International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage
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International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage

Legal and Policy Issues

Edited by Christoph Beat Graber, Karolina Kuprecht and Jessica Christine Lai

The book is unique in taking a multi-faceted approach to cultural heritage, incorporating discussion on tangible and intangible, moveable and immoveable elements of indigenous peoples’ culture. From the perspectives of several international legal fields, including trade law, intellectual property, cultural property, cultural heritage law and human rights, the book explores how indigenous peoples could be empowered to participate more actively in the trade of their cultural heritage without being compelled to renounce important traditional values. The national and local legal realities in four jurisdictions (New Zealand, Australia, United States and Canada) lay the scene for a wide-ranging analysis of various possibilities and proposals on how this might be achieved.
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Chapter 13: A United States perspective on the protection of indigenous cultural heritage

Carole E. Goldberg


There is no way to place a precise value on the knowledge and cultural heritage of indigenous peoples of the United States. There are, however, a few data points that suggest how enormous that value could be. In 1997, the United States Department of Commerce indicated that Indian arts and crafts were generating US$1.2 billion in gross revenue. In 2003, a professor at the University of Hawaii proposed licensing the Hawaiian genome as the intellectual property of the Hawaiian people, pointing out that the great population loss that occurred among Native Hawaiians in the nineteenth century made them an unusually homogenous group, and therefore valuable for scientific research. A pharmaceutical company had paid US$200 million for rights to the Icelandic genome, which underwent a similar demographic experience. The temptations to appropriate and commercialise that knowledge are undeniable. Money is not the only measure of value for indigenous heritage, however. Many indigenous groups resist commercialisation, preferring that at least some of their traditional knowledge and heritage remain secret, or at least reserved for internal cultural uses.

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