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Spring 2015

A publication of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center, College of Pharmacy


Environmental Health Stories

A windmill provides water to community members in Chinle, Ariz., a small town located on the Navajo Nation. // Photo by Amanda Bahe




Serrine S. Lau, PhD Marti Lindsey, PhD

Amanda Bahe Gilbert Lujan Rivera Jr.

Darrien Benally Leo Bia Zachery Garcia Nadira Mitchell Dayanara Sixkiller UA Tohono O’odham Student Association



Gilbert Lujan Rivera Jr.

Patrick Tso



Amanda Bahe

EDITORS Amanda Bahe Kristen O’Flarity

Ginny Geib Darla Keneston Brittany Brooke Moreno

LITERATURE CONTEST WINNERS CONTRIBUTORS Amanda Bahe Maya Begay Ace Charette Jordan Jimmie Gilbert Lujan Rivera Jr.

Shandiin Gorman M. Jacqui Lambert Sheila Rocha Samuel Slater


INDIGENOUS STEWARDS ADVISORY BOARD Agnes Attakai Ace Charette Martina Dawley, PhD Karen Francis-Begay Denise Moreno Ramírez Ashley Tsosie-Mahieu

Volume I Issue I Spring 2015


Marti Lindsey and Cherokee storyteller, Writingbear, lead an environmental health workshop for high school students. // Courtesy photo



LET’S TALK ABOUT WATER Selso Villegas, Tohono O’odham environmental professional, is creating positive change in his community



UA PROGRAM ENGINEERS RESEARCH PROJECTS FOR NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENTS Participants study areas of environmental science including weather and climate, water quality, and aquaponics




and Jordan Jimmie discuss how they hope to use their education in environmental science and research to benefit their communities





SEE THE WINNING SUBMISSIONS! Our first annual student literature and photography contests focused on environmental issues faced by Indigenous communities LYRICAL UPRISING Frank Waln uses his music to bring awareness to environmental issues like the Keystone XL pipeline


“Pay attention to what’s going on at home. Stay connected to your community.” -Frank Waln // Photo courtesy: Frank Waln



UA STUDENT PROGRAMS Information regarding eligibility requirements and deadlines for various UAaffiliated organizations



THE BRIGHTEST STAR Kelly Redshirt hopes to use her solar oven prototypes to help Navajo families without electricity

Meet Our Team

Letter From the Editor Yá’át’ééh! [Greetings!] Welcome to our inaugural issue of Indigenous Stewards! We are greatly appreciative of your interest in our publication. Whether you are a student, community member, or professional, it is our hope that this magazine helps to bridge conversations concerning environmental health topics within Indigenous communities.

Serrine S. Lau, PhD SWEHSC Director Indigenous Stewards Leadership

Marti Lindsey, PhD SWEHSC Outreach Director Indigenous Stewards Leadership

Gilbert Lujan Rivera, Jr. SWEHSC Tribal Liaison Indigenous Stewards Publisher

The idea for creating an environmentally-focused publication arose from a desire to communicate more effectively and properly with Indigenous communities. We wanted to understand ways that we could be more useful to Indigenous communities – what could we learn regarding the environment, and what might we be able to share in return? Indigenous Stewards is the product of dialogues with Indigenous leaders, professionals, and students dedicated to answering these questions. We hope you are inspired by stories like that of Sicangu Lakota rap artist, scholar, and activist Frank Waln, whose music raises awareness about environmental ills faced by people within his community. “If you see a problem or something that needs to be done, go do it. Don’t wait around,” he says, summoning Indigenous youth to work alongside their elders as advocates for environmental justice. The content within our pages is meant to raise awareness, foster discussions, spark ideas, and provoke questions. What are some of the environmental issues within your community? How can you be an agent of positive change to help combat such issues, like Selso Villegas has been for his whole lifetime? Ultimately, it is our goal to use our magazine to help cultivate future generations of Indigenous stewards. On behalf of our entire SWEHSC team, Ahéhee’! [Thank You!]

Amanda Bahe SWEHSC Outreach Specialist American Indian Environmental Health Stories Project

Amanda Bahe (Diné) Indigenous Stewards Managing Editor


The Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center Introduction Housed at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arizona (UA), the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC) is focused on improving the lives of people in the Southwest by understanding the mechanisms behind a variety of human disease risks from environmental exposures. Supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), SWEHSC is dedicated to developing approaches for reducing hazardous environmental exposures and increasing environmental awareness. The SWEHSC community outreach and education core (COEC) has four major goals: • to promote environmental health science literacy • to serve as a non-biased source of scientific information to the public • to provide environmental health educational resources • to support connections between SWEHSC investigators and the community.

Historically, Indigenous people have been responsible stewards of the land, treating it with respect for providing their communities with plentiful food, water, and homes. The quality of the air and water sources in communities affect the land and food from which it originates. Water, air, food, and land issues are interconnected. This model depicts the relationship between environmental elements as they pertain to Indigenous communities. AIR

The SWEHSC COEC supports these goals by translating and disseminating our scientists’ research findings to communal entities and stakeholders – many of whom include Indigenous communities located in the Southwest region. People living within tribal communities are disproportionately affected by environmental exposures like uranium, arsenic, and trichloroethylene-contaminated drinking water. Agricultural dust and high particulate matter in the air are also of great concern for Indigenous communities in the Southwest, as are excessive sun and ultraviolet light exposure. SWEHSC is proud to begin a tribal environmental health magazine because we believe it highlights the important people and ideas across Indigenous communities that protect our environment and, by doing so, help protect the people from these environmental exposures.

WATER FOOD LAND This preliminary sketch of the environmental health model for working with Indigenous communities is based on a conceptualization from advisory board member, Agnes Attakai. We have found it most effective in explaining a holistic approach regarding the environment to Native youth.

American Indian Environmental Health Stories (AIEHS) Project Indigenous Stewards is the outcome of the American Indian Environmental Health Stories: An EHS Core Center Multi-site Pilot Project. At the urging of the UA and the University of Washington (UW), the AIEHS Project was constructed to address environmental health disparities within Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest and Southwest regions. This project has been an exciting, collaborative opportunity built on the tribal community engagement strengths of both centers. Conversations regarding environmental health and science between Indigenous communities and both universities have guided and facilitated the creation of Indigenous Stewards. At the UA, Marti Lindsey, PhD, oversaw a series of these conversations and the subsequent development of educational environmental health science materials to be shared with partner communities. Key conversations for the creation of this magazine occurred at an environmental health and science conference and summer school session for high school students attending the Tucson, Ariz.-based Ha:ṣañ Preparatory & Leadership School in 2014, and with students at the Tohono O’odham Community College and the UA. Other important conversations occurred among environmental managers associated with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., and at two conferences: the Native Research Network Conference in Phoenix; and, the United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) Conference in Portland, Ore. In conversations with Indigenous leaders, scholars, and community members, SWEHSC members collaborated to develop a model for discussing environmental health issues with Indigenous communities. This edition highlights people who have been significant contributors to our conversations and have devoted themselves to the dispersal of environmental education and awareness. Furthermore, this issue celebrates modern-day Indigenous environmental scientists who combine traditional knowledge in order to provide for the future of the people and the land.


Our Partners The creation of Indigenous Stewards could not have happened without the unwavering support so generously shown from countless collaborators. We are grateful to the many entities who have worked closely with us to make the publishing of this magazine possible. Two such partners include the University of Washington and Ha:ṣañ Preparatory and Leadership School, both of whom have been integral to the development of this publication.

The University of Washington (UW) The UW Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health (CEEH), an NIEHS-supported center, partnered with the UA SWEHSC on a supplemental NIEHS grant for the AIEHS Project. The goal of the UW CEEH is to support scientists working to understand connections between genetics, human health, and the environment and serves as an environmental health sciences core center. Activity on the AIEHS project at the UW CEEH was a continuation of its Native Traditions, Environment, and Community Health (TEACH) Project that began in 2009. The original Native TEACH Project identified core concepts of Native environmental health science as distinct from the mainstream Western understanding of environmental health sciences.

