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Your Environment. Your Health.

Speaker Abstracts

Addressing Racism As a Public Health Issue Through the Lens of Environmental Health Disparities and Environmental Justice: From Problems to Solutions

Session 1: Environmental Health Disparities: Impact of Environmental Injustices and Systemic Racism (Past, Present, Future)

Embodying Place & The People’s Health: Critical Science for Health Justice – An Ecosocial Proposal

Nancy Krieger

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University

Nancy Krieger, Ph.D., is Professor of Social Epidemiology and American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) and Director of the HSPH Interdisciplinary Concentration on Women, Gender, and Health. She is an internationally recognized social epidemiologist (Ph.D., Epidemiology, UC Berkeley, 1989) and ISI highly cited scientist (a group comprising <0.05% of publishing researchers), with a background in biochemistry, philosophy of science, and history of public health, plus 35+ years of activism involving social justice, science, and health. Krieger’s work addresses: (1) conceptual frameworks to understand, analyze, and improve the people’s health, including her ecosocial theory of disease distribution, focused on embodiment and equity; (2) etiologic research on societal determinants of population health and health inequities, including structural racism and other types of adverse discrimination; and (3) methodologic research to improve monitoring of health inequities. She is author of Epidemiology and The People’s Health: Theory and Context (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2011), and Ecosocial Theory, Embodied Truths, and The People’s Health (OUP, 2021). In 1994 she co-founded, and still chairs, the Spirit of 1848 Caucus of the American Public Health Association, which focuses on links between social justice and public health.

Contact Information:
Harvard Academic Profile

In my presentation I will offer critical reflections on what it means to embody place, guided by the ecosocial premise that embodied histories are expressed as health inequities. At issue is how “place” must be jointly conceptualized and analyzed spatially, socially, and dynamically, recognizing that links between place and population health involve social and biophysical pathways shaped by power relations. After briefly describing key features of the ecosocial theory of disease distribution, I will demonstrate its application to analyses of place and health inequities. The range of empirical examples I will present include: (1) COVID-19 inequities in relation to diverse county and census tract social metrics; (2) Jim Crow, infant mortality rates, and breast cancer estrogen receptor status; (3) historical redlining and cancer stage at diagnosis; and (4) fracking and risk of sexually transmitted infectious diseases. As these examples underscore, a key takeaway is that it is not enough to say that “place matters” – instead, to guide action for health equity, it is vital to identify the structural drivers, past and present, of why this is the case. The implication is that conduct of critical science requires explicitly integrating the myriad levels and timescales of embodiment, from structural policies and structural injustice to submolecular levels, across historical generations, so as to reveal not only accountability and agency for current inequities but also pathways that can promote embodying dignity in a context of thriving, equitable, and sustainable places and societies.

Confronting Environmental Racism: Why Health Equity Matters

Robert Bullard

Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University (TSU)

Robert D. Bullard, Ph.D., is distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. He received his Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University. Professor Bullard is often called the “father of environmental justice.” He is the founding director of the Robert D. Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at TSU, co-founder of the HBCU Climate Change Consortium and the National Black Environmental Justice Network. Bullard is the author of 18 books. His latest book is The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities (2012). In 2008, Newsweek named him one of “13 Environmental Leaders of the Century.” In 2019, Apolitical named him one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy, and Climate One presented him with the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication. In 2020, WebMD gave him its Health Heroes Trailblazer Award and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) honored him with its Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award. And in 2021, he was appointed by President Biden to serve on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC).

