Friday, March 31, 2017

Diabetes Turned Global

Some of Smith-Morris' research details the concept of changing Indians' perceptions of disease. To them, diabetes is inherently "self-created." This makes me skeptical of the success of this resolution, as our past readings have detailed the dedication Indian people have to their ways and culture. However, I think that this dilemma can also be applied to our global perception of "disease" in general. Human beings have the inherent viewpoint that disease happens by chance and that, as we age, it becomes inevitable. We are constantly told what we should eat and what we shouldn't eat and what will lengthen our lives and what will shorten them. I find it interesting that these claims never provide information pertaining to exactly how "long" or "short." Similar to the Indians at the Gila river, our perceptions of disease are intertwined with our ideologies.

Additionally, I think that our society stresses the concepts of treating and curing much more than the concepts prevention and self-care.  Most people become sick because they either don't know the right measures to avoid a disease, or lack the effort to try. Based on precautionary measures I have seen at W&L, I think that we are on the right track, at least here, with informative pamphlets and e-mails on how to prevent illnesses such as the Nora virus or the stomach flu. I am not quite sure, however, of how to tackle the overlying social concept of disease. Perhaps the answer lies in a combination of tackled factors, such as the three Smith-Morris defines, and steps.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Public Health in Indian Country

I found Carolyn Smith-Morris' study of the three domains of factors affecting diabetes among the Pima Indians, as well as her recommendations for how to build and implement treatment and prevention programs, to be very smart and intuitive. Separating the factors into political-economic, genetic, and cultural domains allows us to evaluate the "big-picture" problem so that a proposed recommendation can be formed with a holistic treatment in mind. Like many issues facing Indians today, diabetes can be partially attributed to the influence of white people. However, even if we bear a degree of responsibility, we must be careful not to fall into the morally flawed trap of white savior complex.

In class today, we discussed the many political, socio-economic, genetic, cultural, and institutional factors that ultimately compound to maintain and proliferate the Pima diabetes epidemic. Left unaddressed, the public health problem will continue. Additionally, in a public health initiative, if the initiative does not address all of the factors that are contributing to Pima diabetes, then failure will be written directly into the plan. This same logic runs true for initiatives addressing a myriad of problems on the reservation. An outside agent cannot ride in as a white savior on a white horse and hand the Pima Indians a plan. The plan must be community-based and harness high participation from the beginning. It must be culturally specific and easily sustainable. How can anything make a change in a community--especially in such an ancient cultural community like a Native Nation--if the community is not fully invested in the change nor participating in the implementation and sustainability of said change? Who understands a community and its values better than a community member? It is no wonder that public health initiatives implemented by federal action in Indian Country have failed in the past.        


Here is the link to the presentation schedule:

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Resource Curse

Professor Guse said something very interesting to me in Friday's class - that "some of the poorest areas in the country are always surrounding extraction industries." It is troubling to imagine that profitable and booming industries, such as mining, can result in such economic struggle and resource scarcity.

After reading further into this, I found that there is a theory for the effects of extraction industries on local economies. The resource curse hypothesizes the trends in development of an area that has chosen to single in on a particular industry and to neglect other major industries that contribute to its economy. There are numerous case studies, and much debate, surrounding this theory as many people hold conflicting views of its validity, however, I find this theory to be significantly relatable to our discussion and readings on the Rosamont mine.

Much of the resource curse is based on the example of the Dutch disease, a situation relating to the Netherlands further entwining itself with the natural gas industry. Similar to the Rosamont mine dispute, this "disease" originated from the finding of ample natural resource reserves and resulted in a shift of focus to target a popular industry. Consequently, local economies suffered.