Tribal Liason Valerie Segrest (front row, center) and tribal leaders from the Spokane, Anishinaabe, Suquamish, Yakama, Muckleshoot, and Puyallup. // Courtesy photo

Based on tribal knowledge, beliefs, and understanding of human interaction with the environment, the project values traditional storytelling as a way to communicate complex ideas. Valerie Segrest, enrolled Muckleshoot tribal member, led the UW CEEH portion of the AIEHS project as a tribal liaison. Segrest spearheaded conversations regarding environmental health between seven Indigenous researchers from the state of Washington. The researchers brainstormed ways that they might bring their communities together to discuss environmental health implications through storytelling. These conversations resulted in the development and piloting of a class on community-based participatory research methods at Northwest Indian College (NWIC) in Bellingham, Wash. Another product of the conversations was a written survey given to more than 100 tribal college students and staff at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). Survey findings gave rise to a traditional story, The Return, which serves as a tool to communicate environmental health information to Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest. The Return was the catalyst for the creation of Indigenous Stewards, the UA SWEHSC’s environmental storytelling medium for Indigenous communities in the Southwest. The UW CEEH team currently runs a blog that focuses on Native environmental health perspectives. The blog, updated monthly, can be found at:


Ha:ṣañ Preparatory and Leadership School Ha:ṣañ Preparatory and Leadership School serves Native American youth in Tucson by providing an academically rigorous curriculum while incorporating bicultural and community-based learning. Located less than a mile away from the UA campus, Ha:ṣañ Prep students benefit from various collaborations with UA entities. A relationship with the UA SWEHSC began in April 2014 as SWEHSC hosted a one-day environmental health conference for students from Ha:ṣañ Prep. The conference, catering to more than 50 students, aimed to educate students on environmental topics relevant to Indigenous communities in the Southwest. Lectures and hands-on activities exploring environmental issues like climate change, water quality and management, and the dangers of naturally-occurring environmental hazards such as arsenic and uranium, GIVING BACK allowed students to think critically Building a pipeline for students at Ha:ṣañ Prep about the state of environmental Ha:ṣañ students, staff, and faculty participate in many outreach events that occur matters within their own on the UA campus, encouraging communities. The SWEHSC-Ha:ṣañ relationship extended into the fall and summer months of 2014 as SWEHSC outreach specialists, Gilbert Lujan Rivera Jr. and Amanda Bahe, led an environmentally-focused art course at Ha:ṣañ Prep. Much like the conference, the goal of the course was to raise awareness of environmental issues among students as they helped conceptualize the content for the Indigenous Stewards magazine.

student persistence in higher education and science-related programs.

In April 2014, a one-day environmental health conference introduced Ha:ṣañ Prep students to the basics of science and health. The conference has since become important in familiarizing students with the university while teaching them about environmental health. The second annual environmental health conference was held in February 2015. Armando Bustillos, 2014 Ha:ṣañ Prep Student, attended

Serving as voices of the youth in SWEHSC’s community conversations, the students in the Ha:ṣañ Prep course helped the SWEHSC team better understand current implications and knowledge about the environment among Indigenous adolescents. Overall, the relationship between Ha:ṣañ Prep and the UA SWEHSC promotes a pipeline for higher educational attainment by familiarizing students with a university setting while providing a better understanding of environmental health and its potential to shape the well-being of communities.

A UA SWEHSC-led summer art course the health conference hosted by the UA // Photo by Gilbert Lujan Rivera Jr. was offered to students at Ha:ṣañ Prep in 2014 and expanded on topics related to health and the environment. Students used art to express their knowledge about environmental topics while earning high school credit. SWEHSC interviewed students in the art course and produced a video highlighting the level of environmental health understanding among Native youth. The UA Office of Early Academic Outreach (EAO), whose goal is to increase the number of ethnic minority, low-income, and first generation students attending college, is in current collaboration with Ha:ṣañ students on various projects, including: • MathMovesU • Mathematics, Engineering, Science Advancement (MESA) • Building the Fire • Native American Science and Engineering Program (NASEP) The MathMovesU project provides students with exposure to engineering professionals as they construct a telescope that they are able to take home. Most recently, the UA EAO partnered with the school to install an aquaponic system on their campus. A Ha:ṣañ student involved with NASEP controls maintenance and growth of the system while collaborating with peers to care for the fish and harvest the plants. 7


Let’s Talk About Water in the Desert! Interviewed by Gilbert Lujan Rivera Jr.

Selso Villegas dreams of the day the Tohono O’odham people will have access to 500 years-worth of water. As the director of the Tohono O’odham Nation Water Resources Department, Villegas, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, is dedicated to helping secure this clean source of water for O’odham communities. One of his most important duties involves the implementation of the Nation’s water code. This code follows steps outlined in the Southern Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act in order for the Tohono O’odham Nation to receive water from the Central Arizona Project (CAP). W is for water! Selso Villegas, Director of the Tohono O’odham Nation Water Resources Department // Photo courtesy: Selso Villegas

Villegas is also responsible for writing laws, policies, and management plans that will protect the water supply of the Nation well into the future.

“[My department’s] long-term goal is to group nearby water systems together,” Villegas says. In order to group the systems, they must find a way to ensure that the common source of water is free of arsenic. Because it is a naturally-occurring element, arsenic is found in geological features all around us. Arsenic cannot be destroyed and is categorized as a human carcinogen. Due to modern technological and industrial advances, arsenic levels in the environment are rising, posing potentially more health risks to humans.

Carcinogen: something that can cause cancer in living tissues, usually humans

THE O’ODHAM The sprawling land base in the Southwest known as the Tohono O’odham Nation is split by the U.S.-Mexico border. A majority of the Nation is located in southern Arizona where O’odham homelands are artificially divided into five communities: • The Tohono O’odham Nation • The Gila River Indian Community • The Ak-Chin Indian Community • The Salt River (Pima Maricopa) Indian Community • The Hia-C’ed O’odham There are approximately nine O’odham communities located in Mexico. Citizens of these communities speak the O’odham language and each community has their own distinct dialect.


A map showing the O’odham communities in the U.S. and Mexico. // Sources: “Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 10: Southwest”; O’odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective; Resource Center at the National Museum of the American Indian, New York.


ṣu:dagῐ This is the word for WATER in the Tohono O’odham language.

Human exposure to arsenic is so hazardous that in 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a standard on the amount allowed in drinking water. This standard, set at 10 parts per billion (ppb), put 19 of the 35 public water systems on the Tohono O’odham Nation out of compliance, according to Villegas. PPB: a representation of

The arsenic levels found in these systems ranged from 11 to 33 ppb and potential risks associated with the increased levels concerned Villegas. Villegas’s first step in combatting the elevated levels in the water was collaborating with the EPA, Indian Health Service, and the Tohono O’odham Utility Authority to install seven arsenic treatment plants in the Nation’s water systems. The treatment plants help to keep arsenic levels in the water below the EPA standard. “Currently, all the public water systems on the Tohono O’odham Nation are in compliance,” Villegas says proudly. The Tohono O’odham Nation Water Resources Department’s longterm goal of connecting neighboring water systems will cost an estimated $11 million. The need for arsenic treatment plants will be eliminated as levels in the water system will remain less than 10 ppb, making the water system plan more cost-effective in the long run. Always at the forefront of Villegas’ work is the health of his people, which he says will be negatively impacted as cancer risks will increase if arsenic is not controlled in the Nation’s water supply. To him, this risk comes at a higher cost to the Tohono O’odham Nation than the $11 million.

units in water or soil -the amount of mass within wach 1000 million units (ONE ppb is like one drop of ink in a 14,000 gallon pool!)

Why should we care about arsenic in our drinking water? Research studies have linked arsenic in drinking water to: • bladder, lung, skin, kidney, and liver cancers • birth defects and reproductive problems For more information about the health effects of arsenic, visit: http://www. How can we further protect ourselves from arsenic? Filters can be purchased and attached to the faucets in your homes. They remove many harsh chemicals that you could be ingesting.

