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A new anthropology ethics scandal (?)

12 February, 2009

The Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO), an Indigenous umbrella group, has issued a press release condemning the American Geographical Society’s Bowman Expedition, “México Indígena.”  (Below I’ve pasted this press release, and following that, the text of the AGS description of the Bowman Expedition’s “México Indígena” project, which refutes many of the UNOSJO charges.)

The first charge is that one of the AGS researchers, University of Kansas’s  Peter Herlihy,  failed to disclose the fact that his research was partially funded by the U.S. military, specifically the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) of the United States Army. It also claims that Herlihy failed to disclose the participation of Radiance Technologies, “a company that specializes in arms development and military intelligence.”

Another ethics charge is a novel variation on accusations that international researchers exploit Indigenous cultural and intellectual property: they accuse the project of “geopiracy.”

They also claim that the mapping data collected by the project is fed into “a global database that forms an integral part of the Human Terrain System (HTS), a United States Army counterinsurgency strategy designed by FMSO and applied within indigenous communities, among others.”

AGS refutes  the association with HTS, but one thing that seems clear from this project is that one of the 5 main concerns expressed by the American Anthropological Association about the HTS, namely its prediction that HTS would taint anthropologists and their informants worldwide, seems to be coming true.

–L.L. Wynn (pasted press releases below)


OAXACA (UNOSJO, S.C.) – Oaxaca, Mexico


We kindly request that you publish the present bulletin in your
respective means of communication.

Towards the end of 2008, the results of the research project México
Indígena (Indigenous Mexico) were handed over to two Zapotec
communities in the Sierra Juárez in the form of maps. Research had
been undertaken two years earlier by a team of geographers from
University of Kansas. What initially seemed to be a beneficial project
for the communities now leaves many of the participants feeling like
victims of geopiracy.

In August 2006, the México Indígena research team arrived at the Union
of Organizations of the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO, S.C.) to
present research objectives and garner support to commence work in the
Sierra Juárez region. At the time, the team included a Mexican
biologist Gustavo Ramírez, an Ixtlán native well known in the area,
who was responsible for initially approaching UNOSJO.

Project leader and geographer Peter Herlihy explained the project
objectives to UNOSJO, S.C., initially stating that it was to document
the impacts of PROCEDE [a Mexican Government program has had on
indigenous communities. He failed to mention, however, that this
research prototype was financed by the Foreign Military Studies Office
(FMSO) of the United States Army and that reports on his work would be
handed directly to this Office. Herlihy neglected to mention this
despite being expressly asked to clarify the eventual use of the data
obtained through research.

Herlihy mentioned that his team would collaborate with the following
organizations: the American Geographical Society (AGS), Kansas
University, Kansas State University, Carleton University, the
Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí and the Secretary of
Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). He failed, however, to
acknowledge the participation of Radiance Technologies, a company that
specializes in arms development and military intelligence.

Although UNOSJO, S.C. participated in some of the México Indígena
Project’s initial activities, the organization soon ceased
participation due to unclear project intentions. The Santa Cruz
Yagavila and Santa María Zoogochi communities also ended up feeling
the same distrust and they too abandoned the Project. For these
reasons, the México Indígena research team localized activities within
the San Miguel Tiltepec and San Juan Yagila communities, both located
in the Zapotec region known as El Rincón de la Sierra Juárez.

In November 2008, México Indígena members Peter Herlihy and John Kelly
attended a meeting of the UCC, the Unión de Comunidades Cafetaleras
“Unidad Progreso y Trabajo” (the Union of Coffee-Producing Communities
“Unity, Progress and Work”), held in the community of Santa Cruz
Yagavila. They announced the completion of the Yagila and Tiltepec
community maps and offered their services to other organization-member
communities. They went on to mention that research had been carried
out with the collaboration of UNOSJO, S.C.’s own Aldo Gonzalez, a fact
that was immediately refuted.

Following the aforementioned UCC meeting, UNOSJO, S.C. began looking
into the México Indígena Project. Investigation revealed that México
Indígena forms part of the Bowman Expeditions, a more extensive
geographic research project backed and financed by the FMSO, among
other institutions. The FMSO inputs information into a global database
that forms an integral part of the Human Terrain System (HTS), a
United States Army counterinsurgency strategy designed by FMSO and
applied within indigenous communities, among others.

