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Dr. Debrah Harry (IPCB) will be teaching a class this summer (July 11-September 12) at UCLA on the protection of cultural property:

 “Indigenous cultural property of all forms, tangible and intangible, oral and written, ancient and contemporary, is under constant threat from exploitation, theft, misrepresentation, misuse, and commodification. Genetic material and Indigenous knowledge are significant aspects of cultural property that require special protection, especially in this biotechnology age. This course addresses ways in which tribes can and should protect their cultural property, whether it be songs, artifacts, sacred sites, remains of the ancestors, traditional medicines, Indigenous knowledge about such medicines, or human and non-human genetic material. The main objective of this course is to provide guidance to tribes faced with the unique problems posed by biotechnology.” For more information please consult the UCLA Extension webpage.

WICAZO SA REVIEW Vol 18 No 1 features Kim TallBear’s piece on Native American DNA and cultural identity. “I saw American broadcaster Larry King interview African-American comedian Chris Rock in February 2001 on CNN International. King asked Rock how he felt about recent developments related to mapping the human genome. When Chris Rock appeared puzzled and respond- ed more or less that he didn’t feel qualified to address the topic, King elaborated that such scientific inquiry might be used to make black people white and didn’t Mr. Rock have an opinion about this? Recog- nizing King’s unfamiliarity with the psychology of race, Chris Rock seemed to see that this was one battle in which he didn’t want to en- gage on international television. He responded graciously and with a smile, ‘It isn’t like that.'[…]”

Download below to read the full article:
(2003). “DNA blood & racializing the tribe”. Wicazo Sá Review 18(1): 81-107.

These Guidelines have been prepared by the Ethics Office of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), in conjunction with its Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health, to assist researchers and institutions in carrying out ethical and culturally competent research involving Aboriginal people. The intent is to promote health through research that is in keeping with Aboriginal values and traditions. The Guidelines will assist in developing research partnerships that will facilitate and encourage mutually beneficial and culturally competent research. The Guidelines will also promote ethics review that enables and facilitates rather than suppresses or obstructs research. These Guidelines are applicable to researchers carrying out research to which CIHR has made a financial contribution. The reader should note that these Guidelines are not regulations nor are they meant to be of general application. Rather, they are guidelines that should be followed by anyone who carries out research involving Aboriginal people in Canada if the research is funded by CIHR. The obligation on the researcher to abide by the Guidelines is contractual, i.e. it is voluntarily assumed by the researcher in return for the funding provided by CIHR. As these guidelines primarily address the special considerations that arise when carrying out research involving Aboriginal people, researchers must also refer to, and comply with, other Tri-Council andCIHR policies, as well as any applicable legislation and, for those to whom it applies, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Other agencies of government may impose additional regulatory or other requirements.

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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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Dr. Kim TallBear (UCB) will be teaching a class this Spring at University of California, Berkeley, on indigenous, feminist and postcolonial approaches to science and technology projects:

This seminar introduces students to a multidisciplinary set of cases and analyses spanning fields including indigenous studies, feminist and environmental geography, cultural anthropology, natural resource management, engineering, cultural studies, and science and technology studies (STS), including especially feminist and postcolonial science studies and animal studies. This course adds to ESPM’s emphasis area within the division of Society & Environment (S&E) of Science, Technology, and Environment (STE) by bringing to the fore three overlapping approaches to analyzing science and technology projects—feminist, postcolonial, and indigenous analyses.Common to these approaches and to STS is the idea that the scientific and the social/political are always already inside one another. We will emphasize the idea of “naturecultures” as we encounter thinkers who view the world not in the more usual terms of nature vs. culture, environment vs. humans, or science vs. society, but rather as made up of humans, non-humans, and other-than-human persons who act upon one another in mutually constitutive ways. View full article »

The last decade has seen an upsurge of important scholarship in the field of “animal studies.” Under this rubric, scholars with roots in philosophy, anthropology, literature, film, biology, feminist and queer theory, history, geography, and other fields are, in some ways, attempting to recover knowledge territory claimed by and for the natural sciences in the last several hundred years. Given the disciplinary roots of this multidisciplinary field, such scholarship characteristically aims essentially to “dehierarchalize” the relationships of “westerners” with their non-human others. While this move in one sense amplifies the scope of social science and humanities inquiry, it also tends to reinscribe familiar starting points. Not least, much animal studies work can tend to restrict its attention to beings that “live,” e.g. dogs, cattle, bears, mushrooms, microorganisms. This symposium brings together scholars within animal studies who focus on queer and critical race approaches with scholars working within longer-lived strands of study—indigenous approaches to knowing “nonhumans” focused on critiquing settler colonialism and its management of nonhuman others. Some of the scholars also consider human relations with beings classed in dominant frameworks as “nonliving.” Our hope is that their conversation, together with ample opportunity for audience responses and provocations, will generate fruitful intellectual cross-fertilizations.

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Amy Harmon, from the New York Times, reports on the settlement reached between the Havasupai community (Arizona, United States) and the University of Arizona.

“SUPAI, Ariz. — Seven years ago, the Havasupai Indians, who live amid the turquoise waterfalls and red cliffs miles deep in the Grand Canyon, issued a “banishment order” to keep Arizona State University employees from setting foot on their reservation — an ancient punishment for what they regarded as a genetic-era betrayal. […]”

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Please also watch the video: “Blood Journey: An Indian Tribe at the Center of a Bioethical Debate”

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