- Clarita Lefthand-Begay, PhD
- Maya Magarati, PhD
- Terri Parr
Research Project Description
Our research project brings together three Indigenous women to examine how environmental injustices are impacting the health of tribes by partnering with the Akiak Native Community (ANC) on Alaska's remote Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. This research project grew from on-going partnerships with the ANC about their concerns and hopes to identify solutions and set priorities for some of their greatest environmental health challenges. The expressed concerns among the ANC are linked to the impacts of Red Devil Mine and the Donlin Gold LLC. The former was established in 1930, and after several intermittent closures, permanently closed in 1971. During its 40-year operation, it was the largest mercury mine in the US. Presently, the site is undergoing the process of being listed as a Superfund site, and the Bureau of Land Management is implementing several remediation efforts to contain the release of heavy metals in the River, which is ANC's primary source of subsistence.
Despite strong opposition from local subsistence fishers, the Donlin Gold LLC are charging forward with plans to develop an open pit mine, which will be located adjacent to the Red Devil Mine and upstream from the ANC village. Thus, the ANC believes it's just a matter of time before greater concentrations of contamination enter the River. The ANC suspects that the opening of the new Mine will result in increased barge traffic in the River, and a subsequent increase in hydrocarbon contamination. In this community-driven mixed-methods case study, our team will characterize the types of heavy metals that are present in a nearby watershed, examine how those contaminants affect the health of the ANC and work together with the ANC to promote health equity and healing through tribes' engagement in environmentally related decision making. In addition, we will work closely with the ANC to raise the level of discourse about these issues and to ultimately reduce their health risks from environmental hazards.
Clarita Lefthand-Begay, PhD
Clarita Lefthand-Begay is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington's (UW) Information School. She has a PhD in Environmental and Occupational Health from the UW's School of Public Health. She researches the protection of indigenous knowledge in the US, tribal water security, climate health and resiliency. As a researcher and tribal community member, Clarita supports the strengthening of tribal wellbeing while honoring tribal sovereignty.
Maya Magarati, PhD
As a sociologist at the University of Washington's Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, I spent the last 10 years investigating social determinants of Indigenous health. I have recently begun to examine place-based environment and cultural practices as critical determinants of Indigenous health. I am honored to partner with two Indigenous leaders to conduct research that privileges Indigenous ways of knowing, being and relating to the environment as a way to address health inequity.
Terri Parr is a member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and a graduate of Washington State University. Previously, she enjoyed teaching math and administering scholarships program. Over the past 14 years, she has worked for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, becoming their Executive Director (ED) in 2012. As ED she strives to provide a platform for discussing priorities and developing policy, while advancing the organization's mission: To promote Tribal Sovereignty and Self-determination.