Since 2006 the Human Terrain System HTS has, since 2006, been employed
with military purposes in both Afghanistan and Iraq and according to
what we g=have been able to determine Bowman Expeditions are underway
in Mexico, the Antilles, Colombia and Jordan.

In November 2008, the México Indígena Project completed the maps
corresponding to Zapotec communities San Miguel Tiltepec and San Juan
Yagila. Contrary to the often-mentioned promise of transparency,
México Indígena created an English-only web page, a language that the
participating communities do not understand. Before the communities
received the work, said maps had already been published on the
Internet. Furthermore, the communities were never informed that
reports detailing the project would be handed over to the FMSO.

In addition to publishing the maps, the México Indígena team created a
database into which pertinent information was entered: community
member names and the associated geographic location of their plot(s)
of land, formal and informal use of the land and other data that
cannot be accessed via the Internet.

According to statements made by those heading the México Indígena
research team, this type of map can be used in multiple ways. They did
not specify, however, whether they would be employed for commercial,
military or other purposes. Furthermore, as the maps are compatible
with Google Earth, practically anyone can gain access to the
information. Yet only community members can decipher information
expressed in Zapotec (toponyms), unless, of course, one has the
capacity to translate them, as in the case of FMSO linguistic specialists.

UNOSJO, S.C. is against this kind of project being carried out in the
Sierra Juárez and distances itself completely from the work compiled
by the México Indígena research team. We call upon indigenous peoples
in this country and around the world not to be fooled by these types
of research projects, which usurp traditional knowledge without prior
consent. Although researchers may initially claim to be conducting the
projects in “good faith”, said knowledge could be used against the
indigenous peoples in the future.

We hereby demand that Peter Herlihy honor his promise of transparency
and that the Mexican public be made aware all his sources of funding
and the institutions that received information on findings obtained in
the communities.

We further demand that, in light of these facts, the Mexican
Government, firstly the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources
for having financed part of the research, as well as the Department of
Internal Affairs, the Department of External Affairs, Deputies and
Senators for possible violations of the Indigenous Peoples’ National
Sovereignty and Autonomy, clarify its position on the matter.

Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., 14 January 2009


The American Geographical Society’s Bowman Expeditions seek to improve geographic understanding at home and abroad: Spotlight on México Indígena

Since 1851 the American Geographical Society (AGS) has been recognized worldwide as a pioneer in geographical research and education. Our mission is to link the business, professional, and scholarly worlds in the creation and application of geographical knowledge, methods, and technology to address economic, social, and environmental issues. To this end, AGS and collaborating universities send teams of geographers to foreign countries to build a comprehensive multi-scale geographic information system (GIS) for each region, collect open-source GIS data, conduct participatory GIS, build lasting relationships among American and foreign scholars and institutions, conduct geographic research on issues of national interest to the United States and host countries, train a new cadre of regional experts, disseminate GIS data freely to the public here and abroad, and publish results in scholarly journals and popular media.

Our purpose is to improve U. S. understanding of foreign lands and peoples and, thereby, to reduce international misunderstandings, provide a knowledge foundation for peaceful resolution of conflicts, and improve humanitarian assistance in case of natural disasters, technological accidents, terrorist acts, and wars. Each project is called a Bowman Expedition in honor of former AGS Director Isaiah Bowman, one of the greatest scholar-statesmen of the 20th Century, who served as geographer and close advisor to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, served as chief advisor to the American Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and played a key role in establishing the United Nations.

“México Indígena” was the first Bowman Expedition and is the prototype for all subsequent expeditions. From 2005 through 2008, we worked in two indigenous regions of Mexico, studying the effects of changes brought on by Mexico’s massive new land tenure program. We put geographic tools in the hands of the communities to help them use the power of GIS and maps to support their property claims and cultural rights, educate their youth, and plan conservation and community development strategies. México Indígena is an academic, transparent investigation led by Associate Professor Peter H. Herlihy of the University of Kansas (KU) and conducted entirely by university faculty and students with the knowledge, consent, and enthusiastic participation of indigenous authorities and local investigators chosen by their communities to work directly with the research team. A key role of the AGS is to ensure that the researchers maintain their academic freedom and independence.

