Hopi Music Repatriation Project

The Hopi of northeastern Arizona are among the most researched indigenous people groups in North America. Over the years anthropologists, historians, psychologists, ethnographers and many others have conducted research on the Hopi Reservation.  Their scholarship has appeared in journals, books, internet websites, and even films. Some of these scholars collaborated with Hopi people, followed research protocols established by the Hopi Tribe, and sought ways to give back to the Hopi community. Others did not. But the purpose of today’s post is not for me to write about people who have exploited Hopis of their intellectual property or conducted research on the reservation without permission from the Hopi Tribe. Instead I want to introduce you to someone whom I believe has done the complete opposite.

While a graduate student in the Arts Administration program at Columbia University, Trevor Reed from the Hopi village of Hotevilla developed a research project called the “Hopi Music Repatriation Project” (HMRP). This project focuses on field recordings of Hopi songs that ethnomusicologists conducted during the 1930s and 1940s. The recordings are now archived at Columbia University’s Center for Ethnomusicology. As Reed points out on his blog Hopi Music Repatriation Project: “On one hand, these recordings are invaluable research tools for ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, and for the American public, who ideally should be educated in the indigenous heritage of the land on which they live. On the other hand, the recordings are an important link to Hopi past and identity, and contain highly sensitive material.” So what are the questions that this project seeks to answer? Again, Reed notes: “based on Hopi and U.S. concepts of intellectual property, to whom do these recordings rightfully belong and what should be done with them?”

I urge you to visit Reed’s blog and learn more about this important project. His current post, “Repatriation Initiative Receives Endorsement from Hopi Elders,” describes a recent meeting that he had with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office and the Hopi Cultural Resources Advisory Task Team. At this meeting Reed gave a update on his project and played some of the Hopi songs that he uncovered at the University’s Center for Ethnomusicology. As Reed recalls, a highlight for him was when he played a particular song at the meeting and those in attendance joined in the singing. To visit Reed’s blog, click here.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert