30 Nov 94 15:44:07 EST

Rod Hagan writes, after lots of deleted stuff

> The difficulty then is that the provision of secret / sacred information
> is often fundamental to the establishment of Aboriginal cases for
> recognition of their interests in land. Anthropologists are usually the
> people required to obtain such information and furnish it to the courts.
> Those involved in the process find themselves continually caught between a
> desire to provide the best possible materials relevant to cases which have
> real value for the Aborigines concerned and a desire to avoid breaching
> traditional laws concerning confidentiallity etc., which in turn can have
> serious negfative consequences.
> At present the problem is exacerbated by the fact that decisions about
> what will happen to information which appears in the courts is made after
> the event, by the courts.
> It seems to me that there is a real need for resolution of such problems,
> probably through some formal proces of recognition of confidentiallity
> requirements imposed by traditional law, to provide both Aboriginal people
> and anthropologists with a measure of protection from the dangers of, on
> the hand, imprisonment and, on the other, implication in socially and
> physically destructive processes.
> Thoughts of others appreciated!

I'd like to hear more about this before I comment too much, but a few thoughts
strike me.

If the anthropologist is testifying on behalf of *and* at the request of
indigenous people trying to claim their rights to land as a group, then I'm not
sure there really is a conflict. If they ask you to repeat their secrets, then
by all means do so.

The cases in the USA that I've heard about fall into this category.
Anthropologists are approached by representatives of the indigenous group and
asked to testify in court on their behalf.

I think, however, that we are talking here about a slightly more sticky
issue. Who is asking/compelling the release of confidential information? What
(if any) relationship do these people have to the people who gave that
information? Only by answering these questions can we come up with some ideas
about what ought to be done.

More details, more details! Inquiring minds want to know!

Julia Smith
University of Pittsburgh