In the 13 February 2014 issue of The New Scientist Linda Geddes published an interview with me:
DNA testing is changing how Native Americans think about tribal membership. Yet anthropologist Kim Tallbear warns that genetic tests are a blunt tool. She tells Linda Geddes why tribal identity is not just a matter of blood ties
You grew up on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota. How did Native Americans view tribal membership back then?
Before the second world war, most Native Americans lived on reservations. Biological children would be enrolled as tribal members, but so would adopted children and spouses, if you were legally married.
But as people moved away to urban areas, tribes started to get more rigorous about documentation. That's when they also started to move towards only enrolling biological relatives. They were trying to figure out how to maintain the tribal population when everybody was living so far away.
How did they determine which people were legitimate biological relatives?
They started to focus on what's known as "blood quantum" as a way of counting ancestors who were enrolled as Native American. In most US tribes, you have a specific blood quantum needed for enrolment – often one-quarter. That means you have to be able to show with paper documentation that you have one out of four grandparents who is full blood. Or you might have two grandparents who are half blood – however you can make those fractions work.
Has DNA testing changed things more recently?
I think the root cause of recent changes isn't DNA testing, but gaming. Because Native American reservations don't necessarily have to adhere to all of the laws of the states in which they're located – namely gambling laws – during the 1970s and 80s some tribes started building bingo halls and casinos on their land. In some of the more successful gaming tribes, individual members receive dividends on a monthly basis. [Read the full article here]
University of Waikato Symposium: Transforming Public Engagement on Controversial Science & Technology
I'm headed to the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand later this week (17th & 18th February 2014) to give a keynote address at the International Symposium: Transforming Public Engagement on Controversial Science & Technology. I will speak about Combating colonial technoscience – Lessons from the frontlines. I will join other scholars and science policy experts from New Zealand, Australia, Korea, and the United States in speaking about a variety of topics related to science, technology, and ethics in the areas of genomics, energy, environmental risk, science communication, assisted reproductive technologies, public understanding of science, and science communication. Stay tuned for an update from University of Waikato!
Summer Internship for Native Americans in Genomics is now accepting applications for our 2014 program to be held at the University of Texas June 1-7, and co-hosted by the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois. This follows on the heels of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) meeting here in Austin. Undergrads, grads, and Native American community members are eligible to apply for this program. SING involves five days of wet lab, dry lab, and biomedical ethics curricula focused on genomics involving indigenous people. This is a program for people interested in both the science and the ethics, and who are coming in at different levels and with different educational backgrounds.
Uppsala 3rd Supradisciplinary Feminist Technoscience Symposium: Feminist and indigenous intersections and approaches to technoscience
I am thrilled to be blogging from the 3rd Supradisciplinary Feminist Technoscience Symposium organized by my colleague May-Britt Öhman at Uppsala University, Sweden. The five-day symposium (Oct 14-18) is hosted by the Centre for Gender Research within Dr. Öhman's research project, Rivers, resistance and resilience: Sustainable futures in Sápmi and in other Indigenous Peoples' Territories. This is my second year coming to Uppsala. I was also a speaker at the 2nd Supradisciplinary Feminist Technoscience Symposium held in October 2012. This year's program brings together activists, cultural workers, and scholars from across Sápmi and the Scandinavian countries, as well as Japan, India, Canada, Morocco, Peru, Russia and the U.S.
We have had intense conversations following presentations on mining in Sápmi and a film on anti-mining blockades and protests by Sámi and other activists against a cannibalizing form of extraction that undercuts the very basis of life. As I write this I read news posted to Facebook by indigenous friends in Canada about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) assaulting peaceful Mi’kmaq led anti-fracking protests today in new Brunswick. In Uppsala this week, we have also heard presentations and responses on dam safety and dam disruption of Sámi lifeways; on traditional Sámi foodways; on indigenous language and cultural revitalization in Scandinavia and Russia; and on the role of urban indigenous people and institution building in the development of living indigenous cultures, and for opposing the colonial state. And we’ve heard about the role of women's activism in India for advocating for tribal rights and welfare, and indigenous epistemologies as incisive critique of western imperialism that perpetuates extreme global disparity and environmental destruction.
We are sharing our differences in indigenous experience that have to do not only with differences in indigenous cultures, but also in national contexts and colonialisms. And we are sharing lessons learned in challenging colonialism, including ongoing colonial relations inside the academy. Once we not only survive, but begin to do anti-colonial work in more privileged positions within the university or in government, what are the common challenges we encounter inside these institutions and within fields that continue to be integral to colonial projects (e.g. engineering, genomics, anthropology, development studies, natural resource management)? How do we work in different indigenous and national contexts to address these challenges?