Although criticisms of the theory exist that claim that there are other more heavily weighted reasons for damages to local economies surrounding extraction industries, I have to disagree due to the historical trend of power-hungry competitors targeting natural resource industries. The Tohono O'odham people have long been caught in the middle of the greed and natural resource depletion that whirlwind around their reservation. I am hopeful that more people will look into the negative affects of the resource curse and further analyze its results, however, I worry that Native Americans have been the victims of its effects for far too long to remove themselves entirely.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

To Preserve and Protect

The mission statement of the archaeology department of the Tohono O'odham nation is remarkably similar to that of the Nation Park System: preserve and protect. In a way, this makes perfect sense. Unlike many Archaeology organizations, the TON archaeology department is not focused on unearthing archaeology sites for analysis. The oral tradition of the Tohono O'odham already connects them with their past. Instead the Tohono O'odham archaeology department focuses on primarily on defended the many cultural and spiritual sites that exist from the development interests of the area, preserve and protect.

It is clear from Peter Steere's speech, delivered to us at the Tohono O'odham museum, that there are countless archaeological sites. The land is dotted with them, and preserving and protecting them is a daunting task for anyone. The TON largely tries to achieve their goals by working closely with different development groups and the border patrol so that they can recognize and avoid harming cultural sites. Steere even delivers month speeches to new border patrol officers regarding preserving and protecting archaeological sites.

I found it particularly interesting that Steere mention that the term "Hohokam", when referring to the O'odham's ancestors, is culturally insensitive. He said that the term "Hohokam" infers that they are dead and long gone when, infact, the Hohokam became the O'odham. The belief that this term is culturally insensitive must be shared only among the most traditional of the O'odham like Joe Joaquin, one of Steere's close associates. Many O'odham used the term "Hohokam" freely, and even the employees at Casa Grande used the term.

Who's land is it really? Rosemont copper and the Tohono O'odham

The staff writer for the is right. It isn't surprising that Rosemont copper and the Tohono O'odham Nation hold "diametrically opposite views" regarding the continued progress of the approval of the Rosemont copper mine. What is surprising, however, is the approval by the national forest service of the new mine, implying that the national forest service holds a "diametrically opposite view" to the Tohono O'odham nation as well. This claim is further supported by the fact that the National Forest Service neglected to share their report with the Tohono O'odham nation. For me, there is suspicion of foul play here. A government organization issues a report in favor a large scale mining operation and doesn't send this report to those most directly, negatively affected. Money has power and one side has a lot of it while the Tohono O'odham do not.

An estimated 85 cultural sites will be destroyed by the mining operation, should it gain full approval, and an estimated 6,177 acres of tribal resource collection areas will be impacted. Even the most efficient and environmentally conscious of mines tend to contaminate the surrounding areas with huge quantities of ore, which should not be there. To make matters worst the Rosemont mine will located near an aquifer, which it will contaminate, and it will permanently change sacred mountains for the Tohono O'odham (the Ce'wi Duag). It is obvious that, in itself, the project poses a serious environmental risk to the Tohono O'odham and other residents of the area. But, perhaps more importantly, the precedent that a project of this scale could be tremendous.

The Texas Band of the Kickapoo and Human Rights Violations

            The part of Megan Austin’s article “A Culture Divided by the United States-Mexico Border: The Tohono O’odham Claim for Border Crossing Rights” about the relationship between the United States and the Texas Band of the Kickapoo emphasizes the societal otherization and subhuman status of American Indians and the concept of human rights in the context of that otherized, subhuman status.  Austin describes the situation of the negotiation of rights and recognition between the Texas Band of the Kickapoo and the United States government.  She identifies the pressures put on them by water shortages, water rights, and conflicts related to water and, at the height of those pressures, their quality of life as a result of those conditions as of the early-mid 1980s when they were forced to live under a bridge sharing a single water fountain.  Once conditions became this severe for this group of people, Congress chose to intervene by passing the Texas Band of Kickapoo Act in 1983 in an attempt to provide explicit recognition and ease the strain put upon them.  The effectiveness of this act may be called into question as it proved to be impractical for the Kickapoo and to do little to improve their quality of life in the following years.  However, even more upsetting than the lack of effectiveness, is the threshold of condition necessary to elicit a governmental response from the United States.  When individuals are repeatedly denied access to something necessary for life to the point that they can no longer sustain a certain quality of life, the enforcing action or lack of action that leads to that state should be classified as a human rights violation.  However, as there is some subjectivity in the concept of quality of life, it has potential to reveal racist ideology through the societal otherization and subhuman status of groups of people.

