Tennessee Native Americans Forced to Contend with Media Images of Ancestral Remains - "We Are Not Extinct Scientific Curiosities."

This open letter to the media addresses the photographic and video exhibition of Native American human skeletal remains. Based upon the traditional spiritual beliefs of the Cherokee and other Southeastern Native people, openly viewing the skeletal remains of our deceased ancestors is considered a sacrilegious act. Seeing their remains in the newspaper or on television forces us, and everyone, to look upon our native ancestors in a very undignified and disrespectful manner. This violates the traditional Native American religious belief system.

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Nashville, TN (PRWEB) September 15, 2004

An open letter to editors and station managers: We, the Native American people of the State of Tennessee, have been forced to contend with disturbing photographic images of newly discovered Native American skeletal remains distributed by various media sources for generations now. We find this public display of the bones of our Native ancestors extremely insensitive, highly offensive, and immoral. To us, the photographic portrayal of Native skeletal remains is the equivalent of intentionally publishing or broadcasting pornographic images in your newspaper or through your television station to the public. Despite our efforts at pleading with the various media outlets not to portray the bones of our dead in such a way, it persists, without much care for how living Native Americans feel about these issues. We therefore appeal to your management and staff to honor our feelings in regard to the public portrayal of Native American skeletal remains.

We ask that you not publish this type of photograph or video imagery. It seems as though careful attention is always given to other racial and ethnic groups in reporting deaths and the sometime gruesome circumstances that often surround these events. We ask that you please observe the same courteous behavior toward the Native American people of Tennessee.

Most recently, on August 7, 2004, our local newspaper, the "Tennessean," published an article by staff writer Andy Humbles regarding the discovery of seven Native American skulls in Wilson County, Tennessee. Although the article was professionally written, the color photograph of the skulls at the top of the article was not appropriate, and was considered in very poor taste by Tennessee's Native American community.

On August 19, 2004, the CBS television affiliate in Nashville, Tennessee aired video footage of recently discovered Native American human remains. Here again, we were forced to violate our religious tenets by having these disturbing images thrust on us by the local media.

Based on the traditional spiritual beliefs of the Cherokee and other Southeastern Native people, openly viewing the skeletal remains of our deceased ancestors is considered a sacrilegious act. Seeing their remains in the newspaper or on television forces us, and everyone, to look upon them in a very undignified and disrespectful manner, which violates our traditional religious belief system.

Therefore, as Native American people, with a vested interest in the well being of our ancestors and their living descendants, we politely ask that you refrain from allowing these offensive images from being published or broadcast throughout the region by your specific media outlet. Native American people, deceased or living, were and are still, first and foremost, human beings, deserving of equality and respect, just as any other group.

By allowing these remains to be viewed by your audience, you encourage society to disrespect and misunderstand our ancient culture. We are not extinct scientific curiosities as portrayed by the local media. We simply ask that your management and staff please honor our feelings toward these issues by instituting a policy of no photographic or video images of Native American skeletal remains in your newspaper or television news broadcasts.

The Native American people of Tennessee are open to discussing these issues with our state's media representatives. Please feel free to contact me personally so that we may establish a dialogue. Your comments, questions, and concerns are welcome.

Sincerely,

Patrick Cummins, President

Alliance for Native American Indian Rights of Tennessee, Inc.

P.O. Box 825

Hermitage, Tennessee 37076

(615) 874-1435

E-mail: pbctsalagi@aol.com

Web: http://www.anairtn.org

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this press release are solely those of the officers, board members, and membership of the Alliance for Native American Indian Rights of Tennessee, Inc., and its supporters. It is not the intent of the Alliance to speak on behalf of any other individual or organization. If you or your organization supports the Alliance's position on this issue, we encourage and welcome your letters of endorsement.

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