AGS President and KU Professor Jerome E. Dobson conceived the Bowman Expedition program in the belief that “geographic knowledge is essential to maintain peace, resolve conflicts, and provide humanitarian assistance around the world” – a topic we discuss in the Geographical Review (Volume 93, Issue 3, July 2008). The goal is worldwide coverage (see To date, expeditions have been sent to Mexico, the Antilles Region, Colombia, Jordan, and Kazakhstan.

The AGS Bowman Expedition program operates according to a strict set of ethical guidelines for foreign field research posted on the México Indígena website ( The program has never requested nor has it received any funding from the controversial Human Terrain System (HTS) program, whose design differs in crucial ways from our posted guidelines. The México Indígena research project was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Kansas.

Research topics are chosen by each expedition leader, and results are shared with all of the participants and the general public. The México Indígena expedition represents collaboration between the AGS, KU, Carleton University (Canada), and the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí (Mexico). The project has had two objectives: (1) as the first expedition, to develop a prototype for the Bowman Expeditions for the AGS, and (2) to develop a geographic, multiscale analysis of the new property regime in Mexico, in particular the Programa de Certificación de Derechos Ejidales y Titulación de Solares (Program for the Certification of Ejido Rights and Titling of House Plots, PROCEDE) and its influence in indigenous communities. For the analysis we combined public information at various levels or geographic scales to understand the impacts of land certification in the rural sector. The results show that while privatization can bring benefits to some sectors of Mexican society, they also threaten indigenous lifeways through the introduction of individualistic and capitalistic practices. Land certification changes the historic guarantees of the inalienability of ejido and communal property and puts at risk the patrimony of rural families. It is hoped that the results will have a positive impact on understanding and disseminating the problems of the new neoliberal reforms on indigenous peoples in the country.

We use participatory research mapping (PRM), a methodology that we initially developed in Central America to provide technical training (and global positioning system, or GPS receivers) to local people who participate directly in the research. Together, we produce standardized maps for the indigenous communities that they use to promote their culture and traditions, protect their territorial rights, and plan their own projects. These maps combine, for the first time, the government cartography of the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática, INEGI) and cadastral information of the National Agrarian Registry (Registro Agrario Nacional, RAN) with local community knowledge.

Financing for the AGS Bowman Expeditions can come from any source, public or private. When Dobson first sought funding for the program, he found a champion in the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Subsequently, FMSO has financed the expedition to Mexico, as well as others to Colombia, the Antilles and Jordan, through the Radiance Corporation that administers the contracts between FMSO, AGS, and the universities. Support for the first stage of this project also came as a research grant from the sectorial fund of the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) and the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, SEMARNAT) through the UASLP Coordinación de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, as well as from the U.S./México Fulbright García Robles program, for financing the participation of professors and students in the participatory mapping during 2005-06. Additional support came from the universities. All sources have been publicized on our web page from the beginning and announced repeatedly in presentations and publications.

The PRM methodology implemented in this project was approved by local assemblies and authorities in each of the eleven communities in which research was undertaken. Participation in the research was, of course, voluntary and not imposed. Local populations were involved and informed from the initial research design to the final development and publication of findings. The maps and other information generated have been submitted to the communities in digital and paper formats. For the first time, the maps document community boundaries together with topographic data and geographic and cultural information provided by the communities themselves. These maps combine the information needed for improved management of their lands and natural resources and are valuable for future generations as they document the knowledge of elders of places and sites of historical and cultural importance.
In keeping with the policies of the Bowman Expeditions, the final results are available to the public through the México Indígena web site (, and in publications and student theses. The original database is safeguarded and housed at the two universities (KU and UASLP). While the final results are publicly available, no personal information is released to anyone outside of the research team. The idea of sharing the final results with the general public was discussed and approved by the communities, and their published maps now are available on the project web site – now even used by community members themselves and soon available in Spanish.

