The image below is a graphic representation of the physical space the indigenous tribes of Alaska occupy.
I ran across this article in the NY Times back from 2006 while researching biocolonialism for another class. It is called DNA Gatherers Hit Snag: Tribes Don't Trust Them. I have listed some interesting quotes summarizing the article below, followed by my thoughts for engagement with the article:
"The National Geographic Society's multimillion-dollar research project to collect DNA from indigenous groups around the world in the hopes of reconstructing humanity's ancient migrations has come to a standstill on its home turf in North America."
"At issue is whether scientists who need DNA from aboriginal populations to fashion a window on the past are underselling the risks to present-day donors. Geographic origin stories told by DNA can clash with long-held beliefs, threatening a world view some indigenous leaders see as vital to preserving their culture."
"They argue that genetic ancestry information could also jeopardize land rights and other benefits that are based on the notion that their people have lived in a place since the beginning of time. "
"Spencer Wells, the population geneticist who directs the project, says it is paternalistic to imply that indigenous groups need to be kept from the knowledge that genetics might offer."
"Others said the test would finally force an acknowledgment that they were here first, undermining those who see the government as having "given" them their land. "
"As indigenous groups intermarry and disperse at an ever-accelerating pace, many scientists believe the chance to capture human history is fast disappearing."
"Unlike the earlier Human Genome Diversity Project, condemned by some groups as "biocolonialism" because scientists may have profited from genetic data that could have been used to develop drugs, the Genographic Project promises to patent nothing and to avoid collecting medical information."
"Scientific evidence that American Indians or other aboriginal groups came from elsewhere, they say, could undermine their moral basis for sovereignty and chip away at their collective legal claims. "
"To make scientific progress, the project's geneticists are finding they must first navigate an unfamiliar tangle of political, religious and personal misgivings."
"Knowing the routes and timing of migrations within the Americas would provide a foundation for studying how people came to be so different so quickly."
"'What the scientists are trying to prove is that we're the same as the Pilgrims except we came over several thousand years before,' said Maurice Foxx, chairman of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs and a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag. 'Why should we give them that openly?'"
Biolcolonialism, like colonialism, is the enterprise of domination (rape) of indigenous and "natural" (virgin) non/humans and resources.
This article made me think of the following quote from Isabelle Stengers used in Deboleena Roy's essay "Should Feminists Clone? And if So, How?":
"The difference between technology and the power of Truth is an ethical one, whereby technology is accompanied by a 'sense of responsibility that Truth permits us to escape'"
What responsibility accompanies technology, science, and the pursuit of "Truth"? What does she mean by saying that Truth permits us to escape this responsibility? How does one find Truth? These are all questions that relate to the study, pursuit, and act of science and genetics. The Truths that we have found in biology have lead to the mapping of the world's denizen's genomes, pinpointing identifiers and signifies on the chromosomes and the universality of DNA. These Truths manifest a cultivated distance between subject and object, human and nonhuman, and natural and unnatural. In dwelling on these dualisms and in the name of scientific progress, we as a society allow ourselves to escape/subvert/ignore our responsibility to and affect on non/human beings.
What are your thoughts on article? In particular, the quotations that I specifically listed and possibly in relation to Roy's quote.
For further interest, visit the website for Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism.