Safeguarding Hawaiian Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Heritage: Supporting the Right to Self-Determination and Preventing the Commodification of Culture
Danielle M. Conway
University of Maine School of Law
April 1, 2005
Too long Western society has viewed its global interactions with others from its own narrative or point of view. The Western world-view has played a key role in the social, economic, and political development of many societies and cultures, including those of Native Hawaiians. But Native Hawaiians, as with other Indigenous Peoples, had a society and a culture before Western contact. From ancient traditions to modern developments, Native Hawaiians have preserved, protected, and passed down their traditional knowledge and cultural heritage in spite of Western interests seeking to harness that knowledge and culture and the valuable information that flows from them. Such action by Western interests demonstrates the importance of knowledge and information to both Westerners and Native Hawaiians. This shared interest in information and knowledge has fueled tensions between Western interests and Indigenous Peoples. More specifically, the desire for knowledge and information has created a proprietary question that is not easily resolved. Another layer of complexity is added to the question by the existence of Western-centric intellectual property laws meant to protect proprietary interests in knowledge and information. In this age of information, intellectual property ownership shapes America's regional, domestic, and foreign policies related to knowledge and information acquisition and use. Western intellectual property laws dominate the global landscape in this proprietary era and thereby threaten to dominate Native Hawaiian traditional knowledge and cultural heritage. In a normative sense, the Western-centric intellectual property laws, which promote exclusivity and result in the commodification of Native Hawaiian traditional knowledge and cultural heritage, is neither appropriate nor optimal for all involved.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: Indigenous Peoples Native Hawaiians traditional knowledge cultural heritage culture folklore genetic resources intellectual property law patent copyright trademark trade secrets WIPO
Date posted: April 1, 2009