Contact Information:
TSU Faculty Profile

America is segregated, and so is pollution. Historically, people of color communities in the United States have borne a disproportionate burden of pollution created by others, including pollution from highway traffic, landfills, garbage dumps, incinerators, refineries, chemical plants and a host of other polluting facilities. Racist facility siting practices followed the “path of least resistance” allowing communities of color to become environmental “sacrifice zones” and the “dumping grounds” for all kinds of health-threatening operations. Racism influences local land use, enforcement of environmental regulations, and where people of color live, work, play and learn. The roots of institutional racism are deep and have been difficult to eliminate. Environmental racism combines with public policies, finance, and planning to provide benefits for whites while shifting costs and externalities to people of color. Although people of color have contributed least to the climate crisis, climate-impacts fall disproportionately on vulnerable communities (many of whom were victims of racist redlining), including impacts on weather (heat waves, extreme weather events such as rain, hurricane, tornado, flooding, sea-level rise, droughts, increase in ground-level ozone, airborne allergens, and other pollutants) and impacts on public health (heat stress, injuries, drowning, vector, food, and water-borne diseases, water and soil salinization, ecosystem disruption, food and water shortages, migration and displacement, respiratory disease exacerbation, COPD, asthma, bronchitis, mental health). It is unlikely the nation can achieve health equity, environmental and climate justice without addressing the underlying condition of systemic racism.

Session 2: A Conversation With Our Community Leaders: EJ, Science, and Policy (Community Voices from NC)

Crystal Cavalier-Keck

7 Directions of Service

Crystal Cavalier-Keck is the co-founder of Seven Directions of Service with her husband. She is a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Burlington, North Carolina. She is the Chair of the Alamance County Environmental Justice Committee for the NAACP, a board member of the Haw River Assembly, and a member of the 2020 Fall Cohort of the Sierra Club's Gender Equity and Environment Program and Women's Earth Alliance (WEA) Accelerator for Grassroots Women Environmental Leaders. Currently, Crystal currently works with Native Organizers Alliance on the Sacred Places, Red Road Totem Journey. Crystal is currently working on her Doctorate at the University of Dayton and dissertation on Social Justice of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Gas/Oil Pipelines in frontline communities. Crystal is also an expert in her field of Strategic Intelligence, Political Campaigns, and Public Administration. She has conducted training along and around the East Coast on Coordinated Tribal/Community Response for emergency management, through natural, cyber, or man-made disasters.

Contact Information:

Jason Keck

7 Directions of Service

Jason Campos Keck is from East Oakland who found the freedom to choose another lifestyle and another context for his life, ultimately becoming the VP of Outreach for an international men's organization focused on successful families, careers and communities. With a multi-racial heritage of Native American (Choctaw-Apache), French African Creole from Louisiana and European, he is also a ceremonial dancer and works together with his wife on social justice issues in the community. Jason is the President of the Alamance County, Native American Caucus and the Secretary of the 17 Rivers North Carolina Chapter of the American Indian Movement. Jason and Crystal Cavalier co-founded Eastern Woodland Lacrosse and 7 Directions of Service.

Working in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Communities

Crystal Cavalier-Keck and Jason Keck, 7 Directions of Service

Indigenous populations in North Carolina have experienced social, economic, and political disadvantages through colonialism. The policies implemented to assimilate indigenous peoples have dissolved cultural continuity and unfavorably shaped their health outcomes. As a result, indigenous North Carolinians face health inequities, such as chronic illness, food insecurity, and mental health crises.

Addressing Environmental Racism As a Public Health Issue Through Health Disparities and Environmental Justice: A History of Environmental Racism in North Carolina

Naeema Muhammad

North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN)

Naeema Muhammad is Co-Director/Community Organizer of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), seeking to promote health and environmental equality for all people of North Carolina. She is also a founding member of BWFJ (Black Workers for Justice) in North Carolina, a community-based organization that addresses workers’ rights issues since 1981. Naeema has extensive experience in community organizing and in community-based participatory research, especially concerning waste from industrial hog operations. As a collaborator on two NIEHS grants – the Community Health and Environmental Reawakening (CHER) and Community Health Effects of Industrial Hog Operations (CHEIHO) projects – she has coordinated environmental monitoring and data collection; conducted interviews; and implemented environmental justice education. Naeema is the wife of Saladin Muhammad for 55 years, and they have fought for justice all along. She believes their work will lead to better lives for their families, including their 3 children, 9 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

Environmental Justice (EJ), as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy, states that EJ is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no population bears a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or from the execution of federal, state, and local laws; regulations; and policies. In this presentation I will define EJ and the term landfill and how the designation of a landfill site in an African American community in Warren County, North Carolina in 1982 sparked a movement that fueled and issued in the concepts of environmental racism and environmental justice nationally. I will discuss the importance of community organizing and how it can impact policy related to solid waste management in North Carolina. I will also describe, first-hand, the devastation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and industrial feeding organizations (IFOs) on the environment and their associated negative impacts on the physical and mental health of people of color and low wealth in Eastern North Carolina. I will explore the myth of biogas as a solution to CAFOs and stress how important it is to take action and get involved to make a difference in promoting EJ and addressing environmental racism.

