Trevor Reed on Indigenous Dignity and the Right to be Forgotten

Trevor Reed has posted “Indigenous Dignity and the Right to be Forgotten,” forthcoming in the BYU Law Review, on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

Indigenous cultural documentation amassed over more than two centuries currently occupies the shelves and databases of American museums, universities, archives and other institutions. Field notes, photographs, sound recordings, maps, kinship charts, and all manner of other cultural materials collected from Tribal members constitutes what is perhaps America’s first instance of “big data.” While often touted by collectors and institutions as rich historical and cultural resources, I argue that some of these collections have become toxic in their preserved forms, separated from their communities’ modes of care. These materials are among those that Indigenous groups should have the right to remove from settler archives, museums, digital repositories, and other institutions and if necessary, erase, delete, or destroy. The kind of Indigenous right to erase sensitive cultural material held by settler institutions, the contours of which I begin to etch out in this symposium essay, is not unlike the right to be forgotten and other data privacy rights already adopted by the European Union, and to some extent, the State of California. While much of the debate surrounding the right to be forgotten in the United States has focused on tensions between personal autonomy and the right of the public to be informed, the collective rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain cultural dignity and sovereignty in the wake of colonization, I argue, provides a compelling case for recognizing an Indigenous right to be forgotten.