“Water is very important. Like all Indigenous people, the O’odham celebrate water as a gift from the Creator,” Villegas says, of what makes his work so meaningful. “My greatest contribution to my community will be the infrastructure to deal with water issues in the near and distant future.”

Infrastructure: systems that help to service a community

WHAT IS ARSENIC? Arsenic is a metalloid, meaning that it has non-metal and metal chemical properties. There are two types of arsenic: organic and inorganic. Organic arsenic is usually found in marine organisms and is considered to be less toxic. Organic arsenic is not directly linked to cancer. Inorganic arsenic is found in industrial operations and is considered to be highly toxic. Inorganic arsenic is classified as a carcinogen by the U.S. EPA. Did you know... Mining and burning of fossil fuels are major contributors of arsenic contamination in water, air, and soil. An arsenic treatment system on the Tohono O’odham Nation // Photo courtesy: Selso Villegas

Think for a minute Are there mines near your community? How might that affect your environment and health? 9

Toxic: poisonous to living systems


Program Engineers Community-Focused Research Programs for Native American Students by Ace Charette

NASEP participants learn concepts related to science and engineering as they create environmental-related projects within their communities. // Photo courtesy: Ace Charette

The Native American Science and Engineering Program (NASEP) connects selected high school students with Native American undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students at the University of Arizona (UA) to conduct community-driven environmental research projects.

that they may explore. They conduct research by taking measurements, utilizing databases, evaluating research articles, and applying mathematical concepts that allow them to test their hypotheses and arrive at a conclusion. The final steps in the research process require students to design and present a university-level research poster. Broad topics for the research posters are given to NASEP participants by UA AISES chapter members and staff from the UA Office of Early Academic Outreach.

In collaboration with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), NASEP provides participants with a week-long summer program and yearlong academic support that emphasize environmental issues faced by tribal nations in Arizona.

In previous years, the program emphasized weather and climate, water quality, and light pollution as three topics that students learned about. In 2014, aquaponics replaced the topic of light pollution as students explored the alternative growing method that produces some foods at a much higher yield and with significant water savings. Given the focus of water in all three categories, the 2014 program was titled “Sacred Water and Its Many Forms.”

The AISES Geosciences Outreach Program, a feature of NASEP, guides participants through a research process that facilitates learning and skill development by exposing them to UA faculty and researchers from the Hydrology: Department of Geosciences, the Department of the scientific study of Hydrology and Water, and the Department of water Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering.

Luke Washburn, 2014 NASEP participant, presents his poster at UA College Day. // Photo courtesy: Ace Charette

The 24 NASEP 2014 participants presented their ideas and findings to more than 250 people at UA’s Native American College Day last November. Posters ranged from measuring the lettuce and fish production of a potential aquaponic system at a high school to measuring and comparing water quality using hydrology test kits from several local communities. Other participants measured the nutritional output of potential aquaponic systems compared to traditional growing methods, while some analyzed the implications of decreased rainfall over past decades.

During their experience, NASEP participants return to their home communities to form research questions and hypotheses 10


Though the aim of the project is to encourage a high level of engagement and learning by using the scientific method, the central component of each student’s progress is ensuring that the community aspect is always part of the experimental context. This is reflected in students’ posters as they dedicate sections specifically to discussing the community impacts that their research could have. Many students express an interest to continue the research and learning process upon college or university entrance. Find NASEP eligibility requirements and deadlines on page 26!

Dressed in professional attire, students presented their posters to students, educators, and parents from various tribal communities at the UA college day event. The presentation allows participants to share and discuss their ideas and processes with others, possibly engendering similar notions about environmental research and community focus in the audience. “The Geosciences Project helped bring awareness to myself of the importance of school and taking care of our land,” said 2014 NASEP participant Kiana Kaye, who presented on water quality in tribal and urban areas.

Providing feedback about the experience overall, Esai Flores, a 2014 NASEP participant, remarked, “The most important thing I learned about this project is that I am able to gain knowledge from a high standard and able to share this with others and my community,” further emphasizing the importance of tribal communities in this research project.

NASEP inspires hope for the participating students as many of their communities face environmental adversity. With such promise coming from Native youth to educate themselves and to contribute to their communities, a strong vein of hope exists within today’s tribal nations.

AQUAPONICS 101 by Jordan Jimmie Aqua-what? Aquaponics is a self-sustaining, symbiotic process between fish, plants, and water. An aquaponics garden is made up of a fish tank and multiple grow beds for plants containing highly porous material, like gravel, which allow water to move freely. Photo of aquaponics system creted by 2014 NASEP The circle of life: How does it self-sustain? participant Leo Bia. Bia’s research project was titled, “How Warm, freshwater fish provide waste that is dissolved into nutrients by bacteria in much food can an aquaponics system generate?” // Photo the water. This water then flows into the lower tiers of the system, providing the courtesy: Ace Charette nutrients to plants in each bed. A pump recirculates the nutrient-depleted water back into the fish reservoir once it reaches the bottom of the system. The fish are fed by the water, excrete waste, and the self-sustaining growth system begins again!

Let’s talk fish waste. Solid waste and ammonia are excreted by fish in the system. There are two types of bacteria that convert each type of fish waste into nutrition for plants: heterotrophic bacteria and autotrophic bacteria. We’ll start by discussing heterotrophic bacteria in the system. This type of bacteria converts solid fish waste into nitrates and other types of plant nutrients, and expels ammonia in the process. The autotrophic bacteria produces nitrates for the garden. One type of autotrophic bacteria is able to convert ammonia into nitrites while another type converts the nitrites directly into nitrates. Nitrates are the end product of this cycle and act as a fertilizer for plant life in each bed. A shortage of plants to absorb the nutrients can cause a buildup of nitrates in an aquaponics system. What’s the BIG deal? Identifying sustainable, eco-friendly food supply initiatives is crucial as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency anticipates longer and more extreme droughts in the coming decades. In comparison to soil-based farming, aquaponic gardens use an estimated 90 percent less water. It gives consumers the potential to grow their own food year-round as both an Did you know... aquaculture system (raising fish to sell) and a hydroponics Both the Maya and Aztec people are early examples of aquaponic system (cultivating plants without the use of soil). The gardeners? These Indigenous communities raised fish and plants energy cost is considerably lower in aquaponic gardening as alongside one another, with the Aztec creating a system known as maintenance is low and fuel- and chemical-dependent tools chinampas as early as 1000 AD. Chinampas are islands that were are not heavily utilized. created by raising rafts (where plants would grow) atop bodies of water (rich with nutrients to grow plants) surrounding their homelands.



Seafha Ramos, PhD Candidate Yurok/Karuk/Chicana Hometown: Crescent City, Calif.

Reported by Amanda Bahe / Photographed by Gilbert Lujan Rivera Jr. and Amanda Bahe Ramos is a doctoral candidate in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the UA. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Missouri Southern State University with a major in biology and her Master of Science degree in wildlife conservation and management from the UA. Ramos works part time for the National Park Service (NPS) and is a UA/Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership Scholar. She grew up in northwest California and credits her mom as being her catalyst into the sciences. Ramos recognizes the value of fostering relationships with others – from tribal council members to lab mates – in order to achieve success. In her dissertation, Ramos highlights traditional knowledge as a way to show that cultural values and beliefs are valid ways of thinking about the environment alongside Western science. Ramos hopes to eventually return to her home state to share her findings and experiences with her community as a teacher.

