14 April 2004

What's in a Name?

It occured to me the other day, that is quite interesting the way that entities of Corporate America are quite eager to pounce on anyone who dares to tread on the copyrighted sovereignty of the names and so-called intellictual property. God help the poor slob who uses Coca-Cola's name and image or Microsoft's logo or even the URL without asking (and paying). Most interesting is the way Corporate America thinks nothing of stealing names and what I call 'cultural property' from Native Americans and other indigenous peoples without even a thought.

Do you think the board of directors of Mohawk Furniture Inc. send quarterly payments to the Mohawk Nation (Kanien'kehaka) for the use of their name? How about Daimler-Chrysler's use of Cherokee for their luxury Jeep? Did they ask the Cherokee Nation (Tsalagi) for permission? Do they pay annual licensing fees? What about the Apache Software Foundation, promoters of the ubiquitous Apache Server that help make the Internet go, did they ask first before taking?

Companies like the Walt Disney Corporation employ platoons of lawyers to safeguard against the slightest violation of their copyrights. But did Disney think twice about stealing a traditional Cheyenne story to use as a foundation for their film " Brother Bear." The sad thing is that traditonal Native American stories are never sold, they are given freely for the cost of your listening time -- Does Disney give anything away freely...?

And then there's the United States Government, namely the Department of Defense (DOD). Did they ask the Apache Nation about affixing their name to the Mcdonald Douglas AH-64D? Almost every attack and scout helicopter in the U.S.Army's current inventory has the tribal name of a Native American Nation attached to it: Apache, Comanche, Iroquois and Kiowa. Then there is the so-called 'Crazy Horse Troop' of the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 'Apache', 'Comanche' and 'Blackfoot Troops' of the 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry. Has Secretary Rumsfeldt filed requests with the appropriate tribal officers for permission to license names, imagery and personages? I doubt it.

That brings us to sports, where we find the worst offenders. It confounds me to this day, why institutions sworn to enlighten and educate routinely commit some of the most ingnorant and narrow minded practices. Did Florida State University ask the Seminole Nation to use their name? Did the University of Utah ask the Ute Nation? I think not. And don't even get me started about the overtly racist uses of Native American names and imagery practiced by many collegate and professional sports teams.

Why am I complaining, you ask? To me, it's a matter of common decency and basic good ethics: If you make money from the use of someone else's name, don't you owe them at least a "thank you"? Why can't Mohawk Furniture Inc. of North Carolina do something to help the youth or the elderly of the Mohawk Nation? Why can't the high-minded Apache Software Foundation build a school, or set-up a scholarship program for the Apache Nation? I call that fair-play.

Look around for yourself if you don't believe what I've said here...


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