We hope the maps and data will continue to be used as a tool by the local communities in their efforts to maintain control, protect, and manage their ancestral lands. The Zapotec community of San Miguel Tiltepec in the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca, for example, is using their new standard map in dialogue with government officials to correct an error in the delimitation of their boundary, and to locate their environmental services area. This community held an assembly of comuneros (the maximum authority of the community) on December 13, 2008 for the presentation and approval of the final maps. They listened to an opposing argument by an activist from outside the municipality, and then formally approved the maps and their inclusion on the project’s web site (; and they implored us to continue helping the community with future projects. We seek no higher endorsement of our work or the AGS Bowman program.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbara Piper permalink
    12 February, 2009 9:04 pm

    Peter Herlihy is a geographer, not an anthropologist. A wide variety of research, from archaeology to zoology, is supported by military sources — for many years the Office of Naval Research was a major supporter of computer development research, some of which (e.g. Project MAC) led to the PC I am using to send this message, and even the Internet in its early version was a DARPA project. I’m surprised at LLWYNN for taking politicized hyperbole seriously. It’s precisely websites such as Culture Matters that suggest to the Zapotec community that ANY hightech project originating in the U.S. could be connected somehow, someway to HTS. Wait until they find out that we are really mapping the terrain in order to steal their organs….

  2. 12 February, 2009 9:22 pm

    Is the accusation simply that there is military backing to the project, or do the accusers explain why they oppose this?

  3. 13 February, 2009 9:10 am

    Barbara, thanks for pointing out that he’s a geographer, not an anthropologist. But I fail to see how my posting takes “politicized hyperbole seriously” by summarizing the accusations and posting publications from both sides, or how I’m contributing to the misconception that HTS is behind every Army-funded project just because I report that the misconception exists.

  4. Barbara Piper permalink
    13 February, 2009 10:24 pm

    National Public Radio here in the States had an interesting discussion of the future of newspapers recently, in which considerable attention was focused on the networks of ‘truthiness’ (I love Jon Stewart’s term) that emerge when pseudo-news and unconfirmed claims are reported widely and globally on websites, and the sheer density of such reporting replaces accuracy, critical reading, and investigation. The very title of LLWYNN’s column — “A new anthropology ethics scandal (?)”, even with the question mark — highlights the problem. No anthropology was involved at all. No investigation of the Zapotec claims is offered (nor is the colloquial English in which they are made even highlighted — somebody’s got a friend…). No critical commentary is made, except the suggestion that “one thing is clear from this project”: the worst nightmares of the AAA are coming true. Maybe, but probably not here. I believe that LLWYNN is an anthropologist — isn’t it clear that this blog column is not merely a report of an issue, but is part of the construction of that issue as an Issue?

  5. Conor from KU permalink
    14 February, 2009 9:40 am

    Whether or not the project was undertaken by “anthropologists” or was called anthropology, it was very similar to research that most anthropologists do. If you would have taken the time to read any more about the project before criticizing the person trying to bring attention to it, you would have found that it is explicitly written on the website that the “human terrain” of the study areas is a major focus of the project. Further, the FMSO who is funding the project is interested solely in counter-insurgency intelligence gathering, making this hardly comparable to military initiatives geared towards biology or computer science.
    Also, your insinuation that a Zapotec would not be able to write in colloquial English is quite ignorant. Would it surprise you to know that there are a good number of Zapotec here in the U.S.?
    And to answer Wu’s above question, in addition to the military backing of the project, I believe it was Herlihy’s misleading of participants that the group is most upset about, though they seem to offer other critiques of the project as a whole.

  6. Barbara Piper permalink
    14 February, 2009 11:21 pm

    Thanks for your note, KU – I’m certainly not here to defend anyone, but simply to suggest that there is a great temptation to leap to unwarranted conclusions in the current atmosphere, and LLWYNN’s original note still appears to me to fall prey to that temptation.

    Your characterization of FMSO is somewhat limited. Jacob Kipp, the director of FMSO, summarized their mission as

    “The Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) researches, writes and publishes from unclassified sources about military and security issues affecting the US military to support policy formulation, decision making and military education.”

    And their publications/reports list is an extensive collection of materials that go way beyond simple counter-insurgency studies.

    Moreover, the motives for funding a study may be quite different from the intentions of the academic researchers – thus I still believe that there is a good analogy with military funded basic research on computers or the human genome, and this current case. After all, the ONR expectation in supporting Project MAC at MIT was better cryptography, but for the rest of us it was about multiple users on a single computer. Geographers may be interested in helping a community demarcate its legal territory using GIS technology, while the FMSO may be interested in tools for combating drug smuggling. I agree that a community has the right to reject the researcher if it wants, but it also gives up access to the possible benefits of new legal protections against claims against its land rights. That’s their choice.