West End Revitalization Association (WERA)

Brenda and Omega Wilson

West End Revitalization Association (WERA)

Co-founders of the West End Revitalization Association (WERA) in 1994 of Mebane, North Carolina. WERA incorporated as a 501-(c)(3) non-profit in 1995. Mission: Support access to “basic public health amenities” (safe drinking water, sewer lines, housing, streets, sidewalks, and storm-water management) for people of color and marginalized communities. Federal administrative complaints were filed to support first-time infrastructure installation under the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, etc. WERA supports primarily African American and Native American heritage communities: West End, White Level, Kimrey Road / Hawfields in Alamance County, and Buckhorn, Perry Hill, and Cheeks Cross in Orange County. February 1999 & Sept 2014: WERA filed complaints at U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and referenced the Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898 - 1994, to challenge the planned 8-lane interstate corridor that would destroy two historic African American and Native American communities in Mebane, North Carolina. DOJ directed six branches of the federal government to investigate their lack of oversight of civil rights and public health guidelines during the highway planning process that had been going on for 16 years without opportunities for public input. The highway construction was placed on moratorium from 1999 to 2016. More than 100 homeowners, out of 500, have since had sewer lines installed for the first time and dirt streets paved, even though homes have been within two blocks of Mebane’s municipal sewer treatment plant since it was constructed in 1921. Omega served as a “community perspective” member of EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (2007-2010). The EPA publication “Information to Action: Strengthening EPA Citizen Science Partnerships for Environmental Protection” (April 2018) features a case study on WERA community-owned and managed research (COMR) model. Omega and Brenda served on the National Citizen Science CitSci-2019 Conference’s Environmental Justice Planning Committee (2017-2019), Raleigh, North Carolina. In the AARP Bulletin-April 2019, both are featured as “senior citizen – citizen scientists” for collaborative problem-solving that “addresses human being in their environment.” Omega R Wilson: BA in Radio-TV-Film 1973, Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina; MA in Mass Communications 1974, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio; Ph.D. Coursework ABD in Mass Communications 1976, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio. Brenda A Crosby-Wilson: BA in Education 1974, Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina; MAED in Special Education 1980, Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi.

Contact Information:
West End Revitalization Association (WERA)

Ayo Wilson

West End Revitalization Association (WERA)

Over the course of his life, Ayo has lived and worked in impacted frontline communities in North Carolina and Ohio, and used his skills in nonprofit management, organizational management and development, and community organizing to support and empower impacted people through the arts, climate/environmental justice, and health/group fitness. In 2013, he traveled to Liberia, where he analyzed and provided recommendations for a national land records digitization project managed by Liberia’s Center for National Land Documents and Records Agency funded by the World Bank. He is Director of Clean Energy and Climate Justice at West End Revitalization Association, an organization founded in 1994 by his parents and concerned neighbors in the community where he was raised. He holds a B.S. in Communication, Electronic Media/Broadcasting from Appalachian State University and a Masters in Public Administration, cum laude from NC Central University. He serves on the Board of Directors for NC Climate Justice Collective, Haw River Assembly and NC WARN, has taught Zumba classes in North Carolina and Texas in conjunction with climate justice work with his brother Omari as Twin ZIN.

