George N. Appell, Ph.D.

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George N. Appell, Ph.D. (Vice-Chair, 2016-2018) holds an A.B., M.B.A, and M.A. from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Australian National University. Along with his wife, Laura, he has done fieldwork among the Dogrib First Nation of the Northwest Territories of Canada, the Bulusu’ of Kalimantan Timur, Indonesia, and the Rungus of Sabah, Malaysia. The work with the Rungus continues. George and Laura and co-founded the Sabah Oral Literature Project in 1986. George also is co-founder and president of the Borneo Research Council, a membership organization that includes scholars in the social, medical, and biological sciences. For as long as he can remember, he has been concerned with the plight of indigenous peoples. Because indigenous societies are almost universally denigrated and ridiculed, and because change is introduced among them without full understanding of the social consequences, his and Laura’s approach has been instead to honor indigenous cultures and provide their societies with insight on their sociocultural organization, so that they can make informed choices for their own futures (see for example the Anthropologists’ Fund for Urgent Anthropological Research which they established; In addition to field research and ethnographic reporting, George’s research and writing have focused on the plight of indigenous peoples, including their loss of access to their natural and cultural resources. He has written several articles on indigenous land tenure, and is completing his book Understanding Resource Tenure and Property Relations: Theory and Method. He has researched and written on the ecological significance of sacred groves and sacred places and how their destruction has environmental consequences. He has also written on how the unthinking application of the basic human rights documents can do more harm than good to indigenous societies. In 1999, George and Laura established the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research. One of its goals is to record the vanishing arts and sciences of indigenous peoples. For this purpose, the foundation provides Fellowships for the Collection of Oral Literature and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. There are now over 60 such projects in the field. For this work the foundation prepared a draft of The Collection of Oral Literature and Traditional Ecological Knowledge: A Field Guide, which was tested in the field and is in the process of being revised.

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