    I also believe that the field of geography can police its own members, and doesn’t need anthropology to do that job. The claim that geographers in Zapotec are doing something like anthropology is not the point. Anthropologists everywhere are also doing things just like human geographers do, but we’d resent the suggestion that their U.S. professional association should govern our work.

    Finally, I am certainly grateful to have my ignorance pointed out, but in this case don’t need to be reminded that there are Zapotecs in the U.S. A news release directed to the Mexican government but written in colloquial English is not intended to have any direct impact on the ground, but is more likely part of a campaign of libel against a researcher in his own country. (I assume the Spanish version was delivered with less fanfare, and will be the real action document.) LLWYNN’s original note is part of the network of suspicion, innuendo, and rumor that is being created against Herlihy, “the one thing that seems clear…”

  7. P Herlihy permalink
    15 February, 2009 8:45 am

    The hole project seems to have been misunderstood from the get go, ever since Jer got the loot from the Army guys at the Fort. We make maps, not moral decisions. Heck, we will map anything you want. So why so much concern? I just don’t get the point. So consent was forgotten and was information about our pals at the Fort and Radiance Tech and the folks at SmartPort. But heck, can’t we all be friends about this misunderstanding. I am sure you are all happy to hAVe road maps when you drive to Lake Fullerton or such, so why complain when weare just trying to help out poor people with maps. Heck, maps are useful. You never know when you will need one. We need them more then ever to rebuild the oil fields in Iraq and to make sure North Corea stays safe for us tourists. Let’s not also forget that maps can be fun. I used to make colorful maps as a kid. But I just make them for the US ARMY know you now what I mean? OK

  8. L.L. Wynn permalink
    15 February, 2009 3:57 pm

    Barbara: you say, “I also believe that the field of geography can police its own members, and doesn’t need anthropology to do that job.” I’m trying to figure out where you got the idea that anthropology aims to police geographers. The accusation that Herlihy violated ethics codes (and, by the way, I have no idea if that is true or not) has nothing to do with anthropological ethics codes. Most academic researchers who do human subjects research are overseen by local ethics regulatory bodies and as far as I know, all such institutional review boards in the United States as well as human research ethics committees in Australia require full disclosure of their research funding to research participants as a condition of informed consent. So the accusation — which as I say may be completely unsubstantiated — that Herlihy didn’t disclose the project’s Army funding isn’t a question of anthropological ethics codes, it’s a principle of ethical research that goes back to the Nuremberg Code.

    And I’m not sure why you keep insisting that, by posting the full text of both accusation and rebuttal, I am somehow perpetuating “the network of suspicion, innuendo, and rumor that is being created against Herlihy,” but perhaps I need to clarify my last point (“One thing is clear…”). That point wasn’t about Herlihy or this project at all. It was about the Human Terrain System — and, by the way, I agree with AGS’s assertion that this project has nothing to do with the Human Terrain System. When the American Anthropological Association issued its preliminary statement expressing disapproval of the Human Terrain System, it gave 4 reasons why the HTS didn’t appear to conform to ethical research principles (1. difficulty in distinguishing themselves from the military in war zones and hence fully “disclose who they are and what they are doing,” 2. the conflict of interest between their obligations to the military that employs them and the informants they study or consult; 3. problems in obtaining “informed consent” without coercion in a war situation; and 4. the risk that information gathered by HTS anthropologists might be used by the military to target populations). But then in addition to those 4 points, what was extraordinary about the AAA decision to condemn the HTS was a fifth point that was less straightforwardly about research ethics and all about reputation. This 5th point was, and I quote from the AAA statement linked to in my post:

    “In addition to these four points about the activities of anthropologists working in the HTS project itself, the Executive Board has this additional concern:

    “5. Because HTS identifies anthropology and anthropologists with U.S. military operations, this identification—given the existing range of globally dispersed understandings of U.S. militarism—may create serious difficulties for, including grave risks to the personal safety of, many non-HTS anthropologists and the people they study.”