Contact Information:
West End Revitalization Association (WERA)

Omega Wilson, Brenda Wilson, and Ayo Wilson, WERA

WERA recently established a Clean Energy and Climate Justice (CECJ) initiative that supports numerous federal government agency and local, state, and national grassroots efforts. In North Carolina, the Mebane area mega industrial and distribution centers and 119-bypass interstate highway corridor construction present specific challenges that can be addressed to implement Clean Energy and Climate Justice initiative recommendations. Construction on the 119-bypass project began a few years ago after a 16-year moratorium resulting from a 1999 administrative complaint filed by WERA to the U.S. Department of Justice. Hundreds of acres of farmland and forests were cleared, releasing sequestered carbon for the construction of these mega industrial and distribution centers that overburden the infrastructure of the area without implementation of measures to engage in green, equitable energy practices to reduce their carbon footprint. These major construction sites are recognized as among the largest on the east coast and in the nation. A focus on a just transition with green climate practices and trans-local climate resilience with an emphasis on basic human amenities and infrastructure (safe drinking water, sewer lines, affordable housing, paved streets and sidewalks, clean recreational waterways, toxic-free soil, storm water management) is paramount to WERA’s mission of clean energy and climate justice. Efforts include increasing community input in new civil rights laws, environmental justice executive orders, and other legislation at the local, state, and federal levels.

Project Overview: West End Revitalization Association: Demonstrating the Value of Community-led Research to Address Environmental Justice Issues

Session 3: Community-engaged Research: Building Authentic Partnerships in Disproportionately Impacted Communities

Safe and Just Cleaners: Organizing Latinx Household Cleaners to Address Disproportionate Workplace Environmental Exposures

Sherry Baron

Barry Commoners Center for Health and the Environment, Queens College, City University of New York

Sherry Baron is an occupational physician and Professor at the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment at Queens College, and an affiliate Professor at the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, City University of New York. Previously, she spent 25 years as a researcher at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC where she was the coordinator of the Occupational Health Equity programs. Her current research project, Safe and Just Cleaners, is an NIEHS funded Research to Action project which applies a community-based participatory research approach for collecting data on household cleaners’ chemical exposures and other working conditions to develop safer cleaning practices to reduce exposure for cleaners and their clients. She also received a Social, Economic and Behavioral Research on COVID supplemental grant to study the impact of COVID-19 on household cleaners.

Contact Information:
Sherry Baron, M.D., M.P.H.
Barry Commoners Center for Health and the Environment
Queens College, City University of New York

Deysi Flores

Make the Road New York 

Deysi Flores is the senior coordinator of the Workers Health and Safety Program at Make the Road New York. She oversees operations, including training, logistics, curriculum development, quality control, and participatory research projects. Deysi builds and maintains relations with other health & safety programs. She is a Co-Principal Investigator for the Safe and Just Cleaners project, community-based participatory research documenting cleaning chemicals exposure among Latinx house cleaners in New York, funded by NIEHS. As a senior staff member in the health department and member of the Workers’ Rights team, she provides technical knowledge and support to the various campaigns. Previously, she worked with vulnerable communities on educational and social projects in Latin America.

Contact Information:
Deysi Flores
Supervisor of the Workers’ Health & Safety (WHS) Program
Make the Road New York
92-10 Roosevelt Avenue
Jackson Heights, NY 11372

Sherry Baron, City University of New York and Deysi Flores, Make the Road New York

Low-wage workers, who are disproportionately immigrant, Latinx and African American, are more likely to be employed in precarious employment where they face job instability and unsafe working conditions. Given this, environmental exposure in the workplace is one important pathway through which structural forms of racism can lead to environmental health inequities. Creating intervention programs focusing on workplace-related exposures provides one potentially modifiable route for addressing environmental injustices. Nonetheless, given the central role of work in survival, especially for many immigrant families, and the high levels of job insecurity low-wage workers experience, engaging workers in research addressing these environmental exposures can be challenging. Collaboration with community-based organizations that focus on worker education, individual worker rights and community-level advocacy campaigns can be one successful approach. We will describe experiences from an academic and community partnership in New York City that targets two highly precarious worker groups: Latinx immigrant household cleaners and construction laborers. Though our collaboration began before the COVID-19 pandemic, the additional intersecting social economic, and environmental stressors posed by the pandemic have underscored the potential opportunities and challenges in addressing environmental health inequities. We will describe our findings from recent research and some of the challenges encountered and approaches used to improve worker awareness about environmental exposures, health inequities and prevention pathways and how this research was leveraged during the pandemic to advocate for greater equity and access to pandemic-related social and economic support.

