Indigenous Knowledge Guidance for Federal Agencies

On December 1, 2022, the administration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released new Indigenous Knowledge Guidance for Federal Agencies, and an implementation memorandum, to recognize and include the indigenous knowledge of tribal nations in research, policy, and decision making across the executive branch. Jointly issued by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the release of the new guidance and the implementation memorandum by the White House coincided with the final session of the Biden-Harris administration’s 2022 Tribal Nations Summit held at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

These documents result from work conducted since December 2021 by an OSTP/CEQ-led Interagency Working Group (IWG), which the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) joined on February 7, 2022, as the representative of the National Archives and Records Administration. This IWG included more than 25 federal departments and agencies organized into five subgroups, whose objective was to develop government-wide guidance on the recognition and inclusion of indigenous knowledge by federal agencies in consultation and engagement with tribal nations, indigenous communities, and the public. ISOO is also a member of the interagency Natural and Cultural Resources Working Group (NCRWG), which focuses on the protection of indigenous knowledge shared with the federal government.

In developing the new guidance and implementation memorandum, the OSTP/CEQ-led IWG built on the joint memorandum previously issued by OSTP and CEQ on November 15, 2021, which formally recognized the contribution of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) to federal scientific and policy processes. ITEK is a body of observations, oral and written knowledge, practices, and beliefs that promotes environmental sustainability and the responsible stewardship of natural resources through relationships between humans and environmental systems. It is applied to phenomena across biological, physical, cultural, and spiritual systems. That initial joint OSTP/CEQ memorandum on ITEK coincided with the administration’s inaugural Tribal Nations Summit, held by teleconference from the White House on November 16, 2021. For President Biden’s remarks in 2021 acknowledging the impact of Native voices across the federal government, see: Remarks by President Biden at the Tribal Nations Summit | The White House.

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