July 14, 2007

Non-Natives who claim expertise

Indians?  What Indians?The idea that Native peoples can speak for and represent themselves in the media seems to continually be out of the grasp of the American public, and most especially, those Native “Experts” who claim that they only want to help “Indian” peoples. We are on the cusp of a Native New Wave in the arena of movies and media. Natives are taking those first steps in gaining an independent voice in film. Yet there are still many hurdles and perceptions to overcome. The biggest hurdle in gaining a Native first-voice in the media and movies is the paternalistic concept of the authorship of expertise.

The Authorship of Expertise is the creation of that label of expert in certain situations and circumstances meant to protect one’s ego from fallibility. Where one’s credentials, one’s knowledge is given authority over entire Native societies. It can also help non-Natives lay claim to being part of the “Native Experience” which they cannot attain by practical experience. I mean, who can blame them, who would willingly give up their good lives to live on any Indian reservation?

This Authorship of Expertise can be used to perpetuate a set of circumstances that help maintain these labels of expert. For instance, major museums can claim that their expertise in the care of Native artifacts allows them to not repatriate sacred items back to tribes. Or they would if only tribes can shell out impossible amounts of money for facilities to house said objects that by custom, by NATIVE TRADITION are supposed to deteriorate; items such as totem poles, perhaps, human remains, possibly.

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