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Tribe Wins Control Over Ceremonial Music


And the most hopeful part of the article, that other tribes are seeking to do the same.

Tribe settles suit against artist

Published: March 9, 2005
A Sonora man who taped and then sold copies of a Me-Wuk tribal ceremony is now returning the recordings under court order so they can be destroyed, the tribe's Los Angeles attorney said yesterday.
"I am talking to the Tribal Council about possibly burning them during a ceremony," said Bob Lyon of the law firm Holland & Knight.
The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians sued Sonora artist Lorenzo Baca, an Isleta Pueblo-Mescalero Apache, in October 2003 after learning
that Baca was selling videotapes and compact discs of a tribal ceremony without permission.

Baca made about 400 CDs called "California Me-Wuk Songs" along with a couple dozen videotapes titled "Tuolumne Band of California Me-Wuk
Dancers" that he sold on his Web site, at swap meets and at gift shops at Yosemite National Park, Lyon said.
The lawyer said he's not sure how many copies were sold, but understood that Baca did not profit much from them.
"I don't think these were hot sellers," Lyon said. "They didn't make the Top 40."
The two parties reached an out-of-court settlement last month after more than a year of negotiations. The settlement was confirmed by a federal judge in Fresno, who issued a permanent injunction that
includes a list of conditions Baca must meet.
The order states all Me-Wuk videotapes and CDs in Baca's possession must be returned to Lyon, who will supervise their destruction.
"He cannot publish them, copy them or sell them again," the lawyer said.
The CDs and videotapes were made in the early 1990s after Brown Tadd, a Tuolumne Me-Wuk elder and medicine man, allowed Baca to tape traditional dances and songs performed by the tribe at the Tuolumne County Museum in Sonora.
An expert on Me-Wuk culture who worked with the U.S. Forest Service in bringing the tribe's dances, stories and herbal cures to the public, Tadd died at age 92, shortly after Baca's recording.
About 10 years after Tadd's 1992 death, Baca started selling the copies of what he filmed at the museum, Lyon said.
Tadd sang and led dance performances in the video.
"The songs and musical performances were recorded with Brown Tadd's participation and apparent consent, but without his or anyone's
permission to make or to distribute copies of the recordings," the injunction stated.
According to the injunction, Baca had researched Me-Wuk culture for his master's thesis at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Baca declined to comment on three occasions, saying he was in the midst of preparing a statement with his San Francisco attorney,
Brooke Oliver, who is allowed to keep one copy each of the videotape and CD for her files in the event of any future "dispute or
Joining the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians in the suit were Carlos Geisdorff, Salvador Diaz, Ferni Geisdorff and Sonny Thomas Hendricks — all of whom were boys when the videotape was recorded.
The four, now adults, were upset upon learning that Baca was selling the tapes, their lawyer said.
"Baca claimed Brown Tadd wanted (the tapes) recorded to preserve the tribe's culture," Lyon said. "Brown Tadd's descendants deny that."
The tribe was not interested in making money from the lawsuit, Lyon said, but rather in making a statement.
"There wasn't any money that changed hands," Lyon said. "The tribe wanted vindication that the tribe has control over its ceremonies, its culture."
Lyon said Baca is not a member of the tribe and had no right to sell the recordings.
"This culture has been kept alive by word of mouth for centuries," Lyon said. "The tribe doesn't want Mr. Baca to pass down their heritage for them."
The Southern California lawyer said he personally wanted the case to go to trial so it would establish a greater legal precedent than a settlement would.
"This is a very unusual case," he said, adding he believes it is the first case of its kind.
Lyon said he expects similar lawsuits to be filed as other California tribes — along with tribes in Wyoming and New York — have contacted him following the Me-Wuk case.


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