Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Internet Source: American Anthropological Association, Media Advisory for Immediate Release, September 14, 2005
Source URL (Archive.org): http://www.aaanet.org/press/ma_eldorado_rescinds.htm

American Anthropological Association Executive Board Rescinds Acceptance of El Dorado Task Force Report

The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) has rescinded its earlier acceptance of the Report of the El Dorado Task Force of May 2002. It takes this action in recognition of a vote by AAA members to rescind. The vote reflects the members’ belief that the El Dorado investigation and the resulting report violated the association’s ban on adjudicating claims of unethical behavior and that the El Dorado investigation did not follow basic principles of fairness and due process for the accused.

The El Dorado Task Force was created in response to the 2000 book Darkness in El Dorado by journalist Patrick Tierney. Tierney’s book contained allegations of ethical misconduct by anthropologists who had worked with the Yanomami in the Amazon Basin, including anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and the late geneticist James Neel. Although the AAA Executive Board accepted the report of the El Dorado Task Force in 2002, the members of the AAA voted to rescind the Report by a more than two-to-one margin, with 846 members voting “yes” (to rescind acceptance of the report) and 338 members voting “no” (not to rescind). The results of the referendum were certified during the week of June 13.

The resolution passed by the membership and now recognized by the Board pointedly acknowledges that El Dorado Task Force report was flawed and that it “compromised the core values of the Association.” In essence, passage of the motion by the Board underscores the AAA’s desire to take responsibility for what some members believe to have been a poorly-conceived inquiry, and move the Association past what has been a controversial and divisive episode in the organization’s history.

Although the Executive Board’s action will not, in all likelihood, end debate on ethical standards for anthropologists, it does seek to repair damage done to the integrity of the discipline in the El Dorado case.