Anti-racist Community Based Participatory Research and Practice for Environmental Justice

No Photo Available

University of Michigan School of Public Health

Amy J. Schulz is University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, and Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She has served as PI or Co-Investigator on multiple NIH-funded initiatives. A sociologist with expertise in the joint contributions of social and physical environmental exposures to health inequities, and a leading scholar in the field of community based participatory research (CBPR), she has extensive expertise in working collaboratively with community, practice and academic partners to conduct both etiologic and intervention research. She currently serves as MultiPI for the Community Action to Promote Healthy Environments (CAPHE) partnership, a CBPR partnership focused on air pollution, social and economic vulnerabilities, and development and implementation of a Public Health Action Plan to reduce excess risk in the Detroit Metropolitan area. Since 2000 she has served as PI for the Healthy Environments Partnership (HEP), a CBPR partnership focused on understanding, and designing, implementing and evaluating interventions to address, social determinants of cardiovascular disease in Detroit. She has also been a member of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center (Detroit URC) since its inception in 1995. Her specific expertise is in analysis of joint effects of social and physical environmental conditions for chronic health outcomes (Schulz et al 2016; Schulz et al 2018; Schulz et al 2020), the development of policy and programmatic interventions, and engagement of community, academic and public health practice partners in participatory research and intervention efforts (e.g., Schulz et al 2017). She has worked closely with community and academic collaborators to develop widely cited conceptual frameworks (Schulz et al 2005), conduct etiologic research examining pathways linking social and physical environments to multiple health outcomes, and develop, implement and evaluate community-based interventions to promote health and health equity.

Donele Wilkins

Green Door Initiative

Donele Wilkins is the Executive Director of Green Door Initiative. She has dedicated her life’s work towards improving the quality of life for Detroiters and others through environmental and social justice. She is the founding director of the Green Door Initiative, a non- profit organization promoting environmental justice in Michigan. She is sought after as a public speaker. Recipient of many awards most recently received the Life-Time Achievement Award by the Detroit City Council’s Green Task Force. Serves as the Detroit City Councils Appointee to the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, served on the Environmental Protection Agency- National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and served as former Governor Granholm’s Appointee to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality- Advisory Council.

Donele has played a key role in developing Michigan’s Environmental Justice Policy, launched the city’s first green jobs training program, advocated for citizen involvement in public policies, citizen science and contributed to many scholarly articles on environmental justice and public health.

Amy Jo Schulz, University of Michigan School of Public Health and Donele Wilkins, Green Door Initiative

“Environmental racism is racial discrimination in environmental policymaking. It is racial discrimination in the enforcement of regulations and law. It is racial discrimination in the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste disposal and the siting of polluting industries. It is racial discrimination in the official sanctioning of life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in communities of color. And it is racial discrimination in the history of excluding people of color from the mainstream environmental groups, decision making boards, commissions and regulatory bodies.” Reverend Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Reverend Benjamin Chavis, Jr. defined environmental racism as the expression of racist ideologies in environmental policymaking, regulatory actions, decisions about the siting of toxic wastes and polluting industries, and the exclusion of people of color from regulatory and decision-making bodies. Emerging in response to environmental racism, the environmental justice movement emphasizes leadership from communities disproportionately impacted by environmental toxins. Such leadership is critical to build shared understanding of inequitable environmental burdens and shift power toward equitable environmental decision making. Partnerships between disproportionately affected communities and researchers based in academic institutions hold promise in building evidence to inform action on community-identified environmental priorities. Delivering on that promise requires explicit attention to structural inequities that shape relationships, funding and decision-making power. We examine principles for community based participatory research, environmental justice, and anti-racist practice. Drawing on that analysis, and over 20 years of collaborative research experience, we provide examples of strategies for partnership approaches to address environmental racism and promote environmental justice. We close with recommendations for developing equitable, longstanding and effective partnerships between communities experiencing environmental racism and researchers, including: strengthen existing and support new leadership within environmental justice communities; develop mutually agreed upon processes and principles to assure equitable resource distribution, decision making power and representation; assure that communities know their rights in research; assure that funding and research institutions are accountable to disproportionately impacted communities; engage representatives from environmental justice communities in decisions about funding (e.g., study sections); and address structural racism within funding and research institutions.

