Washington Law Review


Rebecca Tsosie


This Article explores the use of science as a tool of public policy and examines how science policy impacts indigenous peoples in the areas of environmental protection, public health, and repatriation. Professor Tsosie draws on Miranda Fricker’s account of “epistemic injustice” to show how indigenous peoples have been harmed by the domestic legal system and the policies that guide the implementation of the law in those three arenas. Professor Tsosie argues that the theme of “discovery,” which is pivotal to scientific inquiry, has governed the violation of indigenous peoples’ human rights since the colonial era. Today, science policy is overtly “neutral,” but it may still be utilized to the disadvantage of indigenous peoples. Drawing on international human rights law, Professor Tsosie demonstrates how public policy could shift from treating indigenous peoples as “objects” of scientific discovery to working respectfully with indigenous governments as equal participants in the creation of public policy. By incorporating human rights standards and honoring indigenous self-determination, domestic public policy can more equitably respond to indigenous peoples’ distinctive experience. Similarly, scientists and scientific organizations can incorporate human rights standards into their disciplinary methods and professional codes of ethics as they respond to the ethical and legal implications of their work.

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