            In her article, Austin reaches the conclusion that the current state of the United States-Mexico border in relation to the Tohono O’odham is fundamentally a human rights violation.  However, as exemplified by the responses and lack of responses by the United States government in regard to the effects of the border on the O’odham people and the O’odham nation, the current situation is not viewed as being a human rights violation by the United States government.  In the eyes of the U.S. government, the Kickapoo experience represents human rights violations and thus constituted intervention and significant policy change.  This situation begs the question of what quality of life the government is obligated to support and facilitate, therefore beginning to provide some understanding of what qualifies as a human rights violation universally.  It might be a little extreme to call this situation an example of blatant discrimination and oppression based on race and ethnicity, but there does seem to exist in governmental action regarding human rights some degree of difference in the definition of human rights and the quality of life attempting to provide and uphold that falls along racial or ethnic line, reflecting discriminatory ideology that leaves certain groups of people denied of their own personhood.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mining and the Environment

After reading about the Rosemont Mine and the lack of clarity in legislation aimed towards its creation, I am left with many critical concerns for the well-being of both tribal members and surrounding ecosystems. First, I am not surprised by the blatant lack of inclusion of tribal members in the legislation process, not to mention the exclusion of EPA itself. As an expert on environmental qualities, EPA should be expected to be included in all opinions surrounding the establishment of a mine. Secondly, these articles only further show the trend of deception when it comes to taking into account the opinions and research of tribal members. It struck me to read that the final EIS only referred to the desecration of sacred sites as "notable," when it is clear that the entire culture and environment will be negatively impacted. It seems ironic to me that people not intimate with the landscape, like the tribal members are, are the ones responsible for determining who is part of the decision-making process.

Additionally, these articles have affected my growing concern for endangered species. A study was done on the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska, a watershed that supports 25 federally recognized tribal governments and subsistence fisheries, to further identify the impacts of large-scale mining projects. The case detailed how Alaska's native tribes have maintained a salmon-based culture and way of life for over 4,000 years. With the arrival of mining activities, it was revealed, according to the assessment, that off-channel habitats for salmon and other fishes would be reduced due to the loss of significant amounts of wetlands. This is only one example of the potential, and existent, effects of mining on surrounding ecosystems, which in turn, deeply affect native tribes/the people surrounding them.

Another Environmental Failure from an Environmentally Focused Agency

After reading the Law Review article, I found the various federal government agencies' mismanagement of land currently or previously subjected to hardrock mining to be absolutely shocking. It appears that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has severely fallen down on the job. The BLM is responsible for managing approximately 260 million acres of public land in the West, and about 90 percent of that land is open to hardrock mining (811). The Inspector General of the Interior had to essentially rebuke the BLM multiple times for failing to conduct an inventory of hardrock mining sites on public lands or establish a mechanism to establish risk-based priorities for the reclamation of these lands (812). Without an inventory report it is almost impossible for other organizations to develop policies and priorities for reducing potential environmental harm. It is necessary to cultivate a comprehensive hardrock mining site inventory report for anyone to address the issues associated with mining sites.

The EPA estimated that about 10 percent of sites actively mined on public and private lands would present significant health hazards (815). Hardrock mining releases larger amounts of toxic substances into the environment than any other industry, and even though the mining companies have taken pains to improve their policies and processes, the mining action still poses strong environmental risks (821). When mines are inactive on public lands, it is difficult to enforce the liability for environmental cleanup and to come up with federal funds. Oftentimes the mining companies have lost their permits and dissolved, so where does the money for cleanup come from if the federal government does not have sufficient funds available? Arizona has an estimated 80,000 inactive or abandoned mines within state boundaries that cover more than 130,000 acres and pollute 200 miles of state waters (809). This is especially upsetting when you consider the struggles of the Tohono O'odham people who are culturally and environmentally impacted by both active and inactive mining activities. The tribe often does not have the funds or political power to salvage their lands from the mining sites. There must be a solution to their mining-related problems, but I cannot think of a very feasible one.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Less-Publicized Native American Controversy

Everyone has heard about the pipeline protests at Standing Rock that have been going on for months, but the seven-year controversy regarding the Rosemont Copper Mine in southern Arizona has failed to receive strong national attention. In this circumstance, the United States' inefficient legal processes, bureaucracies, and contesting federal agencies have worked in the favor of the Tohono O'odham--well, at least have worked in their favor to delay the various permit approvals for the mining project. There is an incredible amount of resistance to the Rosemont Mine.