This is why I am here, and why I have become so interested in networking with indigenous peoples internationally. Although I inhabit an anthropology department in the United States, I am interested not for anthropological reasons. I am an ethnocentric Dakota after all. Anthropologically, I am most interested in the culture of my own people. I was raised in Dakota communities, both rural and urban, and thus I was a Dakota long before I was an "indigenous" person. But over the last dozen years I have grown through networking and travel into someone who also identifies as indigenous. And I have become committed to my relations with indigenous thinkers from around the world for reasons that have everything to do with being a Dakota. Because I am committed to Dakota sovereignty and thriving, and because I understand the power of being connected to a people who are tied to particular landscapes and waterscapes, which have been simultaneously assaulted by a colonial state, I have become deeply interested in and committed to aiding well-being and anti-colonial possibilities for indigenous peoples around the globe. I understand how important it is to Dakota flourishing to resist the colonial state through cultural and political work and I see that indigenous peoples in different parts of the world have made uneven progress in cultural thriving and political resistance. Thus I approach my work with other indigenous people from a Dakota and more broadly an indigenous standpoint.
We are aided in our people-specific struggles against colonial states by sharing lessons between us and by supporting one another in such work. Key to doing this is to understand not only the similarities between us, but also the differences in our respective cultural and nation-state contexts. I am active with the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), an organization that has helped me network with indigenous intellectuals chiefly in the English-speaking world - in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Pacific, and the United States. NAISA is also working hard to increase its networks in Latin America. Along with my participation in NAISA, my conversations with old and new friends encountered in Uppsala, from Sweden and from around the world, remind me of the power of the category "indigenous."
Anthropologist Mary Louise Pratt notes in the volume Indigenous Experience Today (de la Cadena and Starn, 2007) that indigeneity is a generative and productive category. It not only contributes to the rise in numbers of indigenous people worldwide, but it enables mutual recognition and collaboration by peoples across disparate geographies. It facilitates survival and acknowledges the historical rupture of colonialism. It enables us to share lessons learned for how to combat the colonial states and institutions that would erase us, and in the process destroy the very basis for human life - those nonhumans with whom indigenous peoples recognize our co-constitutive relations. In other words, we understand our peoplehoods as emerging in concert with particular landscapes or waterscapes. We exist as peoples in relation with those places and indigeneity helps us defend those relations and to combat colonial states predicated upon our ancestors' and our continuing dispossession from those places. This is the nature of genocide against indigenous peoples by the way, the simultaneous destruction of co-constituted peoples and their nonhuman relations. Those who insist on defining genocide only according to something akin to the European Holocaust cannot see this.
Part of doing mutually supportive work between indigenous peoples is to build indigenous studies within different national contexts. A chief lesson I have learned in working outside of the Anglophone countries is that not everyone had the kinds of oppositional social movements that we had in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, the American Indian Movement (AIM). Social movements forced a space in the academy for indigenous voices. While we in the U.S. still see the space for Native American and Indigenous Studies within the mainstream academy as marginal, there is, for example, even less space in the Swedish academy at present for Sámi voices and decolonizing work. Indigenous peoples worldwide might benefit from the theorization of indigeneity and anti-colonial thought by indigenous scholars in places where there has been more opportunity to do that. That is part of what we are doing in Uppsala - making more space in the Swedish academy for these conversations. In turn, I am reminded by my encounters here with indigenous studies scholars from Asia, Latin America, and Europe that indigenous peoples face different challenges at different times and in relation to different state contexts. Thus we organize our cultural-political work differently sometimes. We should support each other in whatever partial ways we can, and as always, learn from one another. We indigenous thinkers from different parts of the world are one another’s students and teachers simultaneously. We can and should offer each other both theoretical and technical assistance in the form of sharing analytical and social protest frameworks for opposing colonial states. And it is productive to work both within and outside of the academy. In the indigenous networks that I inhabit, the boundary between the academy and the “real world” is fluid, and indigenous thinkers, whether they have PhDs or not, help lead the charge in dismantling that boundary. We continue to do so this week in Uppsala.
Re-posted from GeneWatch 26-4 | Religion & Genetics
On April 13, 2005 the Indigenous Peoples' Council on Biocolonialism issued a press release opposing the Genographic Project, which aimed to sample 100,000 indigenous and other traditional peoples to "trace the migratory history of the human species" and "map how the Earth was populated." IPCB critiques Genographic, and the Human Genome Diversity Project before it, as the contemporary continuation of colonial, extractive research. The analysis is also a fundamental historical examination of Western science. IPCB foregrounds the intellectual and institutional authority that science, a powerful tool of colonizing states, has to appropriate indigenous bodies - both dead and living - material cultural artifacts, and indigenous cultural narratives in the service of academic knowledge production.