Session 3 (continued): Community-engaged Research: Building Authentic Partnerships in Disproportionately Impacted Communities

Community-research Partnerships Assess the Life and Cultural Costs of Cold War Weapons Build up on Sovereign Indigenous Nations Within the U.S.

Johnnye Lewis

University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, College of Pharmacy

Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D., is a Research Professor and Director of the Community Environmental Health Program (CEHP) at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center College of Pharmacy. Her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Manitoba was followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in inhalation toxicology at the Department of Energy Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute in Albuquerque, NM, and private sector work as owner and CEO of Environmental Health Associates, an environmental health consulting firm providing risk modeling and assessment methodology development for Indigenous tribes, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and NRC. She moved to academia in 1996 and developed CEHP to merge her scientific research in toxicology with community concerns, creating partnerships among multidisciplinary researchers, communities, policy and decision-makers, and clinicians to develop creative and integrative transdisciplinary solutions to environmental contamination problems. Today Lewis leads multiple center-level programs including the Navajo Birth Cohort Study, Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (NIH-OD), the METALS Superfund Research Center (NIH-NIEHS), the Center for Native Environmental Health Equity Research (NIEHS/USEPA Phase 1, NIMHD Phase 2). CEHP’s primary focus is on risk to Indigenous communities from chronic exposures to abandoned uranium mine waste from Cold War weapons development throughout the Western US. The Centers focus on environmental mobility and multigenerational toxicity, engaging teams of trained indigenous community researchers, indigenous language and culture specialists, artists, toxicologists, engineers, mineralogists, geochemists, geographers, statisticians and mathematicians, immunologists, ethnographers, and clinicians. The Centers work with communities to Integrate indigenous knowledge, language, and art into design and implementation of clinical trials and novel risk reduction strategies to form a framework from which to build culturally acceptable solutions.

Contact Information:

Johnny Naize

Navajo Nation, Blue Gap/Tachee Chapter, Former Speaker - Navajo Nation Tribal Council

I am a member of Blue Gap/Tachee Community, Arizona from the heart of the great Navajo Nation. Blue Gap/Tachee is a region that was mined for uranium during the Cold War, with the abandoned mines that affected our people, livestock, land and water still not remediated today. I was born and raised on the Navajo Reservation and attended Bureau of Indian Affair Schools: Cottonwood Day School, Chinle and Many Farms, Arizona. After three years at St. Catherine Indian School, Santa Fe, New Mexico, I spent two years at Northern Arizona University, majoring in Civil Engineering Technology. I worked at Peabody Coal Company as Survey Crew Chief, Navajo Nation Land Department where I managed the Land Office in Chinle, Arizona and was Director for the Federal HOME Program, Window Rock, Arizona. I was elected to Navajo Nation Council in 1999 to 2014, served on Government Service Committee and Transportation and Community Development Committee and was elected as the Speaker of the 22nd Navajo Nation Council. I have also served as Chairman on Navajo Housing Authority Board of Commission.

Contact Information:

Johnnye Lewis, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, College of Pharmacy and Johnny Naize, Navajo Nation, Blue Gap/Tachee Chapter, Former Speaker - Navajo Nation Tribal Council