Mining operations in the past (both in Arizona and nationally) do not have a spotless track record for avoiding negative environmental impact. The Santa Rita Mountains are ecologically crucial. The proposed mining site will also impact around 100 sacred or burial sites, and this is a large cultural blow to the Tohono O'odham. 6,177 acres of tribal resource collection areas will be impacted. The Rosemont Copper Mine is an unethical project.

I am outraged, but frankly not surprised, that the Rosemont Copper Mining project has not been completely denied. Is the amount of jobs that the mining production could generate worth it when you consider the number of negative environmental and cultural ramifications? Why have the Forest Service and Rosemont Copper not acted as transparently as possible? I would think that a lack or delay in transparency would be detrimental to the permit process. This is certainly a frustrating situation to learn about.  

Angelo Joaquin and a weird desert

The Desert Rain Cafe was warm and bordered a main thoroughfare through Sells, the largest population center in the Tohono O'odham nation. Angelo Joaquin was eating lunch with us here and discussing native american education and food culture. In between bites, he stated, "the desert is weird anyways, people don't want to know about it." I looked up from my meal and began to think.

I thought about assimilation programs enacted by the U.S. on the many native tribes, forcing young native americans into boarding schools away from their lands. I thought of the high prevalence of diabetes amongst the Tohono O'odham people. I thought young Tohono O'odham tribe members more focused on avoiding darker skin from prolonged exposure to the sun than on understanding their tribal heritage. Angelo Joaquin said this, somewhat sarcastically, referring to the desire among many tribe members to leave the desert and their culture. I understand the desire. Objectively, there is lower poverty, better infrastructure, and even more wealth in places off the reservation, away from the weird desert. But the Tohono O'odham are a desert people. They are hyper adapted to their ancestral environment, even to the point where their health fails upon adapting non-traditional diets. Individuals like Angelo Joaquin or Joe Joaquin understand this. They fully grasp the need for heritage and O'odham culture among the people. The desert is their home. It is the only home they have ever known. It is the home their cultural constellation, biological makeup, and outlook have been adapted for.

The people of Tohono O'odham nation are perfectly capable of operating within a western world. But they were born as something special, a people capable of thriving in an environment which few other people are capable of. The tribe members understand the importance of their culture and are working to preserve their way of life. For Angelo Joaquin this preservation is centered on food and art. It is people like him who will continue to keep people caring about the weird desert.

Who is Responsible for Water Settlements? An Ethical Approach

We have read many different sources and perspectives regarding water settlements and the implications of such settlements on Native populations, particularly regarding the experience of the Tohono O'odham people. I am currently taking my capstone course in poverty studies, which involves a study of ethical arguments and frameworks regarding poverty issues. Reflecting on our class readings and discussions, I have wondered about the ethics of water settlements and have found myself considering the ethical question of water settlements in the light of the social responsibility framework presented by Iris Marion Young. 
Iris Marion Young seeks to address the issue of how to allocate responsibility in various instances of structural social injustices. She argues that all agents and actors directly or indirectly involved in the process or structure connected to the social injustice bear responsibility because they are somehow participating in the system of injustice. She calls this political responsibility. Thus, any agent or actor who is directly or indirectly affected by, or is a party to, the water settlement, bears a degree of social responsibility for reducing the social injustice that some of the Indian populations experience. This does not mean that these agent or actors are inherently liable, but that they have a moral obligation to not exacerbate the system of injustice. 

Using Young's argument, it seems that there are many political and profit-driven actors/agents, who are sometimes parties to the water settlements, are likely acting unjustly and need to reform their actions regarding water settlements. We all have a moral obligation to reduce social injustice in the processes or systems to which we are connected.