Critics point out that such knowledge rarely serves indigenous peoples' interests and can actively harm them. In the 19th and early 20th centuries massacre sites and graves were plundered for body parts to be used in scientific investigations that inform today's anthropological and biological research on Native Americans. Throughout the 20th century, indigenous peoples around the world witnessed the too common practice of "helicopter research" - quick sampling without return of results or benefit to subjects. Indigenous DNA samples and data taken in earlier decades when ethics standards were lax continue to be used and cited in contemporary investigations, bringing those injustices into the 21st century. And new, more ethical research still takes time from other pressing projects and needs. Informed community review and collaboration with researchers will increase community benefit, but informed participation has costs. It takes resources to build capacity to sit at the table as equals instead of as vulnerable subjects - as simply the raw materials for science.
Indigenous critics also describe abstract risks that eventually contribute to legal and material harm. They worry about the objectifying nature of human genome diversity research in which indigenous and other "isolated" peoples are used to represent ancient, less admixed populations - as therefore less evolved and not active parts of the modern world, as vanishing, as less alive. They worry that the explicit racism that plagued the physical and social sciences of earlier centuries, which assumed evolutionary hierarchy among humans, the impending death of the Indian unable to cope with modernity, and a divinely sanctioned Westward expansion, continues to insidiously inhabit modern genomics. And they should be worried. Influential Western narratives about indigenous cultural stasis and notions of purity still plague the non-genomic sciences, including social and policy sciences and the humanities, with great impact on indigenous lives. Physical and cultural anthropologists, legal experts, and historians are called upon by the scientific state to adjudicate indigenous claims to rights or resources, e.g. to determine if a group constitutes an authentic tribe worthy of recognition, or whether American Indian religious freedom is actually being impeded by the actions of loggers, fishers, or rock climbers at a sacred site. In this intellectual climate, it is no wonder that genome science with its considerable cultural influence is viewed as a potential threat.
When indigenous critics exclaim, "We will not stand by while our ancestors are desecrated in the name of scientific discovery," or "Our creation stories and languages carry information about our genealogy and ancestors. We don't need genetic testing to tell us where we come from," they are not simply expressing "religious" or "cultural" concerns. To characterize them as simply anti-science, or as religious zealots not only misses their sophisticated historical analyses and political insights, but misunderstands indigenous creationism as no different from the type of Christian creationism currently challenging the biological sciences and school curriculums.
In the same way that scientific thinkers defend the veracity of the evolutionary narrative ("narrative" does not necessarily mean myth) and scientific education against the "creation science" of some Christians, indigenous critics call out scientists and the church alike for their missionary tactics and their distortion of indigenous knowledge. Indigenous critics note that Western cultural and historical standpoints enacted through proselytizing scientific or Christian intellectual traditions get wielded as universal swords of truth over less powerful peoples. Indigenous critics see clearly the ideological biases in both scientific and clerical traditions, which before Darwin's Origin of Species, were intimately entangled. Today, they are not as disentangled as their respective practitioners would believe. Both science and the church claim the right to tell the only true story of human history. While the empirical data informing the two respective approaches differs, they are both laden with longstanding narratives of indigenous isolation, unenlightened thought, and deficiency.
But it is very difficult for many non-indigenous people to see what is so clear to many of us. On the day that IPCB issued its press release calling for a boycott of the Genographic Project, a lively genetic genealogy listerv (genealogists who use genetics to fill in the gaps in their family trees) erupted in defense of Genographic and human genome diversity research. Populated overwhelmingly by self-identified European-Americans, recent ancestry in Europe is the most popular topic of conversation on this particular list. Native American ancestry is the second most popular.  (Unlike the law of hypodescent in which someone with any African Ancestry should be categorized as black and not white, U.S. race politics have historically sanctioned the absorption of "red" into the white body.) Many of the genetic genealogists online that day have a deep understanding of genetic science but could not grasp the basics of IPCB's incisive political critique. Indigenous critics do not simply object to human genome diversity and migrations research that contradicts indigenous creation narratives, but condemn the power that science has had to define indigenous peoples' histories, identities, and futures. They point out that indigenous peoples are still subject to exploitation in research. Yet one lister had this to say:
There are some indigenous people who fear anthropological DNA testing for pretty much the same reasons that
some people fear genealogical DNA testing. They are comfortable with their myths & not particularly interested in
investigating anything that might shake their worldview. Clinging to tradition is not something unique to indigenous
Another lister added:
My Mohawk ancestors believed that the world came into being on the back of a turtle. Subsequent evidence from a
variety of data sources such as the Hubble Telescope have proven this particular creationist theory to be incorrect.
Archaeological and DNA evidence has allowed a robust but incomplete understanding of the correct origins of my
ancestors. It is futile to play osterich [sic] and ignore what is staring us in the face. When the evidence speaks loudly
one must listen or forever be clinging to false assumptions. Still, that does not in any way affect my deep respect for
the traditions of my ancestors, but above all else I want to know the truth...
Native American and Christian perspectives that are critical of genome knowledge are often seen to fall on the same side of a "religion versus science" divide. However, unlike Christianity, Native American origin narratives are generally missing the will to convert and so are without inherent intolerance for other narratives, be they Biblical or evolutionary understandings. In the U.S., indigenous peoples often say they just want to be left alone to practice their ceremonies without having them outlawed or losing access to sacred sites through land and resource grabs. So why the resistance? Certainly, scientific thinkers do not have to worry about indigenous people imposing their religions in public school classrooms to the detriment of biology education standards. Even with the balance of cultural power on their side, scientific thinkers are taught to believe that science and politics should be separated for the good of neutral science, that nature and culture are opposed. One cannot be a rigorous scientific thinker and indulge in "politics." Of course, indigenous critics call attention to the politics that always already inhabit science. But being allergic to the recognition of power relations in the scientific enterprise no doubt impedes one's ability to truly grasp indigenous analyses.
In addition to a politics allergy, scientific thinkers read indigenous creation narratives in an overly simplistic manner when they reject for example accounts of a people emerging from a cave, or a hole in the ground. They miss central propositions in such narratives that reveal how indigenous peoples understand the world and their place in it. For example, indigenous creation narratives provide values for living, narrate our common history, cohere us as Peoples (and not simply "human beings") with a common moral framework. They tie us to sacred landbases. Indigenous peoples understand ourselves to have emerged as coherent groups and cultures in intimate relationship with particular places, especially living and sacred landscapes.
Indigenous concepts of ancestry and group go far beyond genetic ancestry evidenced in "populations." They involve biological, cultural, and political groupings constituted in dynamic long-standing relationships with living landscapes and waterscapes that define our people-specific identities. This is an important difference between the way that indigenous peoples wield the idea of "origins" and the way that human genome diversity does. In the latter case, landscapes or waterscapes are places through which humans and their molecules move and settle. An environment/human divide is presumed in the genomic narrative that is absent from the indigenous narrative. Indigenous notions of peoplehood as emerging in relation with particular lands and waters and their nonhuman actors differ from the concept of a genetic population, defined as moving upon or through landscapes. Therefore, it is true that indigenous creation narratives challenge genomic narratives, but when read in all of their complexity one can see the veracity present in indigenous creation narratives and the debatable conceptual and material presuppositions of genomic narratives. Indigenous groups are not anti-experimentation or technology, nor reject all new knowledge emerging from sciences, but often want to integrate that knowledge within their world views.
Indigenous peoples do not expect scientists to adopt their stories of origin. Theirs are not generally proselytizing traditions. But they - we - want our political jurisdictions over our bodies and lands upheld and we want the power of our stories to shape our lives respected, and to not be deemed as untruths. The central paradox of 21st century human genome research is that it is presented as global and anti-racist, but has advanced historically by violating subjects' rights to self-governance, by appropriating their biological resources, and sometimes even their cultural narratives, and by de-valuing the truths and powerful values of those it seeks to include and connect.
Kim TallBear, PhD, is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science (University of Minnesota Press, 2013).
1. "Indigenous Peoples Oppose National Geographic & IBM Research Project that Seeks Indigenous Peoples' DNA," April 13, 2005, press release, Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, accessed September 16, 2013, http://www.ipcb.org/issues/human_genetics/htmls/geno_pr.html.
2. "National Geographic and IBM Launch Landmark Project to Map How Humankind Populated Planet," April 13, 2005, press release, National Geographic.com, accessed September 16, 2013, https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Landmark_Project_4_13_05.pdf.
3. Ibid, Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism.
4. I write extensively on the race politics of this genetic genealogy list in my just published book, Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science (University of Minnesota Press, 2013).
5. Jenny Reardon, "The Democratic, Anti-Racist Genome? Technoscience at the Limits of Liberalism," Science as Culture 21(1) (2012).
Democratizing technoscience: from theory to practice -- an inspiring tribal/university greenbuilding collaboration (Update)
UPDATE: I originally posted this video in January 2012 that features the Pinoleville Pomo Nation (PPN) - UC Berkeley collaboration to co-design an environmentally and culturally sustainable house on the PPN reservation. This week several of the principal players in that collaboration published an article in Science, Technology, & Human Values, "Tribal Housing, Co-Design & Cultural Sovereignty." I humbly theorized around the edges of this innovative project. Thanks to the PPN and Berkeley folks for allowing me to co-author this particular article with them for a Science and Technology Studies Journal. They are publishing more in the literature of their respective fields. For example, also see Shelby, R., Perez, Y., and Agogino, A. (2012). “Partnering with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation: Co-Design Methodology Case Study for Creating Sustainable, Culturally Inspired Renewable Energy Systems and Infrastructure. Sustainability. 4(5), pp. 794-818.
