White House Hosted ‘Indigenous Knowledge’ Lecture in Egypt

Biden’s support for pseudoscience goes international

Hindou Oumaraou Ibrahim (Bay Area Air District/YouTube).
January 29, 2024

The Biden administration hosted a lecture in Egypt on the virtues of "indigenous knowledge," a pseudoscientific theory that posits Native Americans possess secret wisdom solely by virtue of their ethnicity, according to internal documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The November 2022 lecture took place at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, and featured Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a Chadian activist. Ibrahim spoke about how alternative methods of knowing are often more accurate than data-driven science. To substantiate her point, Ibrahim claimed that her grandmother could predict when it is going to rain better than a weather app.

"I’m, like, I’m so sorry you went to the school for maybe for 20 years to get your Ph.D.s," Ibrahim said. "My grandmother was born on those [sic] knowledge, she got it from her own grand-grand-grand-mother. It is hundreds and thousands of years of knowledge."

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy organized Ibrahim's lecture, according to records first acquired by Protect the Public’s Trust via a Freedom of Information Act request. Two senior White House officials, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory and Director of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs Director Wahleah Johns spoke after Ibrahim, internal White House communications show.

Much of Ibrahim’s speech was bizarre, if not outright erroneous. At the start of the event, she asserted that "technology" has only existed for "maybe some hundred years."

"I think indigenous people’s knowledge, we have to understand, comes from thousands and thousands of years. As science, less than [sic] thousand years," she said.

"Scientific knowledge," Ibrahim claimed, "cannot give" "exact knowledge" in the way "indigenous knowledge" can.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy did not respond to a request for comment.

American activists who share Ibrahim’s belief in the superiority of "traditional ways of knowing" have successfully pushed the Biden administration to incorporate "indigenous knowledge" into the federal rulemaking process. At the federal level, the Free Beacon reported last year, the concept is now meant to hold the same weight in policy evaluations as the scientific method.

The same month as Ibrahim’s lecture, the Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a memo directing more than two dozen federal agencies to apply indigenous knowledge to "research, policies, and decision making."

There is no universally-agreed-upon definition of "indigenous knowledge," although the concept generally refers to folk wisdom and creation stories within various native communities.

Scientists and other academics who spoke with the Free Beacon last year described the push to incorporate indigenous knowledge principles into government policy as "dangerous" and "dumb."

President Joe Biden elevated the Office of Science and Technology Policy to a cabinet-level agency on the first day of his presidency. The Washington Post described the decision as "a move that signals the importance of science to the incoming administration."

"Science will always be at the forefront of my administration—and these world-renowned scientists will ensure everything we do is grounded in science, facts, and the truth," Biden said in a statement at the time.