    So the point I was making is that while some dismissed this fifth AAA concern as being less about ethics and more about protecting the interests of anthropologists, the fact remains that the prediction seems to be coming true, because in this case, the research project has some Army funding but absolutely nothing else to do with the Human Terrain System (it’s like saying that my husband, who is a Canadian engineer who has in the past received funding through Princeton University from DARPA for his research, is working for the Human Terrain System!), but nevertheless people are asserting that there’s an HTS link, which suggests that the notoriety of HTS is spreading and “contaminating,” if you will, researchers who have nothing to do with HTS.

    As for the comment from “P.Herlihy,” very funny, or not, but nobody believes that you’re actually Peter Herlihy commenting. I don’t know Professor Herlihy, but I suspect that at the very least, he knows how to spell.

  9. Prudence permalink
    17 February, 2009 6:24 pm

    I find something about this exchange weirdly disturbing. Barbara is correct to observe that in this particular incident the agency forging a linkage between anthropology and the military is Culture Matters, as the site of a publicized “anthropology ethics scandal” that simply did not exist as a putative linkage in this case prior to LLWynn’s drawing that link. At the same time, LLWynn is correct to point out that the situation she points to is a textbook case of the kind of phenomena that the AAA aims to police through its ethics panel, i.e. a consequential harm to scholarly reputation affecting the viability of field operations. The juxtaposition of these two positions seems to raise a rather surreal possibility, i.e. that the AAA ethics panel call for censure of entities that “create serious difficulties for, including grave risks to the personal safety of, many non-HTS anthropologists and the people they study” through the act of “identif[ying] anthropology and anthropologists with U.S. military operations” actually applies most powerfully in situations where people are publicly speculating about real or possible links between anthropology and the military (it seems quite significant that veracity/”truthiness” is somehow not mentioned in the reputation-harm clause of the ethics statement). In other words, the AAA seems to have taken a position that undercuts participation in debate about the relation of anthropology and the military, which by definition presupposes that this relationship exists, and is thereby “unethical” to the degree that it sustains its presuppositions.

    Its a good thing this is completely absurd, cause otherwise it might be disturbing.

  10. el pueblo permalink
    13 March, 2009 1:22 pm

    This is why. And more.

  11. mokturtl permalink
    22 March, 2009 5:57 am

    This is a translateion of the March 17 Press conference by the Oaxacan indigenous community of Tiltepec, which exposes the statements by Herlihy and Dobson that claim the community’s consent as lies.
    There also is a video with excerpts from the press conference and an interview with the Tiltepec comisariado on YouTube:

    Position of San Miguel Tiltepec on México Indígena
    To the general public
    To the news media

    We, the citizens of the community of San Miguel Tiltepec, through our Municipal Authority and Commissioner of Communal Goods, would like to let you know our position regarding an investigative project called México Indígena, begun in 2006 and finished in July of 2008, which produced a map containing information regarding place names as well as other cultural and geographical information furnished by people in our community.

    The investigative researchers and students (Derek Smith, John Kelly, Aída Ramos and others), headed by Peter Herlihy, who appeared before the General Assembly in our community, only told us that the aim of the research was to find out about the impacts of the PROCEDE program on indigenous communities. They never told us that the data they collected in our community would be turned over to the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) of the United States Army, and neither did they inform us that that institution was one of the sources of financing for the project. For this reason, we believe that our General Assembly was deceived by the researchers, who intended to gather information for their own interests.

    The community did not request the investigation; instead, the researchers convinced the community to approve it. Accordingly, the research did not arise from a felt need in the community. On the other hand, the investigators from the México Indígena project were the ones who designed the research method for gathering the kind of information that really interested them.

    Information has been circulated in different news media and on the internet, alleging that our community agrees with the results of the investigation, when we were not even aware of what was going on. These statements were made by researchers from the México Indígena project (Peter Herlihy) and the president of the American Geographic Society, Jerome Dobson.

    For the reasons stated above, we want to made our disagreement perfectly clear with regards to the investigation carried on in our community since we were never duly informed of the true aims of the project, the uses of the information furnished, or the sources of financing.

