Integrating Indigenous Values into Federal Agency Impact Assessments to Reduce Conflicts—A Role for Anthropologists


  • Darby C. Stapp



Cultural impact assessments, effects, federal agencies, tribes, indigenous values, NEPA, Section 106, traditional cultural places


Conflicts surrounding the development of public lands are on the rise around the world. In the United States, where laws require federal agencies to conduct environmental and cultural impact assessments before approving or permitting development projects, conflicts still occur. This is especially true for projects that impact indigenous lands, resources, and communities, as the recent controversy surrounding Dakota Access Pipeline project so well illustrates. The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the problems I have encountered as an anthropologist conducting cultural impact assessments for federal agencies and for indigenous communities. Central among the problems encountered are the lack of awareness and appreciation for indigenous values by project proponents, agencies, and sometimes even the analysts hired to conduct the assessments. Recommendations for improving the quality of cultural impact assessments, which are based on the tenets of Action Anthropology, are explained.


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