Biden Admin Offered More Than $800 Million In Federal Grants To Apply ‘Indigenous Knowledge’

  • The Biden administration has made more than $800 million in grant funding available for projects related to the application of “indigenous knowledge.” 
  • Indigenous knowledge refers to the traditional beliefs of American Indians, including their spirituality, according to a memo released by the Biden administration last year.
  • The Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture all posted grant offerings related to Indigenous knowledge. 

The Biden administration has offered more than $800 million in grants and cooperative agreements that apply “indigenous knowledge” to solve issues ranging from drug abuse to climate change, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of federal grant announcements.

Federal agencies have approved more than $831.8 million in grants that increase the use of indigenous knowledge in achieving the Biden administration’s goals, according to a federal grant database. A memo released by the Biden administration in November 2022 defines indigenous knowledge as “a body of observations, oral and written knowledge, innovations, practices, and beliefs developed by Tribes and Indigenous Peoples through interaction and experience with the environment” that “is applied to phenomena across biological, physical, social, cultural, and spiritual systems.”

Today @WHOSTP & @WHCEQ are launching an important initiative to elevate Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) in Federal decision making. Here’s what that means.🧵

— White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (@WHOSTP) November 15, 2021

The Department of Commerce (DOC) earmarked $575 million in June, the largest bundle of grants identified by the DCNF, to mitigate the impact of weather events caused by climate change on coastal environments through the application of indigenous knowledge, according to the grant’s notice of federal funding. Grant applicants are expected to prioritize “tribes, tribal priorities, and indigenous knowledge” for the sake of “equity and inclusion.”

The DOC offered an estimated $175 million in July “to provide federal financial and technical assistance to fish passage” while encouraging applicants to “appropriately consider and elevate local or indigenous knowledge in project design,” according to the grant notice. Projects “incorporating tribal or indigenous knowledge (including Traditional Ecological Knowledge) in fish passage project planning” demonstrate the qualifications required to receive funding.

The DOC allocated an additional estimated $300,000 in December 2022 to create programs “for K-12 students that incorporate Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge and promote climate resilience.”

A group of 10 grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted in September, estimated to be worth $3.6 million collectively, intends to teach elementary, secondary and postsecondary students in every region of the country about the environment and climate change, according to the document. One of the approved “educational priorities” listed in the grant announcements is “educating project participants on the importance of recognizing, understanding, supporting, and incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into strategies aimed at solving local environmental issues.”

“By enriching environmental education with diverse perspectives and cultivating deep respect for the environment and Indigenous Knowledge holders’ relationship to it program participants will value both cultural diversity and environmental stewardship,” the grants read.

Another slate of grants from the EPA posted in September offers an estimated $4 million to work with the agency and provide it with technical assistance using indigenous knowledge approaches, according to the database. Grant applicants are evaluated based on how well they ensure “community involvement, centered community challenges, lived experiences, and/or indigenous knowledge in their work from conception to dissemination,” with grant proposals expected to “incorporate qualitative data such as community voices, alternative sources of knowledge, indigenous knowledge (IK) and lived experiences as components of the overall picture.”

The EPA also offered an estimated $5 million in April to improve the water quality in the San Francisco Bay, according to the database. The agency listed “technical trainings and outreach programs to increase use of indigenous knowledge in the environmental field” as among its priority projects, and applicants were told their performance would be measured based on how well they integrated indigenous knowledge into their efforts, according to the grant document.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an estimated $18.75 million available in August for applicants to apply “Indigenous knowledge methods,” alongside other approaches, as part of a program intended to test experimental methods of reducing drug overdose, the document showed. (RELATED: Biden Admin Hosted ‘Indigenous Knowledge’ Seminars That Warned Scientists About ‘Disrespecting’ Spirits: REPORT)

Two grants from the Department of the Interior (DOI), posted in June 2022 and June 2023 and totaling an estimated $700,000, asked grantees to propose programs to promote the preservation of North American Sea Ducks in a way that integrates “Indigenous Knowledge” to inform “broad questions about sea duck ecology.”

Another grant from the DOI for an estimated $550,000 was offered in June 2022 to “better understand the potential impacts that BOEM-approved actions may have on submerged cultural landforms” and asks applicants to “prepare a final report of summarized findings that respectfully incorporates indigenous knowledge,” according to the database.

The Department of Agriculture (DOA) offered an estimated $15 million in August as part of its “Conservation Innovation Grants” program, according to its document. One of the accepted subject areas for prospective grants is titled “Strengthening Conservation through Indigenous Knowledge” and asks that applicants come up with novel conservation strategies rooted in Indigenous knowledge.

The DOA allocated an estimated $3.9 million in August 2021 to support agricultural research, with grantees expected to “value traditional and indigenous knowledge.”

The Department of Defense offered an estimated $30 million in June “to help manage and sustain Department of Defense (DoD) land in the United States” while “improving consultation and coordination with Indian Tribal Governments and inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge in management programs,” the document reads.

The 2022 memo from the Biden administration ordered agencies to “recognize and, as appropriate, apply Indigenous Knowledge in decision making, research, and [their] policies.” It also instructed agencies to consult with Indian spiritual leaders and not to assume that indigenous knowledge is incorrect when “Western” science contradicts it, accusing science of being a tool of oppression.

“When I start hearing things about how there’s this other dimension where, you know, the animals interact with humans at a different level of reality, that’s just not a thing,” City University professor and biologist Massimo Pigliucci told the Washington Free Beacon in reference to their reporting on indigenous knowledge. “You can believe that and you have the right to believe it but it’s not empirical evidence.”

None of the agencies mentioned above responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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