    We demand that those responsible for the project México Indígena, the American Geographic Society, the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) of the United States Army, the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, and the University of Kansas, as well as all other agencies whose participation has not come to our attention, comply with the following:

    * Cease and desist from making any use whatsoever of the information collected in our community;
    * Give us back the information that you took from our community;
    * Immediately destroy all information about our community that you have in your possession and furnish us with the proof of destruction;
    * Immediately eliminate all the information on the Internet that you published about the investigation carried on in our community; and
    * Publicly apologize to us for having violated our rights as indigenous peoples and for having violated the very norms that appear in the Code of Ethics of the American Geographic Society that you profess to respect.

    Lastly, we issue an alert to all the indigenous communities and peoples of Mexico and the world to not be caught unawares by the investigative researchers of the Bowman Expeditions, or by any other investigators who are only pursuing their own interests or those of the groups they represent; on the other hand, the communities and peoples ourselves should decide on anything that might be researched among us and who should do it.

    San Miguel Tiltepec, Ixtlán de Juárez, Oax., March 17, 2009


    Rogelio Hernández
    Agente de policía municipal
    San Miguel Tiltepec

    Bernardino Montaño Mendoza
    Presidente del Comisariado de Bienes Comunales
    San Miguel Tiltepec

  12. 28 March, 2009 2:47 pm

    The Demarest Factor:
    The Bowman Expeditions received their grant from the FMSO at Fort Leavenworth. The official assigned to the Bowman expeditions is Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey B. Demarest. Demarest is the IberoAmerica researcher at the FMSO. During a 23-year military career, Dr. Demarest served in multiple assignments in Latin America and is also a graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, the Defense Attaché Course, Foreign Area Officer’s Course, Defense Strategy Course, Defense Language Institute, and others. He has written numerous articles dealing with internal conflict including “The Overlap of Military and Police Responsibilities in Latin America.” Dr. Demarest’s first book, Geoproperty, considers property ownership as an issue of national security and strategy. His areas of academic interest include emerging threats and responses, new strategic alignments, military history, and international law. Dr. Demarest holds a Ph.D. in International Studies from the Denver University Graduate School of International Studies, a J.D., and has practiced as a civil attorney and lectures on the legality of espionage.

    The Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), is a research and analysis center under the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Deputy Chief of Staff G-2 (Intelligence). FMSO manages and operates the Ft. Leavenworth Joint Reserve Intelligence Center (JRIC) and conducts analytical programs focused on emerging and asymmetric threats, regional military and security developments, and other issues that define evolving operational environments around the world. Asymmetric threats are defined as terrorist organizations and guerrilla insurgent army’s, while emerging threats are being defined as social phenomenon and in particular, social movements.

    Six declassified essays published by Lieutenant Colonel Demarest of the FMSO are the best evidence of sinister intentions for the Bowman Expeditions. Demarest’s essays, “Expeditionary Police Sevice” [1], “Tactical Intelligence and Low Intensity Conflict” [2], “The Strategic Implications of International Law” [3], “Mapping Colombia: The Correlation Between Land Data and Strategy” [4], and “Geopolitics and Urban Armed Conflict in Latin America” [5] and “The Overlap of Military and Police in Latin America” [6] directly contradict any of the primary intentions made public, or ever expressed by the Mexico Indigena team, the Bowman Expeditions, or the American Geographical Society. Demarest also published an entire text book titled: “Geoproperty: Foreign Affairs, National Security and Property Rights”, which is available for anyone to purchase for around $150. It is this text that thoroughly expresses Demarest’s attitude toward the military uses of the Bowman Expedition’s Mexico Indigena project. A seventh essay by the FMSO’s Major José M. Madera, United States Army Reserve titled “Civil Information Management in Support of Counterinsurgency Operations: A Case for the Use of Geospatial Information Systems in Colombia” describes with utmost specificity, the counterinsurgency and intelligence uses of open source GIS information, land data, for what the FMSO calls “Civil Information Management”. It is important to note that the bulk of the information provided by these texts, is in reference to the use of geographic data for on going US Military operations in Colombia. This Military operation is financed by U.S. taxpayers through a funding packet known as Plan Colombia. Recently the U.S. government has voted to fund a similar operation in Mexico, known as the Merida Initiative. Communities and organizers in Mexico have dubbed the Merida Initiative, “Plan Mexico”. Both of these funding packets use the excuse of narco-terrorism, to further militarize communities. Plan Colombia has shown little to no results in the last ten years.