Check out this moving video featuring the Pinoleville Pomo Nation (PPN) - UC Berkeley collaboration to co-design an environmentally and culturally sustainable house on the PPN reservation in Mendocino County, California. Featured (@ about 2 minutes into the video) are tribal community members (including youth!), tribal planners and leaders, UC Berkeley engineers--faculty, graduate and undergraduate students--who are collectively reconceptualizing green building in ways that are situated in the lives and values of the people at Pinoleville. This project is a good example of one avenue for democratizing technoscience. The tribal community worked closely over the course of a few years with a UC Berkeley team comprised of engineering and architecture students and faculty to "co-design" a plan for constructing houses that tribal members could not only live in, but thrive in. In the course of design and building, several innovative things happened. The community's expertise was valued. This collaborative group did not only build a house, but they dismantled the usual hierarchical relationships between the technical experts and the "end users," or the community. Accordingly, this group built more than a house. In other design/building and research efforts (this collaboration was both) the technical capacity of experts and researchers gets built and refined while end users get a product. And research subjects, if they are lucky, get vague indications of potential benefits down the road, or simply satisfaction from offering their bodies, communities, or cultural practices for examination by researchers who produce "knowledge for the good of all." The PPN-Berkeley collaboration turns all of that on its head. The capacity of students, faculty, tribal planners, and community members got built. There are now tribal youth who have encountered Berkeley and can envision themselves attending this institution one day. Not only the research institution but the tribal institution got built during the course of this project. The tribe, importantly, controlled some of the project funding. In fact, the collaboration in large part began as a tribally-driven research project when the tribe approached the university with an idea. There are many lessons to be gained from this project, too much for this blog post. Watch the video. You too will be inspired. And if you want to learn more about this project go to the Web site of one of the lead engineering graduate students involved in the collaboration,Ryan L. Shelby. (The video also includes a brief treatment of a "sustainable surfing" project--so cool--that Berkeley faculty and grad students are involved in.) If you're in the Bay Area Ryan Shelby and Pinoleville Pomo Nation environmental director, David S. Edmunds will speak to my undergraduate class on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. here at UC Berkeley, 126 Barrows Hall. I'll be happy to welcome you to join in the learning.
Jun Kamata and Kim TallBear in Tokyo
Hot off the presses is Jun Kamata's new book, Native America, his first book of photographs with an explanatory essay (in Japanese) that explains contemporary Native American life and conditions in the US. Kamata seeks to overturn the stereotypes of Native Americans that pervade in Japan like everywhere, those worn out images of Native Americans atop horses, with long hair, looking like noble savages.
A Tokyo native, Kamata earned his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.D. from UCLA's Department of Urban Planning. Kamata has traveled all over the US. He is particularly fond of L.A., Tucson, and Minneapolis. I know because I have heard him rave on many an occasion. He is one of Japan's foremost experts in American Studies. He is also an amazing photographer. I am truly honored to be the cover photo (looking just a bit like my mother). Kamata publishes with commercial presses in Japan thus reaching wide audiences with his critical analyses and beautiful photographs. He says in an e-mail, "I hope that I am doing justice to what I've been learning from you and others who inspired me to explore Native America over years. I am also trying to let people know that Native Americans are living in the United States and not in the history books or museum." If you are in Japan, Native America is available at a bookstore near you!
An Indigenous Ontological Reading of Cryopreservation Practices and Ethics (and Why I'd Rather Think about Pipestone)
As presented at the American Anthropological Association 111th annual meeting, San Francisco, CA, on the panel: “Defrost: The Social After-lives of Biological Substance.”
Cryopreservation—or deep freeze of tissues—enables storage and maintenance of bio-specimens from whole human bodies, to plant materials, to blood samples taken from indigenous peoples’ bodies. And all of this happens within ontological, ethical, and racial regimes that never belonged to indigenous peoples. It allows the suspended animation and temporal transport of cells and within them DNA, life’s so called code, into realms beyond the bodies whose lives these biologicals helped constitute. That we have barely begun to read that code matters less, as my co-panelist Joanna Radin has pointed out elsewhere, than “desperate” desires “to accumulate fragments of a world whose inherent plasticity, augmented by the corrosive forces of modernity, seemed poised to render certain life forms extinct.
Radin calls for “cryopolitics,“a strategy for grappling with the unresolved problem of the appropriate use of old tissue for new purposes,” a response to the ethical shortcomings of narratives and practices past. In other enlightening ethnographic work, my co-panelist Emma Kowal explains the “biovalue” constituted by the ethical work and network construction of bio-scientists as they build collections of samples and curate them throughout their lives, hoping to cultivate intellectual descendants to whom they might bequeath their treasured bio-valuables—indigenous biological patrimony.
Bioethical responses emerging from non-indigenous institutions and philosophical terrain, including the incisive analyses of my co-panelists, teach me much. And leave me… speechless.
