A large group of Native intellectuals and culture bearers have come together to show their support for the March for Science to be held on Earth Day, April 22. Circulating a declaration titled “Let Our Indigenous Voices Be Heard,” the statement has been signed by more than 1,200 Native scholars, scientists and allies from around the world.
The three page statement is a reminder to Western, mainstream scientists that before Europeans arrived on the shores of Turtle Island, Indigenous Peoples had their own scientists who deeply understood the world around them.
“Indigenous science provides a wealth of knowledge and a powerful alternative paradigm by which we understand the natural world and our relation to it,” the letter says. “Embedded in our cultural frameworks of respect, reciprocity, responsibility and reverence for the earth, indigenous science lies within a world view where knowledge is coupled to responsibility and human activity is aligned with ecological principles and natural law, rather than against them. We need both ways of knowing if we are to advance knowledge and sustainability.”
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The authors of the declaration are Robin W. Kimmerer (Potawatomi), Melissa K. Nelson (Anishinaabe), Kyle P. Whyte (Potawatomi), and Rosalyn LaPier (Blackfeet/Métis), all professors in Native studies and related disciplines. Alongside the authors, primary endorsers of the declaration read like a list of who’s who in the world of Native science scholars and education, including Gregory Cajete (who literally wrote the book Native Science), LeRoy Littlebear and others.
Prominent signers of the letter include indigenous scientist Dr. Karletta Chief (Navajo), Assistant Professor of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona, and emerging STEM student Danielle Antelope (Eastern Shoshone/Blackfeet), from Blackfeet Community College in Montana, and allies Dr. Christof Mauch, director of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, and Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org.
Native science organizations who endorsed the statement include Society for Advancing Chicano/Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), and the Cultural Conservancy.
The declaration celebrates indigenous science as a respected partner for answering scientific questions and supports pluralism in scientific creation.
“We imagine the declaration as a powerful statement to illuminate and elevate Indigenous Science in the minds of the public and scientific communities, for the benefit of people and planet,” state co-authors Kimmerer, LaPier, Nelson and Whyte.
“Indigenous science holds a wealth of knowledge and a powerful paradigm by which we understand our place in the living world,” said Kimmerer, explaining why they support indigenous science and will attend the March for Science. “It is essential to the problems we face today and yet has been historically marginalized by the scientific community.”
“As scientists and scholars we support western science, but we also seek to empower our Indigenous people and communities and uplift indigenous science,” added LaPier. “We want to give them voice and their place at the table—science impacts all peoples.”
The March for Science is an unusual departure for scientists, who are not normally known for their political activism. But these are not normal times, and the Trump administration’s blatant disavowal of climate change and moves to accelerate fossil fuel development represent the prospect of an even more dystopian future than previously feared by scientists.
The unprecedented gathering of scientists is endorsed by hundreds of organizations and professional associations, including SACNAS and AISES. LaPier is also on the March for Science Steering Committee, which has made inclusion and diversity one of its key organizing principles.
In addition to demonstrating in Washington, satellite marches and teach-ins have been organized in hundreds of locations around the world. For more information about the Washington march, click here. For information on D.C. teach-ins, click here, and for satellite locations, click here.