico’s In­dian Affairs Com­mit­tee will present a Joint Me­mo­rial at the 2016 State Leg­is­la­ture, re­quest­ing that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral and the Dept. of Cul­tural Affairs take steps to fur­ther safe­guard Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­tural items and cul­tural prop­erty from theft, wrong­ful sale, or alien­ation. The me­mo­rial is con­nected to the re­cent cases in Santa Fe of art deal­ers ac­cused of mis­rep­re­sent­ing ob­jects as Na­tive Amer­i­can. Pre­sum­ably it could lead to leg­is­la­tion strength­en­ing the U.S. Na­tive Arts and Crafts Act (1990).

No mat­ter whether you think Nabokov is right or wrong, and while the Acoma Tribal Coun­cil would still like the sales of the ori­gin myth book to be halted, Nabokov has cor­rected a his­tor­i­cal sole­cism. He re­stored the names of Ed­ward Proc­tor Hunt and his fam­ily to the ti­tle page of the work they helped to pro­duce. We live in a world in which Na­tive, mi­nor­ity, and of­ten post-colo­nial peo­ples still strug­gle to re­gain or es­tab­lish agency. Those who were anony­mous can now be named. The prob­lem is that Hunt’s post­hu­mous recog­ni­tion is il­le­git­i­mate from an Acoma Pue­blo per­spec­tive. The com­plex­i­ties of this case prove that not all repa­tri­a­tions or restora­tions are pos­si­ble, or even wel­come. Whether we are dis­cussing New Mex­ico’s Zia sym­bol — ap­pro­pri­ated from Zia Pue­blo — or the Acoma cre­ation nar­ra­tive, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty is en­twined with con­struc­tions of iden­tity. For­mer gov­er­nor Vallo stated that the United Na­tions con­sid­ers in­tel­lec­tual and cul­tural prop­erty rights as hu­man rights that ev­ery peo­ple should en­joy and con­trol. As he con­cluded, “We like to tell our own story. Let us do it.”

We live in a world in which Na­tive, mi­nor­ity, and of­ten post-colo­nial peo­ples still strug­gle to re­gain or es­tab­lish agency. Those who were anony­mous can now be named.

Fred S. Vallo Sr.

Acoma Pue­blo, New Mex­ico, 1900-1930, by the Chicago Trans­parency Com­pany; Neg. No .LS.0001 Op­po­site page, Au­to­mo­bile on Road to Enchanted Mesa Near

Acoma Pue­blo, 1926, by Frank Shoe­maker; Neg. No. LS.2094 All im­ages cour­tesy Palace of the Gov­er­nors Photo Ar­chives (NMHM/DCA)

Mesa En­can­tado From Pue­blo Acoma, 1899, by Wil­liam Henry Jack­son; Neg. No. 022802 Op­po­site page, Aerial View, Acoma Pue­blo, 1957; Neg. No. 058320

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