I have found myself these past months unable to think or write or do fieldwork for this project. I have not understood my own resistance. Faced with standing before you today, I had to admit simply that I am weary of having the agenda for what will be responded to set by those who are trying to figure out a way to do things better, but things that indigenous people never asked to have done in the first place. I learn much from my colleagues from around the world who chip away at tired old hierarchical regimes of knowledge production.
And I have been aided in my own critiques of the politics that inhere in the genome sciences by my grounding in feminist technoscientific epistemologies and ethics, including the concept of “feminist objectivity” that calls for inquiry from multiple, especially marginalized, standpoints. The argument is that inquiry from marginalized lives produces a more rigorous reading of the world, and knowledge for the benefit of peoples who have too often been treated not as the beneficiaries of research, but as its raw materials. Indeed, this is an indigenous standpoint talk.
But all of this is focused on response, and I’m running out of steam for that.
So I turn to yet another feminist scholar, Neferti Tadiar, who articulates a concept of faith that enables me to write—to speak here today—in a faithful attempt to regain speech: Informed by the voices of other Oceti Sakowin thinkers within and without the academy. More commonly known as Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples, today we comprise multiple “tribes” in the upper Midwest of the U.S. and south-central Canada. Some of the thinkers who influence me are living and—like the biologicals this panel is attuned to—some are now beyond bodies. As I lean on their thoughts, words, and imperatives, I speak “in concert with” these people I call my own. Tadiar explains this as being “already caught up in the claims that others act out.” Refusing to be excised from them by some imperialistic, naïve notion of exact representation, I try to turn speechlessness into more than response, into claims about the world that I would rather see made.
Tadiar’s particular concept of faith helps me move beyond critiquing a non-feminist politics of objectivity such as pervades the genome sciences. That kind of critique comprised my work of the past ten years. Today, I hope to demonstrate how an indigenous standpoint can take us to an analysis of life and vibrancy that even a Western feminist standpoint cannot take us to.
But let me first highlight three critiques of the technology and practices we consider today, that are in part gestured to in my co-panelists’ analyses, but which I would cast in the shadow of an indigenous standpoint.
Cryopreservation aims to preserve “life,” but is predicated on death
Cryopreservation of indigenous biological samples is about life, the extension of life, the study of life, the preservation of life. But a notion of “life” focused on the largely indecipherable patterns and instructions that comprise DNA’s scaffolding. It is a materialist conception of life that I do not disagree with. Indeed, there is bibliographic beauty in it. But I know now why I don’t want to talk about it.
Cryopreservation recalls the poverty of the genetic articulation of indigeneity that becomes ever more salient in our world of genomics-as-nation-building. Cryopreservation, like genetic indigeneity, emerges not only out of technoscientific innovations but also from a discourse of death. Cryopreservation’s co-constitutive narrative is that gathering indigenous DNA is about staving off certain death, preserving remnants of human groups and their nonhuman relations, defined in molecular terms, and archiving those molecular patterns and instructions before peoples or species “vanish,” the so-called genetic signatures of founding populations obscured forever in a sea of genetic admixture. Death by admixture. Or actual extinction in the case of nonhuman species.
As Joanna Radin explains:
“Groups like the Yanomami or the Babinga did not live on the electric grid in real life—a signifier of their primitiveness—they, or at least pieces of them, could be frozen on it via the laboratory freezer. In this way, these populations would continue to live outside of time, and even outside of death”...Technologies of cryopreservation appeared a powerful way to keep them—or at least their genes—from going extinct.”
Genetic indigeneity, which grounds cryopreservation practices surrounding indigenous samples, and which is implicitly political, might focus on connection to the land and cultural cohesion, like indigenous peoples ourselves do. In biological sampling of a group, the idea of geographic and cultural isolation and longevity in place is paramount. But genetic indigeneity also fundamentally contradicts a definition of indigenous in its explicitly political social movement formation. For indigenous peoples ourselves, indigeneity as an organizing category is added to our people-specific understandings of ourselves. It helps us articulate our resistance as peoples to the assimilative state. It is about indigenous peoples’ survival, a “we are still here, and we are proliferating” discourse. Indeed, numbers of indigenous people have risen worldwide during the past two decades. This is not only about birthrates but about the generative success of the category. It is a source of power for peoples.
My forthcoming book, Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), and the last ten years of work have been about responding to the erasure of indigenous peoples’ survival in bio-scientific research practices and narratives over several hundred years. Notwithstanding recent collaborative efforts, the interplay of genome-focused narratives and the political economy of genome research both pre-suppose and enable the erasure of indigenous peoples and their cultures.
