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Decolonizing Education: Native Americans

This guide was originally created for the use of instructors and students in the reACT Decolonizing Education Experiential Learning Program funded by the 2022-2023 TLTC Curriculum Grants. Specifically: ARCH460; ARCH478; ARCH601; ARCH678; CHBE473; ENCH648


WHEREAS, there is increasing acknowledgement that Indian tribes possess traditional knowledge that is equivalent to the value of scientific knowledge in solving environmental problems caused by global environmental change and climate change; and

WHEREAS, traditional tribal knowledge is a core part of our identity and ways of life, is highly spiritual and carries obligations for its appropriate use;

WHEREAS, such knowledge includes, but is not limited to use of medicinal plants and knowledge of traditional habitats; and

WHEREAS, some of our traditional knowledge is so sacred that it cannot be shared outside of our members and tradition holders; and

WHEREAS, in this context, Federal agencies, scientists and others are approaching tribes for access to their traditional knowledge and funding traditional knowledge compilation projects without guidance; and

WHEREAS, the Federal government, in accord with the federal trust responsibility, should recognize the sovereign rights of tribes to control access to and the use of their traditional knowledge and the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to give or deny access to it; and

WHEREAS, traditional knowledge should also only be accessed through the government-to-government process that respects the sovereign right of each Tribe to determine its appropriate process with its tradition holders for access and FPIC, and

WHEREAS, the emphasis on the utilization of traditional knowledge should focus on support for its application by tribes to solve environmental and climate problems without the need for sharing it; and

WHEREAS, in those cases where traditional knowledge may be shared by the tribes, measures need to be developed to ensure that it is used appropriately, that tribes are protected in policy and law against its misuse and that the tribes are able to determine and receive benefits from its use; and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Federal government work with tribes to develop appropriate guidance on how to approach tribes for access to traditional knowledge, while also respecting the right of each tribe to develop its own terms of access; and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Federal government work with its funding agencies to ensure respect for and protection of these rights in all federally-funded projects; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.

-- Source: National Congress of American Indians (2013) Request for Federal Government to Develop Guidance on Recognizing Tribal Sovereign Jurisdiction over Traditional Knowledge.  

Reynolds, N. (2013) Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Reconstructing Historical Run Timing and Spawning Distribution of Eulachon through Tribal Oral History, Journal of Northwest Anthropology. 
In response to a 2007 petition from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed the southern distinct population segment (DPS) of eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus) as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). 

National Marine Fisheries Service. (2017) Recovery Plan for the Southern Distinct Population Segment of Eulachon
This Recovery Plan serves as a blueprint for the protection and recovery of the southern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus) using the best available science per the requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Recovery Plan links threats and management actions to an active research program to fill data gaps, and a monitoring program to assess these actions' effectiveness. Research and monitoring results will provide information to refine ongoing actions and prioritize new actions to achieve the Plan's goal: to restore the listed species to the point where it no longer requires the protections of the ESA