Free Nampeyo: Lift the Injunction on "In Search of Nampeyo" and drop all charges.
At Harvard's invitation, Steve Elmore wrote In Search of Nampeyo, The Early Years 1875 - 1892 for the Peabody Museum Press. The book documents for the first time the many ceramics by the great Hopi potter Nampeyo in their Keam Collection. In 2014, Harvard rejected the book, but returned in writing "all rights" to Mr. Elmore and recommended that he publish elsewhere. He acted exactly as Harvard recommended and published the book at his own expense. In Search of Nampeyo has received four national book awards and many positive reviews for its new paradigm of Nampeyo’s early life.
So, Harvard sued him—in federal court. They claim, among other charges, that he violated their copyright by hiring an artist to create colored illustrations of pottery designs of Hopi ceramics in their collection. WE ARE HAPPY TO REPORT THAT HARVARD LOST THEIR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CASE AGAINST IN SEARCH OF NAMPEYO. THE JUDGE SPECIFICALLY NOTED THAT HARVARD CANNOT COPYRIGHT HOPI POTTERY DESIGNS OR FORMS.
This overreaching is hardly an isolated incident of Harvard's arrogant behavior toward Native Americans. During his research visit to Harvard, Steve Elmore brought a contemporary Hopi potter and descendant of Nampeyo to see the collection. During her visit, the Director of Collections repeatedly tried to get a DNA sample from this potter without the slightest effort toward informed consent or even explanation of what he was doing.
Mr. Elmore is still fighting Harvard's Breach of Contract and False Designation of Origin charges. Despite having returned "all rights" to Mr. Elmore and recommending that he publish elsewhere, Harvard is claiming that Mr. Elmore had no right to publish the photographs he took in the Peabody Museum at Harvard in order to demonstrate his thesis. They also claim that the merely identifying the location of the pottery as the Keam collection at Harvard's Peabody Museum implies that Harvard has endorsed Mr. Elmore's book. The book now is under a temporary injunction until the case is settled. Harvard refuses to honor its contracts and instead chooses to pursue a vindictive and frivolous lawsuit against the book and Mr. Elmore.
We call upon the President and Fellows of the Harvard Corporation to drop their suit against In Search of Nampeyo and let the public decide its value, and to investigate the behavior of Harvard's Peabody Museum staff in this serious matter of suppressing an individual researcher’s constitutional rights of freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, and denying Native Americans knowledge of their own history.
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