Cryopreservation enables appropriation of indigenous natural resources
Radin explains that the International Biological Program (IBP) that ran from the early 1960s through 1974, and which set the 20th-century scientific stage for the biological sampling of indigenous peoples (along with nonhuman communities) as remnants of a bygone world, an increasingly “civilizing” yet ironically toxic world. She reminds us that “The stated goal of research on primitive isolates was to salvage information that might benefit civilized communities’ understandings of themselves.”
But the conception of indigenous bodies as “natural resources,” the raw materials upon which nations are built, did not begin in 1960. In the 18th and 19th centuries too the U.S. nation building project relied on the appropriation of indigenous peoples’ lands. The U.S. positioned itself—positioned whites—as the rational agent capable of transforming nature in to productive property, and indigenous peoples in these lands as incapable of developing, indeed surviving in the face of the modern industrial state.
Whereas indigenous land (and bones and cultures ready for study) were seen as the rightful inheritance of whites in the 18th and 19th centuries and before—the live Indian has apparently been vanishing since contact, literally meeting death in the face of Westward expansion, or transformed biologically and culturally beyond recognition. Today rare, precious indigenous DNA is the remaining natural resource to be appropriated or stewarded “before it is too late.”
As Jenny Reardon and I wrote in a recent Current Anthropology article, in the 21st century, the goal is to transform the raw natural resources that are genomes into something of value for humans: Genome knowledge supposedly “for the good of all.” But who in pragmatic terms counts as fully human, and as recipient of those benefits is the question. Certainly a vanished Indian cannot make a claim.
Cryopreservation enables social relations, including with indigenous people, even while it continues to de-animate them
We see a partial de-colonization of Western disciplinary thinking and a dismantling of hierarchies between Westerners’ and their non-human others, indeed also their previously less animated human others, in this move to caretake biological samples via cryopreservation. We see recognition of non-human animacy, even if it is not explicitly stated in the analyses of my co-panelists, of human biological substance and the social relations it helps effect, especially that substance derived from indigenous bodies. Stewarded by non-indigenous scientists and institutions, the substance acts as object of mutual concern and desire by both scientists and the indigenous communities that lay claim to it. Inspiring, frightening, challenging and empowering the humans involved with it, archived biologicals help constitute social relations.
Co-panelist Emma Kowal offers something slightly different as well. In the process of stewarding cryopreserved samples, she explains that indigenous people become vibrant in the way that genome scientists newly pay attention to the affective networks and biovalue co-constituted with indigenous DNA. But this is paradoxical as Kowal points out because biovalue, “the production of scientific value from human body parts,” is a form of “surplus value” actually produced when “marginal forms of vitality…[including] the bodies and body parts of the socially marginalized –are transformed into technologies to aid in the intensification of vitality for other living beings.”
So indigenous bodies are both de-animated (After Mel Chen I think in terms of animacy) in the hierarchies of civilizing, scientific knowledge production. And yet, re-animated as living indigenous people become scientists literally or in name as co-authors or co-Principal investigators within new, more collaborative ethical regimes.
Entrance to quarries. Expansive skies (photo: K. TallBear)
Life, blood, and stone
Vibrancy. Animacy. These are among the words through which disciplines are recently articulating the force of nonhumans in our cultural, political, and economic lives. And though this work is innovative, both methodologically and ethically, it only partially engages indigenous standpoints.
Indigenous cultures” have not forgotten that nonhuman organisms are agential beings engaged in social relations that profoundly shape human lives. In addition, for indigenous peoples, their nonhuman others may not be understood in even critical western frameworks as living. “Objects” and “forces” such as stones, thunder, or stars are known within our ontologies to be sentient and knowing persons. This is where new materialisms intersect animal studies, and helps us to see that violence against nonhumans—water, earth, plant, animal—is linked to violence against particular humans who have historically been de-animated, made “less-than-human,” made “animal.”
Koyungkawi poet and acorn mushmaker, Linda Noel, explains to me that she doesn’t mind “being considered part of nature.” But she knows what they mean by that, and that’s not what she means. For Noel, non-human is not less than human, nor less alive.
On that note, I turn from indigenous DNA—human biological substance frozen out of place and time—to stone. I want to talk about stone, the life that inheres in a stone, the social relations that proliferate as that stone emerges from the earth, is carved into pipe, is passed from hand to hand. (You may have heard them called “peace pipes”—that’s not quite right.) I speak of Pipestone, otherwise known as Catlinite after the 19th-century U.S. American artist who painted the site where the red stone is cut from the earth.
There is a story that tells us about the blood in that stone, that along with our loving attention to its materiality enables us to apprehend its vibrancy, its fundamental role in our peoplehood. Unlike with indigenous DNA, this is not a cellular vibrancy. Yet without it, prayers would be grounded, social relations impaired, and everyday lives of quarriers and carvers depleted of the meaning they derive from working with stone. Here is that story:
It rained for many days, non-stop. A young girl saw a high hill and ran up there. Many of her people had already drowned. Alone, she began to pray. The rain suddenly stopped. She stood there, seeing nothing around her but water. Above in the sky she heard and saw a giant bird. He opened his wings. A man emerged. The man told her not to be afraid. He had come to rescue her. All of her people were killed in the flood, he told her. He wanted to marry her. Through their marriage together the humans would begin anew. When the water receded it all drained into one place. There in that place was the blood of all the people who had drowned. That place became the cannupa ok’e. The blood of the people, the red stone. 
