Archive for May, 2011

On October 9, 2010, I posted a blog entry (re-posted below) in which I respond with a mixed review to the Genographic/Seaconke Wampanoag jointly-authored publication “Genetic Heritage and Native Identity of the Seaconke Wampanoag” (Zhadanov et al 2010). In short, my thoughts were that Genographic’s genetic data could undercut tribal identity and attendant political claims. The Seaconke Wampanoag who were sampled were shown to have almost no “Native American” genetic lineages. It remains to be seen what the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) would do with such data. It could be damaging to a tribe looking for recognition from the U.S. government and its attendant rights and resources. However, I characterized the jointly-authored article as also a step forward for Genographic in that it simultaneously foreground non-genetic tribal histories. Scientific publications usually give short shrift to non-genetic knowledges. I have been very critical of Genographic elsewhere. In the interest of analytical fairness, I wanted to also acknowledge what the project did right. But this month, things have taken a turn for the worse in Genographic’srelations with some of its indigenous subjects. My October 2010 post has been extensively referenced by the Peruvian organization Asociación ANDES in their comprehensive critique of the Genographic Project’s now thwarted plans to sample Q’ero people, descendants of Incas, who live in a rural area of the Cusco Region of Peru.

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The meeting will take place at the UN Headquarters, in New York City. The provisional agenda is as follows:

1. Election of officers.
2. Adoption of the agenda and organization of work.
3. Follow-up to the recommendations of the Permanent Forum:
(a) Economic and social development;
(b) Environment;
(c) Free, prior and informed consent.
4. Human rights:
(a) Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
(b) Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people and other United Nations human rights mechanisms.
5. Half-day discussion on Central and South America and the Caribbean.
6. Comprehensive dialogue with United Nations agencies and funds.
7. Future work of the Permanent Forum, including issues of the Economic and Social Council and emerging issues.
8. Draft agenda for the eleventh session of the Permanent Forum.
9. Adoption of the report of the Permanent Forum on its tenth session.

 

For more information on registration and other aspects of the meeting please check the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues website.

 

Antonio Regalado, from Science magazine (AAAS) reports about how Q’eros indigenous group is blocking a DNA sampling plan by researchers working with National Geographic’s Genogrophic Project.

 

[From ScienceInsider Website]

“Complaints by indigenous leaders and local officials have blocked a plan by geneticists with the National Geographic Society to collect DNA from the remote Q’eros tribe in Peru as part of the Genographic Project, which seeks molecular clues to humankind’s migrations over the globe. Population geneticist Spencer Wells, head of the Genographic Project, along with other expedition members, had planned to collect DNA in the Q’eros communities tomorrow, 7 May, as part of the ongoing project to use DNA collected from hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Now the expedition appears to have run afoul of local biodiversity campaigners. In a flurry of letters released this week, indigenous leaders charge that scientists working with National Geographic’s Genographic Project planned to collect DNA samples without following local regulations and obtaining proper consents. Officials met Wednesday in Cusco, Peru, to discuss the project and to grill a local guide and anthropologist hired by National Geographic.

In an e-mail to ScienceInsider, Wells said that his team had verbal permission from leaders of two Q’eros communities to visit, and that the complaints apparently originated with a third community. “We have cancelled our visit to the Q’eros until we find out exactly what happened,” he said.

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On May 4 “Asociación ANDES”, a Peruvian based organization that seeks to advance conservation and development through the implementation of bio-cultural territories, released a Communique saying that the Q’eros people in Cuzco, Peru reject a plan to collect DNA samples by researchers associated with the Genographic Project. Below the full transcript of the document:

 

“A century ago, the Yale University scientists who rediscovered Machu Picchu helped themselves to Inca cultural patrimony, hauling away thousands of artifacts to the United States. Today, it is widely recognized that this was an injustice to Peru and especially its indigenous peoples. Yale is returning the artifacts it took, but only after considerable pressure was brought to bear on the University.

Even as Yale reluctantly gives up its Inca plunder almost a hundred years after it was taken, the Washington, DC-based National Geographic Society is planning to capture new collections of Inca patrimony, this time in the form of human DNA. Unlike historical artifacts, however, the DNA can be copied, and once it is processed and its sequences stored, there is no practical way for it ever to be returned.

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