Theses Doctoral

Itaataatawi: Hopi Song, Intellectual Property, and Sonic Sovereignty in an Era of Settler-Colonialism

Reed, Trevor George

Hopi traditional songs or taatawi are more than aesthetic objects; they are sound-based expressions of Hopi authority. As I argue in this dissertation, creating, performing, circulating, and remembering taatawi are what we might call acts of sonic sovereignty: a mode of authority articulated within ongoing, sound-based networks that include Hopi people, plants, weather systems, land, and other living things within Hopi territories.
I begin by exploring the generative process through which taatawi do their connective work, which includes long-term collaborations between yeeyewat (composers) and environmental actors that establish a collective vision of prosperity that is realized when these songs are performed. Hopi composer Clark Tenakhongva’s taatawi performances during Grand Canyon National Park’s Centennial (a Hopi sacred space currently controlled by settler governments) exemplify the ways Hopi people are actively using taatawi to (re)assert Hopi relations to colonized territories.
Because taatawi are closely tied to Hopi relations to one another and the land, and sometimes contain specialized forms of knowledge held closely by Hopi clans and ceremonial societies, their ownership and circulation remains of vital concern to Hopi people. Laura Boulton’s recording of Hopi singers Dan Qötshongva, Thomas Bahnaqya and David Monongye in the Summer of 1940, and the travels of those recordings afterwards, show us the complex politics of Hopi song circulation in the early Twentieth Century up through the present, and how settler cultural and intellectual property laws provide only limited possibilities for indigenous groups seeking to bring their ancestors’ voices back under their control. And even if tribes could reclaim taatawi under settler property laws, these laws require physical and conceptual transformations that effectively sever them from the networks of relations from which they were created.
To better support Hopi sonic sovereignty going forward, I offer brief sketches for three potential interventions: (1) an indigenous works amendment to the United States Copyright Act; (2) the use of indigenized licensing frameworks to embed indigenous protocols into the governance and circulation of indigenous creative works both on and off indigenous lands; and (3) establishing a right to indigenous care, similar to Europe’s right to forget, whereby our ancestors’ voices can be subject to indigenous care rather than preserved anonymously and perpetually as archival objects. My hope is that these will allow indigenous communities to better assert and maintain control over their modes of sonic sovereignty despite the increasing colonization of the sonic world by global intellectual property regimes.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Fox, Aaron Andrew
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 15, 2018