Q: How is your field of study important to your community? I’m working with the Yurok tribe and using both our traditional knowledge and science in wildlife research. I conducted interviews with Yurok people and asked them questions regarding their beliefs and values toward wildlife. The other part is a wildlife survey where another tribal member and I collected wildlife scats from Yurok ancestral lands. Two lab technicians and I are analyzing those in the lab. Scats are fecal matter. The actual data itself – all of the raw data and the analyses – will all be

given to the tribe. They already have are working with people must IRB: a group access to all of the GPS locations of go through the IRB of experts who all the scats. I will also be giving review and approve process. research that them the data and interviews that involves humans So far we’ve been — they make sure doing are able to be donated to the tribe, researchers are the species through the institutional review folowing ethical identification of all the guidelines board (IRB). All researchers who scats – basically, what species the scat came from. And then we’re also exploring the diet kwech of mesocarnivores This is the Yurok word for and are exploring the Mesocarnivores: a medium-sized SCAT, pronounced “KW-ach.” protocols for how to animal that eats between 50 and do the diet analysis – 70 percent meat Scat is a common term used we want to make sure in Seafha’s lab (and by other wildlife biologists) and is we have the protocol correct before simply referring to fecal we do all of them. Karla, who works matter - that’s right, poop! with me in the lab, analyzed the first 12


sample and found it to be a Humboldt marten (who- internships or volunteer work. I think I completed two pey-roks in the Yurok language), which is really, really internships in undergrad and I know those helped me get important environmentally because that species was into graduate school. In terms of preparing for my PhD, recently petitioned for the endangered species list. Just I really have focused a lot on the spiritual component – that one sample shed some light on what’s going on making emotional health a goal. Continued on page 16 with the wildlife community. It’s pretty cool! GIVING FORWARD Q: Is there a cultural aspect to the Perspective from a high school summer intern type of work you do? by Maya Begay One goal that I had from the beginning was to conduct a wildlife Begay, Diné, is a 2014 participant in the UA’s Keep Engaging Youth in Science study that does take our culture (KEYS) summer internship program. She is currently a senior in high school and into account. I didn’t want to just is from Tuba City, Ariz. Begay was mentioned in the lab by Seafha Ramos during pursue a scientific study. So, in that her time as a KEYS intern. way, I think that my study’s really Maya hopes to attend the UA and her experience as a first-time intern has important for our community. encouraged her to pursue a science-related major in college. Maya wrote I’ve made a goal to show and about her KEYS experience in hopes that it might encourage other high school demonstrate that our cultural students to participate in enrichment programs beliefs and values are equally as and is grateful for the opportunity to learn from Find KEYS eligibility valid as science. I asked the tribal Ramos and her lab team. requirements and council before I even applied [to deadlines on page 26! Before my summer as an intern in the KEYS program, graduate school] if they would I had never worked in an actual lab like the ones at the University of Arizona. I allow me to conduct a study with had only worked in my high school lab settings, so working in a lab in a college the community. Thankfully, they setting was such a great experience. said yes. I actually asked a couple other committees too so, with their During my time at the UA, I spent time with and worked alongside my and my family’s blessings and mentor Seafha Ramos. Her research permission, I went ahead. In the is a project that involves Traditional interviews, participants discuss the Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and importance of wildlife to Yurok Western science. TEK is included culture. The wildlife part of my in her research because the scat study is important for Yurok culture samples she is working with were collected noninvasively on the Yurok because we have an important tribal lands. When working with TEK, relationship with animals, for food there are certain cultural protocols and ceremony. that must be followed, whereas Q: What are some things that you Western science refers to anything did to prepare for life as a graduate related to lab work. student? I worked with 37 scat samples, When I was in high school, I collecting the epithelial cells and really tried hard to get good grades then running a polymerase chain KEYS intern, Maya Begay, uses a pipette to do research in because I knew that I wanted to reaction (PCR) which would help me the lab. // Courtesy photo go to college. Fortunately, I ended to find out the species. PCR: up being accepted to an honor’s a technique Out of the 37 samples in my research project, 11 were found to be used in program for undergrad and because laboratories to from Lynx rufus, while three were Ursus americanus, and one was make copies Bos taurus. An additional 22 Canis latrans were found in our results I made such good grades and I did of DNA but they were inconclusive. really well. They covered my tuition for all four years and that was huge, I learned many new things in my lab – things like extracting DNA from epithelial I mean, huge! I probably could’ve cells in the mucous layer of scats, analyzing clean DNA sequences for each scat, still gone to college but I would’ve and identifying the species who deposited each scat. It was more than a great taken out loans. Also, just really experience and I had fun in my lab. I enjoyed working there every day and this is an experience that I will never forget. I’m glad KEYS gave me that opportunity tried to be open to opportunities – to gain much knowledge as I am now continuing with my own research project. 13


Jordan Jimmie, Undergraduate Diné

Hometown: Flagstaff, Ariz.

Interviewed and photographed by Amanda Bahe Jimmie is a senior at the UA studying environmental hydrology and water resources and has a minor in American Indian studies. He is a member of the Leupp chapter on the Navajo Nation and graduated from Sinagua High School in Flagstaff. Jimmie has used his time as an undergraduate student to gain hands-on research experience and is an active member of numerous student organizations. He has had summer internships at the UA and the University of Texas-Austin, where his research focused on identifying stable isotopes in different layers of sediment that correspond with a time deep in the past. Q: How did you become interested in hydrology? I was always interested in environmental sciences and was always fascinated by water. Flagstaff is exposed to all four seasons. There’s snow on the peaks. That snow melts, runs off, it goes into Oak Creek Canyon. I went camping with my friends by a reservoir that feeds into Oak Creek once. I sat on this dead tree across the tributary and watched the snow melt. I saw this little stream turn into a massive river in the span of a couple hours. Right then and there I was like, “I like water. I want to study it, I want to understand it.” The force of Mother Nature really astounded me at that time and I could’ve sat there all day. Q: How is your field of study important to your community? Sediment: material that is moved by environmental processes and settles in a new location

Water is life. It’s so important yet people don’t know. Our culture today is so out of tune with where our stuff comes from. We don’t know where our water comes from. Traditionally, we were always taught to never waste. It’s unique that we have this Native perspective and cultural ties to conservation, to stewardship to the land and our environment – having a balance between us and our impact on Mother Nature. Water issues are going to affect Native nations that happen to land on watersheds, so having people that are knowledgeable, able to advocate and can back it up with the science, is important. We’ve got to be smart, to make sound decisions with an educated background. The younger people that are going off to college now, we’re going to demand answers that have scientific background and evidence. We’re the generation to go 14

back and actually question – we’re not old enough to do that yet – but it’s going to happen. Q: How do you want to use your degree? I want to do whatever I can. I could be a hydrologist or go to law school. I want to help Native nations, not only the Navajo nation, because water is becoming such a big issue. People are going to be looking to Native nations with water rights as a water source. I want to be there in any capacity that I can. Q: Would you like to work for the Navajo Nation? I would love to go back if there are jobs. Q: What are your goals – what do you hope to accomplish? I want to start a hydrology program at tribal college. It would be cool to teach. I always joke about this with


my friends, but it would be cool to have a scholarship named after me. Have a family. I want to be happy. And this is just me, but I want to serve God in any way that I can. He’s the reason why I’m here. He’s the reason why I’m in school, why I’m funded, why I wake up every day. So, I feel like He’s put it in my heart to give back in any way I can and it all goes back to how my education can make a change. Q: What are some things that you are doing to prepare for grad school or a career? I’ve had three summers worth of experience – one summer at UA Cancer Center, one at the University of Texas at Austin, and most recently at the UA Native American Research and Training Center where I worked on a community garden. I was president of AISES last year so gaining that leadership skill, that experience, was invaluable. It definitely put me outside my comfort zone and that’s how I feel graduate school is going to be. You’re not going to be comfortable. You’re going to be pushed every single day. You can’t slack off. You have to want it. I got involved with things that are not academic, like a running club for a few semesters, which helped me learn to balance my life in terms of physical and mental health. Volunteering in any way I can, building relationships with faculty members or professors. My college holds an annual conference, and I’ve submitted an abstract and it’s been accepted every year, so I’ve been able to present there. I feel it’s good that they know that I’m there. You know, this Native kid Abstract: a summary is doing it as well. Having of a research that presence is definitely project good especially in a program that has predominantly white students. Q: Would you encourage students to partake in an internship experience? Yeah! There’s so much incentive – a stipend, GRE prep. You get a lot