Since the mid-1940’s, the rich uranium resources on the Colorado Plateau were heavily mined to support U.S. Cold War weaponization. The sovereign Navajo Nation was an epicenter of mining with a legacy of >500 abandoned uranium mines today, mostly unfenced and unmarked, adjacent to many Navajo communities including Tachee/Blue Gap Chapter. Even with the loss of a generation involved in mining to cancer, the communities never were told of the risks, and no efforts to clean-up or assess the impacts followed the end of the Cold War. In spite of requests to the US federal government and the UN from both communities and the Navajo government since the close of the last mine in 1986, the first research studies were initiated only in 2004, not by government or industry, but through a partnership of researchers and communities. These partnerships continue today to assess the effects of exposures to metal mixtures in the abandoned mine waste, with special focus on the health of future generations. Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D., from the University of New Mexico has led a multidisciplinary research team working in partnership with mining-affected communities since 2000 to understand the environmental, ecological, and human health impacts on current and future generations resulting from exposures; to develop strategies for effective communication between scientists and community members; to conduct research responsive to community questions; and to identify possible solutions to reduce risk. Johnny Naize, former Speaker of Navajo Nation Council, represents his community of Tachee/Blue Gap to describe the impacts of living with this waste; the concerns; the development of the partnership; and the red tape that continues today to delay clean-up actions more than 80 years since mining began.

Community-engaged Research and Collaborations to Achieve Environmental Health and Justice With Arctic Indigenous Communities

Pamela Miller

Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT)

Pamela founded Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) in 1997 and serves as Executive Director. She brings more than 35 years of research, education, and advocacy experience to her present work. Pamela works passionately for environmental and reproductive justice, health, and human rights. In addition to serving as Executive Director for ACAT, Pamela was elected in 2016 as Co-Chair of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), a network of over 600 environmental health and justice organizations working in more than 124 countries. She serves as a Principal Investigator for community-based participatory research projects funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Pamela received a Meritorious Service Award from the University of Alaska and Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Olaus Murie Award in recognition of her “long-term outstanding professional contributions to the conservation movement in Alaska.” She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Wittenberg University and a master’s degree in environmental science from Miami University. Prior to her work in Alaska, she served as Ocean Issues Technical Coordinator for the Washington Department of Ecology and Director of a marine science education center at Nisqually Reach in southern Puget Sound. She received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in Washington State. She came to Alaska in 1989 following the Exxon Valdez oil spill to serve as a research biologist for Greenpeace.

Contact Information:

Viola Pangunnaaq Waghiyi

Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT)

Viola (Vi) Pangunnaaq Waghiyi is a Sivuqaq Yupik, Native Village of Savoonga Tribal Citizen, mother, and grandmother. Since 2002, she has worked with Alaska Community Action on Toxics and serves as Environmental Health and Justice Program Director. She was appointed by President Biden to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) in April 2021. She is a nationally recognized environmental justice leader and is frequently invited to speak locally, nationally, and internationally. Vi serves as a leader of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus that advises the United Nation’s international delegates for treaties concerning persistent organic pollutants. She served as a member of the Environmental Health Sciences Council that advises the NIEHS. Vi received an Environmental Achievement Award from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in “Recognition of Valuable Contributions to Environmental Excellence in Alaska.” She received a certificate of appreciation from the leaders of her home village, Savoonga, “for the dedication and devoted service as an Ambassador of St. Lawrence Island for protecting our health and human rights.” She coordinates environmental health research projects in the Norton Sound region of Alaska and supervises the work of community researchers on Sivuqaq.

Contact Information:

Pamela Miller and Viola Pangunnaaq Waghiyi, Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT)

This presentation will describe how community and university research partners have worked to build long-standing relationships and trust in establishing successful collaborations in community-engaged research, training and educational programs, public health interventions, and policy initiatives toward achieving environmental health and justice for the Yupik people of Sivuqaq (St. Lawrence Island). The collaborating partners include the Native Villages of Gambell and Savoonga, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, and several universities. Critical to the long-term success of this project, our research integrates members of the Sivuqaq communities into all aspects of the study design and implementation. We are guided by the Sivuqaq Working Group of elders, youth, and tribal leaders that advises and oversees all stages of the research. We train resident Yupik community members in environmental health research methods, incorporate traditional knowledge into the research design, and conduct educational and outreach activities to protect environmental health. These partnerships work effectively to overcome environmental injustices, environmental racism, and multigenerational harm caused by the military and corporate polluters, as well as the insufficient oversight of regulatory and public health agencies. We will discuss challenges and successes in addressing the underlying environmental racism that has led to health disparities experienced by the Yupik people of Sivuqaq.

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