“The code, published here on 3 March , asks researchers to treat the San respectfully and refrain from publishing information that could be viewed as insulting. Because such sensitivities may not be clear to researchers, the code asks that scientists let communities read and comment on findings before they are published. It also asks that researchers keep their promises and give something back to the community in return for its cooperation.”
The above statement comes from a draft on a Code of Ethics regarding study of the San People but it reflects many of the same sentiments from other indigenous people from all over the world. The preamble to that proposed code states:
“We have encountered lack of respect in many instances in the past. In Genomics research, our leaders were avoided, and respect was not shown to them. Researchers took photographs of individuals in their homes, of breastfeeding mothers, or of underage children, whilst ignoring our social customs and norms. Bribes or other advantages were offered.”
This has been an ongoing problem for native people for decades now. Sadly, many researchers have shown a gross lack of respect for native people in their study of them. They’ve often times treated native people not as people at all but as genie pigs! They have come to conclusions in their studies that directly OPPOSE native conclusions and, sometimes, these research conclusions are absolutely OFFENSIVE WITHOUT QUESTION!
For example let us consider the Hopi and Pueblo Native Americans and the Chaco Canyon Archaeological site in North-Western New Mexico. Archaeologists tell us that this fantastic ruined site was built by a people called the “Anasazi.” They further tell us that this word means “Ancient Ones.” This word was established in archaeological terminology via the Pecos Classification system back in 1927. It is actually a NAVAJO word! The Hopi and the Pueblo are NOT Navajo and the Navajo are NOT Hopi or Pueblo people! We are told it means “ancient ones” but, in fact, the word in Navajo actually means “ENEMY ANCESTORS”!! This is most certainly not the name that the builders of the Chaco ruins called themselves! The Hopi prefer the call the builders the “Hisatsinom” (ancestors).
Archaeologists (some) claim that the Chaco people were “cannibals.” So not only where the Chaco people “ancient enemies” but also “cannibals.” Needless to say the Hopi and Pueblo people find these characterizations OFFENSIVE! Tribal archaeologists object and disagree with these non-tribal archaeologists saying that the Chaco people were not cannibals and they find the name “Anasazi” completely offensive as well. This shows a complete disrespect for the Hopi and for all Pueblo people in my opinion! To refer to the ancient builders of Chaco as “ancient enemies” is nothing short of offensive to Pueblo people!
The San people have a point and they are simply echoing sentiments that have long been around of native people. This applies to the oral traditions of native people too. We have summarily relegated the native oral traditions as myth, superstition, fantastical thinking, drug induced hallucinations, etc. Put recently we’ve uncovered evidence proving that some of these oral traditions of native people are not myth or superstition at all but FACTUAL!!
Many a researcher has gone into a place to study native people with a rather incredible amount of ethnocentrism and egotism, frankly. They have gone into where these people live thinking that they are just the “poor noble savages” and comparing their civilization and ways to our modern civilization and ways. Of course, the native ways ALWAYS come out lacking and “inferior.” Really? So let me get this straight…….
Native people have survived for eons in challenging and even hostile environs because they have “inferior ways”? Seriously? Wow! That’s a stretch isn’t it?
The FACT is Native ways are NOT inferior ways but DIFFERENT WAYS! Ways formed that have enabled them to survive and thrive in their own environments out in nature. IF these ways were truly “inferior” then there would be no Native people today on this planet as they’d all be dead being victims of their “inferior ways.” BUT this is NOT the case at all is it?
The San people are demanding respect as human beings and they are completely JUSTIFIED in their demands in my opinion! And, all other Native people are also wanting RESPECT and they too are completely JUSTIFIED in their demands! We should respect Native people and we should respect their ways and civilization and oral traditions among other things! We should NOT go marching in on our high horses with our noses up in the air looking down at native people!! We SHOULD respect them and their desires and wishes.
We, especially in the US, have been “educated” into ethnocentrism thinking there’s nothing better than our ways and our civilization and everyone on the planet certainly must want what we have. Well GUESS WHAT? NOT SO!! Many native people want NOTHING to do with our ways or civilization! NO they do NOT want to be just like us! Surprise!!!
To insult a Native people’s ancestors and to disrespect them is in my opinion two of the absolute WORST things any researcher can do! After all, what we are doing is insulting their relatives, their traditions, and everything about them. This is the WRONG foot to start out on especially if you are trying to conduct REAL RESEARCH AND REAL SCIENCE!
Bottomline? Frankly and bluntly….we need to pull our heads out of are asses and start respecting native people we are studying! We need to get off our high horses and realize, NO they DO NOT want to be just like us for God’s sake!!! And finally, I find it SAD that instead of following our own ETHICS we have to have a native people like the San tell us what OUR ethics SHOULD BE! That is a black mark on us period!!
Lastly, allow me to quote something from Dr John Hawks a noted and highly regarded Paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
“The San people of Southern Africa are among the closest living relatives of our hunting and gathering ancestors. This is NOT TRUE. All living humans everywhere in the world share a common heritage in hunting and gathering populations living before 200,000 years ago. We are all equally descendants of these ancestors, although the fractions of different groups of people living at that time, including some sub-Saharan African populations and Neandertals and Denisovans, vary among living peoples.”