Society of Ethnobiology Board of Directors Position Statement December 2016

The Society of Ethnobiology Board recently agreed to rename and repurpose our standing Ethics Committee to the Ethics and Advocacy Committee.  Prior to that the Board agreed to write a disseminate a position statement on the murder of Berta Caceres and incarceration of Gustavo Castro Soto in Honduras.  We recognized the need to address our membership about the mission and values of our Society in the wake of the 2016 US national elections.

Today we write you about the historical events unfolding in North Dakota near and on the Standing Rock Sioux (Dakota) Indian reservation.  SoE has members actively involved in research and advocacy present in the standoff between those protecting the land and water of the Missouri River and its adjacent tribal, private, and federal land and the those working for the Dakota Access Pipeline (including state and local law enforcement) owned by Energy Transfer Partners LP (75%) and Phillips 66 (25%).

This Society has a long relationship of researchers, professors, and government employees working at the interface between people and the environment, with North America as a center of our membership, scholarly activity, and conferences.  Many of us have worked with tribal communities in the US, Mexico, Canada, and other nations. Who are we? We are the archaeologists, ethnographers, historians, ethnobiologists, linguists, ethnoecologists, ecologists, and geologists who have documented the pre-history and history of indigenous people around the world and especially in North America, and some of us currently work with tribal communities on collaborative research and applied projects.  

For us to witness the corporate and governmental violation of treaties, federal laws, federal government to tribal government trust obligations, and now human rights, we cannot and will not as an organization stand silently in the shadows hoping this conflict will resolve itself.  We strongly condemn the Dakota Access Pipeline’s use of private and local law enforcement to squelch the First Amendment Rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of people peaceably assembling.  The use of militarized law enforcement against unarmed citizens of the United States has drawn criticism nationally and across the world, including from the United Nations.  We have Society members present at the protest camps, and some of our members have friends and family members that have been violently attacked by law enforcement.

We call upon the members of our Society to speak up for the communities that have worked with us and have depended upon our voices to tell the history and science of the land, water, plant, animals and people. Many of us have the professional tools to document what is happening in North Dakota and we encourage scientific investigations and scholarly activities that document and publish what is happening in North Dakota as the intersection of people and the environment comes to a violent clash.  With the US Army Corps of Engineers calling for the December 5, 2016 closure of the Water Protectors Camps on lands ceased by the Corps and under their ownership, we fear more violence will be unleashed from heavily armed law enforcement upon unarmed but undeterred tribal and non-tribal citizens.  

For ways you can personally voice your concerns, please visit the following links:

#NoDAPL Solidarity

Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline Petition

Seven Things You Can Do to Help the Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters

For ways you can directly support the tribal communities and their supporters, please visit the following links:

Sacred Stone Camp Facebook Page

#NoDAPL Solidarity

Stand With Standing Rock Oceti Sakowin

GoFundMe Sacred Stone Camp

For updates and news about this issue, please visit:

Native News

#NoDAPL Solidarity Updates



For those of you interested in discussing this issue further or how you can partake in scholarly activities to document this unfolding situation, please directly contact the SoE Board members.


Society of Ethnobiology Board of Directors