On Monday, October 25th from 3:30pm to 4:30pm EDT, PROTECT hosted its October 2021 webinar. This webinar featured Dr. Karletta Chief, member of the Community Engagement Core and Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. Dr. Chief spoke about engaging with Native American communities that are disproportionately impacted by mining and arsenic contaminated water, and fostering community relationships using cultural understanding.

A recording of the webinar is available below and on the PROTECT YouTube page.

Abstract: The University of Arizona (UA) Superfund Research Program (SRP) has successfully translated research findings focused on the health and environmental impacts of mining on vulnerable communities and engaged affected citizens to reduce and mitigate exposure through learning modules, outreach activities, workshops, capacity building, and developing community engaged participatory research. The UA SRP Community Engagement Core (CEC) engages Native American communities and Tribal Colleges and Universities in the Southwest that are located adjacent to mining sites by building and expanding upon previously nurtured partnerships including The Tohono O’odham Nation, Tohono O’odham Community College, The Navajo Nation, Diné College, and Navajo Community Health Representatives. The goal of the current UA SRP CEC is to specifically focus on community engagement with Native Americans living near mining sites, as these communities are disproportionately impacted by mining and arsenic contaminated water, resulting in increased exposure to arsenic and higher rates of diabetes, particularly uncontrolled diabetes. The CEC ensures community-engaged participatory research, training, education and capacity building through the development of community-engaged tools centered around a solution-based approach to Indigenous food sovereignty as a means to minimize and mitigate the increased risk of diabetes. Food sovereignty efforts are developing and exist in many tribal communities, however, the connection to arsenic in water as a result of mining and increased risks to diabetes is lacking. Engagement with tribal communities will increase awareness of risks and best practices in ways that honor tribal sovereignty and knowledge and aid in cultural understanding while reducing racial misconceptions and fostering university-community partnerships based on trust and transparency.

Biography: Dr. Karletta Chief (Diné) is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. As an Extension Specialist, she works to bring relevant water science to Native American communities in a culturally sensitive manner. Two of her primary tribal projects are The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Climate Adaptation and Traditional Knowledge Project and Gold King Mine Spill Diné Exposure Project. In partnership with Diné College, Dr. Chief leads the NSF Indigenous Food, Energy, and Water Security and Sovereignty Program and is training 39 graduate students. Indige-FEWSS’s vision is to develop a diverse workforce with intercultural awareness and expertise in sustainable food, energy, and water systems (FEWS), specifically through off grid technologies to address the lack of safe water, energy, and food security in Indigenous communities. Dr. Chief received a B.S. and M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 1998 and 2000 and a Ph.D. in Hydrology and Water Resources from UA in 2007.