by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Just five days before President Joe Biden entered the White House, his team handed the Washington Post an exclusive story: Biden would keep his campaign promise of “following the science” by turning the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy into a cabinet-level agency.
On Nov. 30, 2022, that office did something rather unscientific: It issued a memo directing more than two dozen federal agencies to apply “Indigenous Knowledge” to “research, policies, and decision making.” The 42-page document encourages the agencies to speak with “spiritual leaders” and reject “methodological dogma” when crafting policy as a way to remedy injustices against Native peoples.
Federal regulators are to consider the folk wisdom of the Comanche Nation, for instance, just as they consider lab results when trying to determine the pH level of rain. Long relegated to university campuses and fringe activist groups, the idea that Native people have a privileged understanding of the physical and metaphysical world is now the official view of the United States government.
With nearly 600 federally recognized Native tribes in the United States alone, there is no single definition of Indigenous Knowledge. Defenders and critics of the idea agree that, broadly speaking, it constitutes the traditions, stories, and religious rituals passed down orally through generations of Native Americans and aborigines in places like Australia.
This investigation is based on a Washington Free Beacon review of previously unreported federal documents, hours of recorded lectures by federal officials, and interviews with nearly a dozen experts, many of whom declined to speak publicly due to fear of reprisal. Together, the materials show how a once-fringe theory made its way to the heart of the federal government and shine a light on the Democratic Party’s struggle to balance its commitment to “the science” with its commitment to “inclusivity.”