I'd like to learn more about the cultures of the peoples in this country who came before me - but I am apparently not 'enlightened' enough to experience their words.
Alaska Native people were hurt deeply by contact with outsiders. For those unfamiliar with the history, it was a series of events. First, contact brought diseases that native people had limited immunity to. Smallpox, influenza, and tuberculosis killed on the order of 70% of the population of many villages in a single generation. Then missionaries told the survivors that their people died because they worshipped the wrong gods. Then missionaries and government agents told native people they were unfit to raise their own children, and forcibly placed their children in boarding schools. Then those children were physically and mentally punished if they spoke their own language or participated in any of their traditional ceremonies or practices.
Native ways of living were not perfect before contact, but contact brought significant trauma that has lasting effects.
There is a concept of ownership of stories, songs, ceremonies, and artifacts. It is quite appropriate to respect this.
But would would be unfair not to mention that they received also some in exchange. They benefit of a new universe of human knowledge, around four thousand years of philosophy, technology and science and incredible advances on medicine and surgery that the native people couldn't even dream.
The grandsons of the Natives from American continent own also now three languages, English, Spanish and Portuguese that are a blessing and a world of new opportunities.
This is not being mentally punished, is being mentally boosted and rewarded with the keys of the planet.
Honestly, very disrespectful. I think you've proven the reasoning behind keeping these recordings restricted; the respect is still not there, a hundred years later, for so-called 'cultures of lesser means'.
In my opinion, we also lost something else, the idea that land is not something just to be owned and used, but rather something to be shepparded over, and held in trust for the next generations. It took us 200 years or so to rediscover that cultural precept.
Then again, I moved away 20 years ago and the last time I visited was five years back. Things might have shifted in the intervening two decades, or perhaps I just wasn't as attuned to that as a 21 year old kid ;)
Many of us have this structure in our own families. When I was younger I heard some stories about certain family members that I was free to tell anyone. I can tell you that I was born in Guam because my father was in the Navy and he and my mom were stationed there when I was born. But there are other stories in our family that it would be quite disrespectful for me to share in public.
With Native groups from southeast Alaska, these ownership issues have been much more formalized, over a much longer time period, than what I saw in my family.
I have done linguistics fieldwork among some indigenous people elsewhere in the world under a European university. There was no requirement to appear before an ethics board before or after. There was no requirement to credit my native informants at all costs – considering that the country in question was rather repressive of these minority peoples, my informants generally did not want it to be publicly known that they were interacting with foreigners. Once I had the data, it was straightforward to publish it. I would hate to see that ease in my particular subfield disappear because of historical-political disputes elsewhere.
Not that you're making an argument here against native secrecy and privacy traditions being written into law, but you seem to be saying that you don't feel any obligation to follow them.
No, I don’t really. I mean, I come from Eastern Europe where torrenting films/music/books is entirely mainstream. And within academia internationally, people are regularly using Sci-Hub and LibGen, or uploading papers of theirs to Academia.edu in violation of the publisher’s insistence that they can only distribute a few paper reprints. If you want to claim that intellectual property is sacred, you will have a hard time convincing lots of people in this field.
I then deleted all my own copies as he requested. He asked that since the ceremonies were for his people that I not keep them for myself, and I respected that.
My gift to you is this song.
I cannot sing that song because it was not given to me.
Intellectual property is apparently an ancient social construct!
Just like it is considered inappropriate to give away something that was a gift to you in many cultures, in some it is considered bad form to appropriate someone's expression of emotion unless you were invited to by the singer.
What is the law on that?
However in the context of research, callous as this may be, native American cultures are almost all endangered or extint. Sharing what little records we have left is basically the only way any of those cultures get to continue.
For a non-snarky response: The difference between your scenario and the one from the article is that with yours, you were just performing a service for your friend, who presumably owned the recordings. In the article's case, the recordings are owned and created by UC Berkeley, which is a publicly funded learning institution.
What was contained in those cermonies that you were not to know? What offense would he do to his people by sharing their wisdom with you? What didn't they want you to know?
The answer is "Probably nothing". But in that vast empty space, there's a few corners where someone is hiding something, and those corners are really terrible. Look at cults like Children of God  - These cults are still really common.
I'm certain you would have reported if you'd heard anything dangerous on those tapes. I'm certain that your friends motive for keeping them private were not threatening and entirely pure. Societal standards - Like rituals and ceremonies - Aren't private, though, and should never be subject to secrecy. They should be held up and celebrated. And if they shouldn't be held up and celebrated, they should probably be left in the past, and remembered as mistakes.
I guess the term "secret society" is an oxymoron.
"Enlightenment" likely has nothing to do with it.
One of the most infamous events in the Americas was when Roman Catholic Bishop Diego de Landa (1524 - 1579) burned thousands of Mayan codices, an event comparable to the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. The motivation was the extermination of Mayan culture.
To put things in perspective, how would you feel if all works written in the English language were piled up and burned? One thing is to disagree with the content of whatever document, another thing is to permanently suppress it.
Likewise, a lot of artifacts from the first civilizations like Sumer were lost over the last couple of decades because of wars in the middle east resulting in museum sackings. The artifacts that were not destroyed, are probably now contaminated and proving their authenticity will be very hard.
Some people do not support the presence of ancient artifacts museums in foreign museums, but in retrospective, the more distributed and safer those artifacts are, the better.
OTOH, the article did expand Ishi's story for me, if sadly, by pointing out that he was of mixed Indian blood - and so was not the last Yahi.
Maybe the most famous indian recordist was Frances Densmore, who made 2500 recordings of 'Chippewa' music. Today I searched in vain for 15 minutes to find a collection (more than a handful) of some of those recordings.
Once again, a glaring lack of appreciation for our own history. Which will probably be rewarded karmicly when our own, 'who cares' history is forgotten.
My parents have a bunch of rare 78s which I would like to be able to listen to, but am afraid to poke a needle into.