of tangibles, but you also get to go somewhere else and do cool things. That’s what a mentor told me. You get to do that cutting edge stuff you would’ve never thought of. I would highly encourage somebody to just apply. I got rejected to eight programs before getting accepted to one. Just take a chance! You never know what you’re going to get out of it and that’s the beautiful thing about it. You’re going to go away the person that you are, but you’re going to come back improved. You’re going to be a better student. You get to go away for a while, be independent, and take ownership of your work. Something that I worked so hard on meant so much more to me. Q: What are some things that you have struggled with? Learning to network. I think that’s something that I’ve really struggled with - being shy and not wanting to draw attention to myself is something that I definitely had to work on. Q: What does a typical day in the life of Jordan Jimmie look like? When I wake up, I think about what I need to do that day. I always make sure to pack my lunch. Plan for the bus. Get ready, get to campus. I always make sure I get coffee. I cannot do anything without coffee! I refuse to. I make sure I go to class, and then after that I prioritize what I need to do that day, like what’s due that day or what’s due that week. I always check my email. Right after class I go straight over to the library for a couple of hours. I make sure to go to the student recreation center. After that, I either kick it with some friends or go home, and I always cook. Q: How are you giving back to future generations of students? I think a lot about my younger brother and creating that pipeline to get students to college. Encouraging them is really impactful. The fact that [others have done it], opens doors 15

to a student. As Natives, we’re at a disadvantage at a university, but [other students] went [before me] and that’s boss! So why not me? Why can’t I do that? Changing that perspective and saying if somebody can do that, then I can. That’s what I hope I’m doing, at least with my little brother and younger people. Q: What advice do you have to give to Native American youth? I would say just do it. I remember that I wanted to put off taking physics but then I said to myself, “Jordan, just do it!” Don’t be scared! You’re just as capable as anyone else. If you’re able to get to the UA, you have every right to be in the classroom just like any other student. It just depends on what you’re going to make of it. I would say find your passion because it adds so much encouragement. It lights a fire in your heart and your mind to say, “You know what, there’s a bigger picture as to why I’m actually here.” Tie it to your interests. If you want to study art because you have a passion for it, it doesn’t have to be STEM. It’s going to be hard, I’m not going to lie, but just take it day to day. That’s what I try to do. Think of the world as your playground. You have this opportunity in the palm of your hand to say I’m going to do the STEM degree. What if you don’t do it? Would you want to live knowing that you never took that chance? And this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Many people that I started college with, they’re not even here. I don’t know what they’re doing. They never went back so it seems as though once you leave, you’re done. And at the same time, it can be taken away in the blink of an eye, so you have to work hard. But it all ties into if you’re passionate about it. If you’re passionate about something, it doesn’t seem like work.


Ramos, pathways

for your Nation? I do want to go back home. As far as jobs, I’m thinking either a Q: How did you become interested federal agency or maybe teaching. in the sciences? I would really like to be closer to My mom was a big influence. When my community – that’s a big goal. I was growing up, she worked Someone told me a while back that for several tribal environmental I should go somewhere I can really programs so she would talk about the make big changes, like Washington issues when she would come home. D.C., and I thought about it and I mean, when your mom’s talking that’s just not for me, at least not at about something, it seems important this time. I don’t want to be all the to you when you’re a kid – and it is way across the country from my important. I watched her throughout community. I remember someone my childhood and into high school else saying that I would have some as she finished her bachelor’s degree. internal conflict about a lot of things Watching her go through the process because I’m going to be asked to Seafha Ramos, PhD candidate at the UA // Photo by of college was a big influence, too. Amanda Bahe do a lot of things and I just have to At the school I got into, biology choose what truly is in my heart or what feels right for was one of the main science options. They didn’t have emphases, such as wildlife or range management. So me and my family. that was the major I chose. I just knew I wanted to go to Q: Who was your greatest influence? For sure, my mom – both when I was younger and now. grad school and that I wanted to do environmental work. During my undergrad, my tribe In high school, I had a couple of teachers who were didn’t have a wildlife program, so that’s when I switched really instrumental as well – one was my science teacher to wildlife for my master’s. As I finished my master’s, I and the other was my math teacher. I really knew that knew I really wanted to include the cultural component they cared about me and my future and they did a lot and work with my community, and I thought, how can of things to help me in my personal life, which is huge. I have professional mentors whom I go to now – I do that? Q: How are you giving back to future generations of one is my supervisor at the NPS. She’s a really good professional mentor so I ask her a lot of questions about students? Recently, we had Maya Begay (see GIVING FORWARD career moves or different things I should be thinking inset on page 13) as a summer intern. I helped her with about. I have family and different people back home I her poster and some of the lab work. We carved out a part ask about cultural things – you know, like going to the of my research – including the traditional knowledge dances or going to community language classes. component – for her to conduct and to present on the Q: What advice do you have to give to Native American poster. I also tutor at the on-campus Native American youth? Student Affairs because I teach two lab sections for Volunteer opportunities and internship positions are Biology 181 and I have to know the material for that there to help. Not only is it getting them experience class, which makes me feel more able to help. I have in the field, but also allows them to be involved in the environment. If they have the opportunity, gathering one or two students whom I see regularly. A couple of years ago, I received a NASA Space Grant, traditional foods and basket materials are also great. I and the whole goal is to do community outreach with would also say to stay focused, positive, and determined. science, so I worked [in Tucson] with students at Q: What are your goals – what do you hope to Ha:ṣañ Preparatory and Leadership School and back accomplish? home at a similar charter school for Native students I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about graduation. I’m on called Klamath River Early College (KRECR). I taught that last stretch right now of data analysis and writing, students about spatial technology. At KRECR, students so when all the data are analyzed and I’ve written up used GPS units to find fake scats made out of clay. Then, and defended my dissertation, I can graduate! I feel they uploaded the locations into an online geographic that once I reach that milestone, I will be better able to contribute to the professional world as well as use my information system and created maps with their data. Q: Would you like to return to your hometown or work education to be a positive influence in any way I can. Continued from page 14




by the UA Tohono O’odham Student Association (TOSA)

TOSA placed 1st in the College Division. This photo was submitted by TOSA club members Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan and Nyona Smith.

Members of TOSA stand by the ASARCO Mission Mine Complex. A portion of the Mission Complex is located on the edge of the San Xavier District on the Tohono O’odham Nation.

1st Annual Literature and Photo Contest Winners In an effort to garner community involvement in the creation of Indigenous Stewards, UA SWEHSC hosted a contest open to high school and college students. Contestants were asked to document environmental issues facing Indigenous communities through writing and photography. Entries were judged by a panel of SWEHSC-affiliated students and staff based on context and originality. In addition to being featured in this issue, contest winners were acknowledged at a magazine preview event in November at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

Traditional Housing

by Zachery Garcia, Tohono O’odham

Zachery placed 1st in the High School Division. He is a freshman at Tohono O’odham High School.

Buildings and structures are an important part of our landscape environment. Preserving the past is important for us to show our future generations of their rich history. // Location: Pisinemo Disctrict



Obituary 12/17

by Sheila A. Rocha, Pure’pecha Nation My dear Tata~ I’m writing you a picture of the world left behind from the side view mirror of a rusty double cab watching the rear, road winding away and the voice inside hollers my improper name I cannot recall the way you spoke it long ago…in Pure’pecha Tatemba I’m singing you a lamentation from the sacred spring where the bero bero grew even in a winter squall we dipped our cups and drank the cool . . . japunda dilated now with frito bags half pints, desperation floating colt 45 against a rotting branch. This stream you spoke to as a child.

Itsï, water spirit

Your muddy juice now ferments in the sun where bero bero once rested on pebbles filled our jars with medicine seven miles women carried nectar to our side of town beside the creek near the river—we drank cooked, prayed and left a bit for Itsï, beneath a cottonwood. My Tata gone I’m singing you a picture from the side view mirror of your yellow Ford watching the past, bumping over deer and death as north winds blow sand against my face to make me strong so I might endure the voice that scolds my erroneous name. Sheila placed 1st in the College Division. She is a PhD candidate in American Indian Studies at the UA.