    These FMSO essays, and Demarest’s text book on the matter, expose a very particular and sinister military ethic, attitude and strategy with regards to the control of large populations of poor people, indigenous people, and the disenfranchised in general. These specific attitudes include the systematic devaluation of any forms of indigenous self governance and self determination. Cultural identity as a whole is regarded as an impediment to prosperity. In particular, traditional forms of communal land usage and rights, or in Demarest’s words “informal land use”, is specifically cited as the primary impediment to progress, and security. In particular the Demarest essays cite that informal property ownership in either rural or urban settings is the breeding ground for criminal or insurrectionary activity.

    The solutions provided by Demarest to the security dilemma of “Informal Land Use” and poverty in urban or rural settings, is the systematic devaluation, segregation, and criminalization of these communities. Such communities include everything from “shanty towns” on the edges of an urban metropolis, to communally held indigenous farmland, or even urban ghettos with rows of rental property. In this worldview of the dispossessed, Demarest assesses poor communities as deserving of a systematic segregation because of their propensity towards criminal activity and self organizing. He specifically cites concerns about the criminality of large areas of the dispossessed, as they become separately governed autonomous zones. Demarest even admits that though this perception, attitude or strategy may not be as openly acceptable any longer in the US, it makes absolute sense to employ it heavily upon the people of Latin America. However, it is painfully obvious that the attitudes and strategies expressed by Demarest relate directly to systems of urban displacement, or gentrification with in the United States as well.

    Demarest asserts that the privatization of property is the key to stability, prosperity, progress, and security in Latin America, and that formal land titling leads to effective government control of the land and its inhabitants. In Demarest’s approach to property and security, existing private property of real value, must be made secure from nearby and potentially unsettled poor communities, through a phenomenon he describes as the “architecture of control”. He concludes that unregulated and informally used land must be privatized, and titled for security and prosperity to take place. Through Demarest’s strategic analysis of private property, the communally held lands of indigenous farmworkers in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the rented property of the working poor in Los Angeles are impediments to progress, development, and security. Demarest cites the 1992 LA riots, as a success story of “the architecture of control”, wherein the financial district was effectively able to seal itself off from the rioting masses, and suffer minimal high value property damage.

    From the protection of existing valuable real estate to the systematic displacement of poor communities in order to gain formal ownership and titling of their “informally” owned territory, Demarest places the Bowman Expeditions, the Mexico Indigena Project, the KU Geography professors, and the American Geographical Society in a very uncomfortable ethical pickle. Further more Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey B. Demarest, and the FMSO, put the entirety of U.S. Academia in an ethical quagmire requiring immediate resolution.

    A question about ethics for everyone, not just soldiers and academics:

    Today, under a new and historical presidential era, US citizens are in a very unique position to reflect upon the immediate past and identify a series of great American mistakes. However easy it may be to point at the arrogance and volatility of the Bush administration, it is always challenging to ascertain the culpability of average every day citizens, ranging from apathy, to arrogance, and every thing in between. Some Americans protested lightly, and symbolically resisted the global atrocities and national defamation caused by the Bush presidency. Many more US Citizens hid behind the embarrassment of a federal government willing to engage in clearly unethical and unintelligent political, economic, and military strategies that have ultimately proven to be absolute failures for the American people. These failures have disproportionately affected the poor, while profiting and benefiting tycoons and their corrupt institutions. The entire world, with varying levels of access to education and information, recognizes that it is not OK to disregard national sovereignty, it is not OK to impose a single worldview or political economy, it is not OK to engage in preemptive military activity, and it is not OK to gather intelligence in violation of basic human and community rights. No matter how glaring George Bush’s excesses and crimes may be, the American people, more so than just their new president, still hold a serious responsibility to themselves and the world to be accountable for what has happened, for what is to happen next, and for how they are never going to allow these things to happen again. Americans owe it to themselves to save their own face.

    The ethics of military funding for academic research may seem blatantly obvious to anyone with any sense of territory, sovereignty, autonomy, communality or self determination. Unfortunately after generations of constant war and fear mongering, it is clear that it has become more difficult for the American people to grasp this simple contradiction.


  1. Geopiratería y proyecto México Indígena « Zapateando
  2. Geopiraterie: Die Plünderung der Wissensallmende « CommonsBlog
  3. Geopiratería y proyecto México Indígena « Radio Informaremos

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