Pentagon Shells Out Half a Million Dollars for ‘Indigenous Knowledge’ Research

(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
May 31, 2024

The Pentagon awarded nearly $500,000 to a small firm in rural Alaska to research "indigenous knowledge," according to federal records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

What that money will fund exactly is unclear. According to the contract’s description, Northern Social-Environmental Research Inc. will use $499,995 for a "northern social-environmental research proposal" about "advancing methods to engage and apply indigenous knowledge for increased understanding of arctic coastal systems through community-based research."

"Indigenous knowledge" is a pseudoscience that posits native Indians possess unique insights into the workings of the universe. President Joe Biden has instructed all federal agencies to prioritize incorporating "indigenous knowledge" in their rulemaking, something scientists warn is "extremely dangerous."

Internal agency guidelines produced by the White House encourage federal employees to speak with "spiritual leaders" and reject "methodological dogma." Staff are also told to follow basic principles of "indigenous knowledge" that include considering both the "physical and metaphysical world linked to moral code" as well as "inherited wisdom."

The Department of Defense declined to comment.

Located in Fairbanks, Alaska, Northern Social-Environmental Research employs just two staffers. The firm says it performs "qualitative research, project management, outreach, engagement, and administrative services on behalf of communities, organizations, and interdisciplinary research teams throughout Alaska and Beyond."

The firm’s owner, Tracie Curry, says on the group’s website that she "specializes in social-environmental systems thinking community engagement, and decision-support products that bring place-based information like local/Indigenous knowledge to the forefront of planning and decision-making processes." Northern Social-Environmental Research did not respond to a request for comment.

The Pentagon contract appears to be the first time the U.S. military has hired outside "indigenous knowledge" experts for consulting. Other federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control will soon employ "indigenous knowledge" in their research.

The Biden administration has drawn on "indigenous knowledge" in numerous decisions related to Alaska, likely due to the state’s large native Indian population. Last year, the Department of the Interior cited "indigenous knowledge" as part of the reason it blocked seven oil and gas leases there.

And in March, the Interior Department mentioned "indigenous knowledge" at least 14 times in its preliminary environmental review of a proposed road in Alaska that leads to copper and zinc deposits. Those deposits are estimated to hold billions of dollars of critical minerals used for a variety of renewable energy projects such as electric vehicles. Politico reported in April that the Biden administration is expected to block the project.

The "indigenous knowledge" push throughout the federal government is in large part the brainchild of Jane Lubchenco, who serves as deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lubchenco is barred from publishing scientific studies or working with the National Academy of Sciences after she was sanctioned in 2022 for violating the organization’s ethics rules.

This is not the Biden administration’s first attempt to promote controversial diversity initiatives at the Pentagon. Following a June 2021 executive order instructing agencies to pour more resources into diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, military bases occasionally host drag shows and the Department of Veterans Affairs offers race-based training programs and workshops.