Untitled by Leo Bia

Leo placed 2nd in the College Division. He is a student at Coconino High School. Leo is a former NASEP participant. This photo was submitted on his behalf by the UA AISES club.

A picture of Bia’s aquaponic system from his research poster titled, “How much food can an aquaponics system generate?”




by Nadira Mitchell, Diné

Nadira placed 2nd in the High School Division. She is a student at Utterback Magnet School for the Arts.

The importance of the smallest animals that help keep our community in balance.

Hozhonahasdlii: We will plant in Beauty again by Samuel Slater, Diné

Alkidaa, a while ago, when I was driving with my masaniye’, my late grandmother, she began sharing with me what everything used to look like around our home. My grandmothers have lived in this community for generations, and it’s hard to go far without seeing a story. As we pulled out onto the highway, she identified the cottonwood grove where her father had kept a cabin, where the hoghan that my mom had her kinaalda’ in once stood, gave vague directions to where relatives had once lived, and eventually pointed with her lips to the expansive field that she used to plant as a girl. Her father would wake her around midnight, after the heat of the evaporating summer sun had finally cooled, and she would attach the donkey to haul water to the field. She watered every corn stalk and squash and melon vine the way her father had taught her, replicating his every detail, following that strict intentionality particular to medicine men, whether in planting a seed or creating a sand painting. As we drove through Many Farms, a Navajo chapter, she recounted what the Chinle Valley used to look like. About forty or so families once planted here, attracted by the water, which collects in the reservoir.

I could still see the plowed rows and the uncommonly fenced and cleared fields, now hauntingly barren. It had always baffled me why the neighboring community to the southwest is called Many Farms—a chapter today only known for its feral horse problem or Bureau of Indian Affairs school, but certainly not any sort of farming. I come from Round Rock, and the story behind that name is confusing enough. In our small chapter we have Big Round Rock, a dominating mesa rounded off with a window and two spires, Little Round Rock, which plays a supporting role, in addition to our own two mitten rocks, which lack the thumbs of the far more famous Monument Valley versions. Even the Navajo name, Tse Nikáni, adds to the perplexity, simply meaning “flat topped rock.” Despite reigning over the Chinle Valley, there is nothing round about any of these striking formations. So I always thought of “Many Farms” as a similar conundrum—perhaps the mistranslation of a bilagáana trader or an old Navajo joke I’d never understand. But what happened to these once rich farmlands? The families still live there. People still need food, especially fresh vegetables. We should still be farming then, right? 19

This way of life began falling apart when people thought of growing corn and farming as only necessary to feeding our physical being. We forgot the spirituality involved in toiling the earth and we forgot whence we came. Alkidaa jinii, a long time ago, they say, we came to this earth from worlds before this one. We grew through three worlds and sprouted into this one, the White World, the Glittering World. The Diyin Dine’e built for us a hoghan with mountains made of earth carried from each of the previous worlds. Within this homeland they taught us how to live in hozho, in balance and beauty. Their songs, prayers, and ceremonies guided us throughout this land and all through our lives. The Holy People gave us additional gifts to help us remember how to remain in hozho, how to be whole. One of these was nadaa, corn. We identified the nadaa as our chei na’atnise, because this plant, like nihichei, our own grandfathers, gave us a spiritual library. These familial ties became so firmly established among the People that our roots were interwoven and our futures joined. Every part of the plant was a Continued on page 20


different lesson: each leaf a different ceremony, each segment a different song, and each tassel a different prayer. The Holy People even placed lessons in the labor of caring for nihichei. In this way our field provided both our physical and spiritual sustenance, and we recognized its dirt as especially holy. All they taught us was beautiful. But when I asked my masaniye why nobody plants anymore, she gave me an answer I had often heard before: there is no more water. My masaniye told me, “Oh how I’d love to see this field full of corn just one more time, but it will be difficult.” When pressed on this challenge, she said we’d need a new fence to keep the horses and cattle out, and more importantly, she said, it doesn’t rain anymore like it used to. The rain used to fall gently every evening, like a woman untying her tsiiyeel before bed, letting her hair flow softly down her back in the nurturing way of a mother. I asked my masaniye again what has changed this. “We’ve forgotten about the Holy People,” she bluntly responded. If we don’t even remember them, how can we expect them to still take care of us? This is what she taught me. That we’ve grown away from our

roots, and that we’ve almost severed our relationship to the main stalk. But if the rain stopped coming because we forgot about the Holy People, what caused that initial split? When we concern ourselves with this question it almost inevitably turns into an unsatisfying cycle of blaming. Does distance really make the heart grow fonder? Today we find ourselves in a contradicting downward spiral. Because we turned away from our traditional ways, the rain stopped coming. Now that it has all but stopped raining, it is increasingly difficult to plant corn and a field, which pulls us farther and farther away from our traditional values and practices. I do not believe that if every Navajo were to start growing corn today, the rain would immediately return to its seasonal balance. However, I do believe that hidden in the act of growing a field and immersed in the nurturing of other beings are the lessons that have made us resilient and flexible to life’s challenges, and are just as applicable today as they were to our cheis and masanis and naliis hundreds of years ago. When we plant a field, pray to the Holy People, and tell the stories of creation, we are recognizing our place in the universe. We are planting ourselves firmly

into the web of continual creation. We learn about processes of action and reflection, of going through the steps of Nitsahakees, Nahata, Iina, and Siihasin—thinking, planning, living, and reflecting. We realize that everything we do should be in the mindset of Sa’ah Naghai Bik’eh Hozhon, the eternal lifelong struggle to follow the Corn Pollen Path, striving for hozho in all aspects of our lives. These lessons were meant to be taken out from the cornfield and hoghan in order to be applied in our daily lives. I remember on a different visit home I was the patient for hozhonji, the Blessingway ceremony designed to bring everything back to hozho. As part of the ritual bath, we needed the earth from a cornfield to bless me from my feet up. I went with my masaniye to the old cornfield to gather the dirt. Even though no plough or hoe or hand had touched the soil in over half a century, the earth remembered. The earth remembered how it had sustained us, her children, for generations. Nahasdzaan Shima remembered that it would always welcome us home. Nahasdzaan Shima was equally as holy and purifying as it has been for time immemorial. Hozhonahasdlii, there will be beauty again, but only with our careful nurturing.

Samuel placed 1st in the High School Division. He is a junior at Georgetown Day School. Samuel lives in Washington, D.C. and his hometown is Round Rock, Arizona.


by Dayanara Sixkiller

Dayanara placed 3rd in the College Division. She is a student at Baboquivari High School. Dayanara is a former NASEP participant. This photo was submitted on her behalf by the UA AISES club.

This photo is of NASEP students’ planted crops at the Native American Research and Training Center (NARTC). From their research poster titled “Opening to New Ideas on the Tohono O’odham Reservation.”



Land ain’t broken, but we are by Jacqui Lambert, Inupiaq Eskimo

Arctic Spring ice hopping turned into flood evacuations Climate change is a game of finger pointing accusations Political leaders speak about it School children learn lessons about it   Urban tree huggers read ‘n act on it But how many of them grew amongst it?   My town is going under water But we have developed sea walls The summers are getting hotter But there’s less meat in the Fall   The water is shouting at us The land, escaping from us   While we continue to pave our mother Earth All we’re causing her is to hurt   So, how can we understand Not to fix what ain’t broke That is, the land   When I mention my Eskimo ethnicity They ask if the winters are gritty   I speak about the melting ice And our snow-less Novembers They say “it must be so nice” But there’s a global warming, remember?  Jacqui placed 2nd in the College Division. She is from Kotzebue, Alaska.

