Reclaiming Native Stories: An Essay on Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Rights
60 Pages Posted: 9 May 2009 Last revised: 14 Jun 2011
Date Written: 2002
North America is scarred by many battlefields that mark the conflict between Europeans and the Native peoples of this land. The main problem is that the courts and Congress continue to look to their own interpretations of federal legislative and judicial power to define the positive content of Native sovereignty. Many Indian people today are arguing for a tribal right to control cultural expression as a way to counter cultural appropriation. Insofar as Native peoples' claims against cultural appropriation rest upon their need to assert their own unique identities, then perhaps a "right to culture" for Native groups should include a right to control cultural expression. In fact, the arguments of Native people against cultural appropriation share a certain similarity with some of the arguments advanced by feminist writers against pornography and by critical race theorists against hate speech. Thus, while I support recognition of Native peoples' right to control cultural expression as an aspect of an emergent cultural and intellectual sovereignty inspired by the quest for self-determination, I will limit my recommendations to a couple of general principles and then a specific recommendation for the fourth category of cultural appropriation.
Keywords: Cultural appropriation, Native people, Cultural rights
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