Red is a sacred color for the Dakota, and so this place is taken to be sacred. The cannupa ok’e, the quarry, is also special to many other peoples whose members dig there today. The stone there is sometimes spoken of as a relative.
But U.S. Park Service pamphlets from the Pipestone, Minnesota quarry represent pipes as artifacts, as craft objects, and detail the history of white incursion in the area, into the quarry where Natives produced their artifacts, and the regulatory response of the U.S. government. These ways of understanding the stone and the landscape from which it is quarried—these material and regulatory histories—are not unimportant, but like the politics that enabled the production of indigenous biological samples abstracted from living bodies and vibrant peoples, these politics resulted in a de-animating representation of the red stone. Like bio-scientists in the 20th and 21st centuries with their imperative to bleed indigenous peoples before it was too late, a 19th century Euro-American painter and early 20th century geologists and government agents saw the place where the red stone lies as an artifact of a waning culture and time. They produced a “National Monument” to conserve it.
But like indigenous people who insist on their continuing survival and involvement with their DNA, indigenous quarriers and carvers, medicine people, and just everyday people who pray insist on living with the red stone daily. And they make decisions—some of them seen as compromised about how to best work with the vibrant objects of their attention. Some indigenous people agree to engage in research or commercial activities related to DNA. Others sell pipestone jewellery and craft pieces to make a living while also holding the stone and ceremonial pipes carved from it as sacred. Literal red human blood and the blood red stone have been translated into “resources.” And while this characterization is troubled by Dakota and other indigenous quarriers and carvers, it is not undone.
And here I am at the end of this talk with a response after all, because this is the fundamental condition of indigeneity. It is predicated on there being a settler, an invader to whom we must always respond. Yet I hope that I am also moving into a stage of inquiry guided by the needs, desires, arguments, critiques, and material lives of the people from whom I derive. In the next couple of years I will turn my attention to pipestone as an agent in Oceti Sakowin lives, one imposed upon by processes of colonization, but a subject that also preceded such things.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Texas, Austin (where I am a Donald D. Harrington Fellow in 2012-13) for funding support this year as I bring together the threads of multiple lines of inquiry. Thanks to David S. Edmunds for his always incisive editorial feedback and to Chris Andersen (UAlberta) for when I lose faith helping me see that what I know and need to write about is right in front of me. Finally, a big thanks to my colleagues and fellow panelists Joanna Radin (YaleU), Emma Kowal (UMelbourne), Tiffany Romain (Ricoh Innovations), Jennifer Brown (UPenn), and to discussants Jenny Reardon (UCSC) and Warwick Anderson (USydney) for our own productive social relations, and for having such fertile minds from which I can appropriate intellectual resources, transforming them into productive goods for the benefit of indigenous people.
 Joanna Radin, “Latent Life: Concepts and Practice of Human Tissue Preservation in the International Biological Program, 1964-1974," forthcoming, 32.
 Donna J. Haraway, 1991a. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: the Reinvention of Nature. New York and London: Routledge: 149-181; Donna Haraway, 2000. “Morphing the Order: Flexible Strategies, Feminist Science studies, and Primate Revisions.” In Primate Encounters, edited by S. Strum and L. Fedigan, 398-420. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Donna J. Haraway, 1991b. "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privolege of Partial Perspective.” In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: the Reinvention of Nature. New York and London: Routledge: 183-201; Sandra Harding. 2008. Sciences from Below: Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities. Durham and London: Duke University Press; Sandra Harding. 1991. Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?: Thinking from Women’s Lives. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
 Neferti X.M. Tadiar. 2001. “The Noranian Imaginary.” In Geopolitics of the Visible: Essays on Philippine Film Cultures, ed. Rolando B. Tolentino. Ateneo de Manila University Press: 61-76.
 Radin forthcoming 31.
 Radin forthcoming, 32.
 Radin forthcoming, 22.
 Cheryl I. Harris. 1993. “Whiteness as Property.” Harvard Law Review 8 (June): 1707-1791.
 Jenny Reardon and Kim TallBear. 2012. “Your DNA is Our History”: Genomics, Anthropology, and the Construction of Whiteness as Property.” Current Anthropology53(S5): S233-S245.
 Kowal 7, forthcoming.
 Mel Chen. 2012. Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
 Kowal 29, forthcoming.
 Adapted from the story as told in the Pipestone: An Unbroken Legacy, DVD.