City of Lights

by Darrien Nikkole Benally, Diné

Location: Mars Hill, Flagstaff, Arizona


Darrien placed 3rd in the High School Division. She chose to study the topic of light pollution and had the following to say, “Living in the world’s first International Dark Sky City, the absences of light is important to the upkeep of this title; after all Pluto, (yes it is a planet), was discovered in Flagstaff, Ariz. The stale darkness of midnight is just as important to other creatures lurking in the forests, creatures such as deer or even squirrels. These delightful critters can become confused by so much light, they can wonder in to a gushing stream of cars and cause problems not only for themselves but humans alike. We see the ever so common ‘road kill’ every day and most of us never stop to think what may have caused it, but the fingers can simply be aimed at one culprit: light pollution. To solve this hideous crime, city streets are dim, and a city ordinance requires outdoor lighting to be facing down and have some sort of cover a top it.”


The crisp air of the morning belong to us by Shandiin Gorman, DinĂŠ

The rooster cocka doodle dood to wake the world, but the neighbors are too far. Separated from a land of dirt that gives life to snakes and weeds and nothing else It seems that the sunlight is not coming today, the clouds are abundant and the greyness is almost too much to bear A walk to the store was our adventure of the day. Grandmother won’t see us until the lights by our shed turn on The dirt greet mine and my aunt’s shoes for a split second, than depart, leaving a trail for some other Indian kid to follow The stories that are told about my grandmother and her grandmothers spending hours near the wash, abandoning all duties and just living for the moment, never get old As I stare at it, the ubiquitous hills are masqueraded with faintly spray-painted symbols that dwindle away with the sand and breeze Wondrously, small trees have sprouted on the edge of the walls that have become overcrowded with roots Crunching booms in the miniature canyon, instead of splashing and roaring currents, as we crossed the naked land A haven for our horses disappeared, leaving a couple carcasses in the tailgate The tailgate that leads to the cornfield. Another setback in our community Jugs of water carefully carried to each corn so as to not spill a single drop. The tank of water is sacred. When the task is done we pray God will be good, bless the field and the season. Keep it safe and oh yeah, watered Wire gates surround the field and cannot cease animal access, leaving the crops vulnerable Vulnerable like the grandmother that wakes extra early with the departure of the stars each morning, to work two times as much for our land that is not beyond help The Indigenous community lacks the voice to emerge the hidden beauty of what we call home, our screams have not been heard. Maybe they got lost in our smoke signals. So we stand silently and say our farewells to the horses, the crops and sadly welcome the desire for thirst and the diminishing of the winsome land It is late. A day has passed and nothing has changed The sunset of brilliant colors introducing the blanket of stars belong to us Shandiin placed 2nd in the High School Division. She lives in Mesa, Arizona and her hometown is Hardrock, Arizona.

For more information on future photography and literature contests, email



Lyrical Uprising Frank Waln uses music to empower Indigenous communities by Amanda Bahe

Crowds of Lakota gather, blockading roads along their homelands in the northern Plains of the U.S. On the front lines: a 92-year-old Lakota grandmother, fiercely protesting a proposed extension of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Part of the pipeline would rip through the Ogallala Aquifer, the U.S.’s largest source Aquifer: a body of semiof fresh water that is permeable rock and situated just beneath sediment where water Lakota lands, in order is contained or transmitted to pump oil from Canada to refineries as far south as Texas. Sicangu Lakota citizen Frank Waln, a student at Columbia College in Chicago at the time, watched via social media as more and more of his people joined the grandmother in an effort to keep trucks carrying sections of the pipeline out. “It hit me hard. I couldn’t do anything because I was in school and away from it all,” he remembers. “So, I just wrote a song about it.” 23


The song, a reflection of the unified resistance of his people, was titled “Oil 4 Blood.”

Sampson Brothers, to Find Native SOAR speak and perform at the eligibility requirements second annual UA Native and upcoming events on American College Day. page 26! Native SOAR utilizes mentoring to broaden the conversation about college and organized the college day event.

Waln has since graduated from Columbia College, earning a bachelor’s degree in audio art and acoustics, released his first full-length album, Born Ready, and is currently working on a follow-up.

College Day encouraged Native youth and their families to begin thinking about the college application process and incorporated the element of mentorship in the process.

With lines like “Keystone Born Ready album cover // Source: XL you smell like an atrocity/To my home and album/born-ready-ep my ancestors I am loyal/ Build that pipeline and I’m burning down your oil,” Waln’s music adds a personal element to issues often dehumanized by politics.

Waln, a college recipient of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, served as the day’s master mentor, delivering a keynote speech to a ballroom of more than 250 students and their families.

“That feeling of frustration. That feeling of desperation. You can convey that through any type of art, but I do it through music,” he says. “Music can really make you feel what I feel. Make you feel what my people feel when we know that [these issues are] endangering us.”

Waln grew up on the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota and left after high school to pursue a college education, encountering setbacks along the way. He encouraged students to remain resilient in attaining a college degree and to use their education to further benefit their communities.

In MTV’s Rebel Music series, Waln is seen rubbing elbows with the likes of Daryl Hannah and Willie Nelson, but he hasn’t let fame go to his head. Waln understands the importance of his work and remains grateful for the connections he has made because of it. The powerful storytelling of his music has afforded him the opportunity to educate and motivate Native American youth.

“He has a positive message,” said UA doctoral candidate and Native SOAR program leader Amanda Tachine. “His [words] really instills college as an avenue to take and he has a balanced approach so you leave feeling good.”

Hoop dancer Lumhe Sampson, a member of the Indigenous dance group Dancing Earth, joined Using his newfound celebrity as a catalyst for Waln for the college day speech and an evening positive change in Indigenous communities, he performance, and also accompanied Waln to the travels the country People’s Climate speaking to youth March in New about important York in September. issues. “For us to be out there with Last November, thousands of our the UA-based brothers, the 400 Native Student plus others that Outreach Access were marching, and Resiliency and the hundreds (SOAR) program of thousands more invited Waln that witnessed it, and his touring we are bringing partners, the awareness to the Native SOAR students and faculty pose with Frank Waln and the Sampson Brothers at UA College Day. // Photo courtesy: Amanda Cheromiah


ART United States Department of State February, President Obama rejected congressional Bureau of Oceans and Internation legislation to construct the pipeline, echoing the same environmental concernsand as Waln and his Environmental Scientific Affai

issue[s],” Sampson said of being included in the Indigenous delegation. Waln and Sampson performed for the thousands in attendance who marched, chanted, sang, and held signs as they shed light on lesser known environmental issues affecting communities across the nation.


Congress failed to override the president’s veto in March but the Keystone fight is far from over. Those opposed to the pipeline are urging Obama to reject it outright, while those in favor are trying to find other ways to get the bill approved.

Final Supplemental Environmental for the

“We’re all in this together – we need each other to organize and get together,” Waln said, emphasizing the need for raising awareness about environmental issues plaguing Indigenous communities.

Keystone XL Project Waln remembers the words of the Lakota grandmother leading the fight all those years ago.

Executive Summary

“Grandchild, you’re Lakota. Stand up for your rights,” Waln recalls. “All we have is our families, communities, and our land. I’m 92 years old and I’m out here on the front lines. When I die, who’s going to take over?”

Four years ago, as the Lakota people began their own efforts to raise awareness about the new pipeline cutting through their community, the media gave them little attention. The Lakota people have since lined the route of the proposed pipeline with teepees for people who live there using prayer to peacefully protest Keystone.

January 2014

Grandmother’s message is what inspired Waln to take action, using music as his weapon. Her tenacity is what, he hopes, he is conveying to Native youth as he urges them to begin acting on issues affecting their communities.

Applicant for Presidential Permit: TransCanad

For them, the question is not if the pipeline will rupture, but when. “It’s going to mess up our water,” Waln says, critical of the adverse effects it will have on the environment that the Lakota have protected for generations.

“If you see a problem or something that needs to be done, go do it,” he says. “Pay attention to what’s going on at home. Stay connected to your community, to the land. Most every Indigenous culture – our cultures – are the caretakers of the land.”

