How Can I Use the Materials?

Quiz about Ethical Guidelines

Cultural heritage is an important element of identity for both communities and individuals. Indigenous cultural heritage includes both tangible and intangible creations maintained by Indigenous People or Indigenous individuals. These include, for example, the practices, representations and expressions that Indigenous Peoples and individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. This quiz will help you to understand some of the issues that relate to the use of cultural heritage materials and especially ethical aspects of such use.

1. Why do we have ethical guidelines?

While Sámis have the right to governance over their own cultural heritage and should be able to access these materials, the presentation and use of cultural heritage, especially in a digital environment, is not without problems. For example, the common view is that legislation does not sufficiently protect expressions of cultural heritage. Although ethical guidelines are not binding in the same way as legislation and cannot therefore increase legal obligations, they allow for Indigenous communities themselves to determine sufficient levels of protection and suitable ways of use. However, as situations of use vary significantly, it is not possible to provide detailed instructions. These guidelines should rather be understood as strong recommendations while the final and authoritative view of the use always belongs to representatives of the Indigenous culture.

2. What aspects should I consider when planning to use the materials?

The user of these archive materials should be aware that different intellectual property rights, such as copyright and related rights, might cover the materials. However, it should be noticed that the use of materials might require ethical consideration as well. For example, intellectual property laws do not always cover the use of cultural heritage materials in accordance with the views of Indigenous Peoples.

3. What does ‘culturally sensitive material’ mean?

While the term ‘culturally sensitive material’ often refers to sacred/holy objects as well as secret practices and information, it has also been used in a broader meaning including any material that has special significance for the Indigenous communities. This special significance may refer to expressions and practices that are highly meaningful for the preservation of the culture. They might also have a strong emotional impact. One example of this has been considered to be the Sámi costume, which is not only a piece of clothing but has great cultural and social significance as well. However, considering something as ‘culturally sensitive’ might vary in time and can only be defined from within the Indigenous community.

4. Who owns the cultural heritage of Indigenous Peoples?

Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination, and in exercising that right they should be recognised as the owners of their cultural and intellectual property. However, legally it is often the case that Indigenous cultural heritage materials belong to the public domain without the Indigenous groups’ accord. Moreover, the intellectual property rights might belong to someone who does not represent the Indigenous culture. Therefore, while the user should comply with the law, it is also necessary to acknowledge the ethical aspects of ownership.

5. How should the materials be used, then?

For centuries, Sámi have struggled with misrepresentation and disinformation concerning their culture. One purpose of this service is to provide accurate information on Sámi culture and therefore to reduce the offensive use of cultural heritage materials. The user should refrain from using the materials in a derogatory, culturally or otherwise offensive way. One example of offensive use is when a non-Sámi person appears as Sámi by using cultural expressions of Sámi cultural heritage. The cultural heritage materials are of particular importance to Sámi culture; therefore, the use of materials should always be considered carefully. It should also be noted that for example in relation to research projects, permission from the Sámi Parliament might be necessary.