Posted to the Ethnos Project by on June 12th, 2013

Indigenous communities are beginning to realize the potential benefits which digital technologies can offer with regard to the documentation and preservation of their histories and cultures. However they are also coming to understand the opportunities for misuse and misappropriation of their knowledge which may accompany digitization. In this paper we describe a set of open source software tools which have been designed to enable indigenous communities to protect unique cultural knowledge and materials which have been preserved through digitization. The software tools described here enable authorized members of communities to: define and control the rights, accessibility and reuse of their digital resources; uphold traditional laws pertaining to secret/sacred knowledge or objects; prevent the misuse of indigenous heritage in culturally inappropriate or insensitive ways; ensure proper attribution to the traditional owners; and enable indigenous communities to describe their resources in their own words. Hopefully the deployment of such tools will contribute to the self-determination and empowerment of indigenous communities through the revitalization of their cultures and knowledge which have been eroded by colonization, western laws, western cultures and globalization.

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