Keystone is now an emerging national headline as Congress pushes to get the pipeline approved. In

WHAT IS THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE? There is already a pipeline in place from Canada to the Midwest U.S. and down to Texas. Keystone XL would extend upon the existing pipeline, reaching all the way to the Gulf Coast. The pipeline would be financed by private companies (not paid for by the public) and could carry more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day. There are many different opinions about the project. People concerned about the environment argue that it will further contribute to destruction and create negative climate impacts. Others argue that the pipeline is going to create more jobs and bring in more money – things they think will benefit the U.S. Most energy policy experts say there is a balance between the sides.

A map showing the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. // Sources: “Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project”; United States Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, January 2014

Indigenous people, however, are concerned about the impact the pipeline will have environmentally, socially, and economically, on their sovereign homelands. 25


Native American Science and Engineering Program (NASEP) NASEP provides Native American high school students with a vision of a career in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) discipline. Participants are connected with students and professionals in STEM-related fields and work on individualized environmental research projects related to their home communities. The goal of this program is to prepare students for college and STEM career paths by providing motivation through mentorship and one-on-one coaching.

Location: The University of Arizona (Tucson, Ariz.) Deadline: Early Spring – the 2015 priority deadline was March 1ST

Eligibility Requirements: Rising high school junior or senior; - On track to complete Pre-Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics prior to graduation - Enrolled in a federally-recognized American Indian or Alaskan Native tribe - Available to participate in NASEP events and academic tutoring services/other college prep workshops throughout the following school year.

For more information:

NASEP participants at Biosphere 2, outside Tucson, Ariz. // Photo courtesy: Ace Charette

Keep Engaging Youth in Science (KEYS) Research Internship This seven week residential program focuses on providing high-achieving high school students with hands-on experience in the sciences. KEYS interns enroll in a three credit undergraduate course that guides them through the scientific research process. From learning lab techniques and reading scientific papers to working in research labs at the UA, participants become familiar with university-level research methods during their internship. Professional poster presentations by the interns conclude their summer research experience. KEYS is a free program, though students who are not from Tucson are responsible for their dormitory expenses. Every effort is made to ensure that interns are able to participate in the program, including the availability of need-based financial aid.

“High school is where the pipeline begins.” – Serrine S. Lau, PhD, KEYS Researcher

Location: The University of Arizona (Tucson, Ariz.)

Eligibility Requirements: - High school GPA of at least 3.5 (out of 4.0) - At least 16 years of age by start of program - U.S. citizenship or legal residency - Arizona residency

Deadline: Late Winter – the 2015 deadline was January 28

For more information:

Native Student Outreach, Access, and Resiliency (SOAR) For current undergraduate students at the UA, Native SOAR offers an opportunity to provide mentorship to Native American high school students in and around the Tucson community. The goal of this program is to inform students and their families about college and to encourage persistence in higher education for Native American youth by including families in the learning and decision-making process. Native SOAR strives to connect Indigenous youth with educational opportunities using technology and a network of resources. Most recently, Native SOAR organized the UA’s second annual Native American College Day which drew in more than 250 students and family members, and showcased rapper Frank Waln as a keynote speaker and performer. You must be a current undergraduate student at the UA in order to be a Native SOAR student mentor. Through the program’s multigenerational approach to college success, high school students are mentored by Save the Date! UA undergraduates while UA graduate students and professionals serve as mentors to April 11, 2015: Native SOAR campus visit undergraduate Native SOAR students. at the UA College of Education.

“We believe GIVING BACK is a powerful way to inspire the best in people.” – Native SOAR

Native SOAR hosts high school students and their families for campus visits regarding college knowledge. Spend a day on the UA campus with us!

For more information: or



The Brightest Star

Raquel Redshirt is heating up her community with solar ovens by Amanda Bahe

A stack of cardboard boxes is tucked away in a corner of the family home in Shiprock, N.M. Each of the 10 or so boxes is a solar oven prototype engineered by Raquel “Kelly” Redshirt using simple materials found around the house. Kelly is a sophomore studying environmental engineering at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., and she is on a mission to give back to Navajo families by providing a cheap and sustainable way of cooking.

Raquel Redshirt’s stack of various solar oven prototypes. // Photo by Amanda Bahe

Redshirt, Diné, has been making solar oven prototypes since she was in middle school. // Photo by Amanda Bahe

firm to gain experience before returning home to work on environmental issues. She hopes to use her education to help protect the environment and land that, she says, we are borrowing from our children.

It all began one Christmas, as Kelly and her family gave up their traditional holiday dinner in order to deliver trays of baked goods to families in their community. Then only eight years old, it was Kelly’s first time meeting families who did not have access to electricity and running water.

“This land is ours right now but there’s still future generations to come and they have to use the land also,” Kelly reminds us. ADVICE TO THE YOUTH “It is important that we continue our education,” Kelly says. She encourages youth to get out of their comfort zones in order to break down stereotypes and create change.

“At that moment it just made me think,” she said. “Is there a way to get by [cooking food] without spending money on electricity?”

How does a solar oven work?

Seeing the families without a Christmas dinner inspired Kelly to begin researching a solution. Much of her early research returned expensive results – solar ovens costing hundreds of dollars and requiring material not easily accessible in her rural town.

Solar ovens use the free energy from the sun to power their cooking. They are usually made from boxes that are built to trap heat. In Kelly’s solar ovens, aluminum foil reflected the sun’s rays evenly throughout the box to make it hot. She used different forms of insulation to keep the heat inside the oven and a piece of glass on top to let the sun inside.

She turned the lack of effective results into a middle school science fair experiment, designing her own solar oven created with the help of her parents using only materials that Navajo families had easy access to. Her cultural background guided her engineering, even using sheep wool as a source of insulation for some of her oven prototypes.

By inserting the food and closing the glass lid, the heat from the sun is kept inside the box, cooking the food just like an electrical oven!

The experiment continued into high school where she became an Intel International Science Engineering Fair winner. In 2014, Kelly was a featured TEDxABQ speaker in Albuquerque, N.M., where she explained how her project can change the lives of people in her community.

Did you know... One benefit of solar cooking is that more of the food’s nutrients are preserved because it is cooked at a lower temperature over a long period of time.

Does it REALLY work?

Yep! Kelly and her family have used her solar ovens to prepare family meals. They cook different types of meat, including mutton, a Navajo delicacy. Take Action!

The ovens are easy to use Think about your home. Are there because all you have to materials you might be able to use do is put your food in, go to build your own over? Use Kelly’s about your business, and approach of doing research to begin your come back minutes or own project. For a place to start, visit: hours later (depending on what you are cooking) and return to a fully-cooked meal.

Kelly’s next steps involve science education and perfecting her oven prototypes. She wants to teach people about the benefits of solar cooking and begin distributing ovens to families still living without electricity. After college, Kelly hopes to work for an engineering 27

This publication was made possible through the generous support of



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Tradition, Environment And Community Health

Center for Rural Health Center for Toxicology NIEHS Superfund Research Center Office of Diversity and Inclusion


Karen Francis-Begay

Denise Moreno Ramírez

Diné Director Health Disparities Outreach Prevention Education

Diné UA Vice President, Tribal Relations

NIEHS UA Superfund Research Project Center for Toxicology

Ace Charette

Ginny Geib

Turtle Mountain Chippewa Coordinator Early Academic Outreach

UA College of Pharmacy, Communications Director

Patrick Tso

Martina Dawley, PhD

Darla Keneston

Ashley Tsosie-Mahieu

Diné / Hualapai Arizona State Museum Curator for American Indian Relations

Arizona Health Sciences Center BioCommunications

Diné UA Department of American Indian Studies / Arizona State Museum

Diné Fort Lewis College

Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy P.O. Box 210207 Tucson, AZ 85721-0207

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Indigenous Stewards -Volume I  

Indigenous Stewards is a publication product of the Native Environmental Health Stories Project. It is in collaboration between the Southwes...

Indigenous Stewards -Volume I  

Indigenous Stewards is a publication product of the Native Environmental Health Stories Project. It is in collaboration between the Southwes...


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