New Center Looks To Pinpoint Contamination On Native Lands

May 31, 2016

The Cheyenne River near Cherry Creek is being studied for arsenic contamination by researchers at SDSM&T and the USGS.
Credit SDSM&T / SDPB

The EPA and the National Institute of Health are funding a new project to examine potential impacts of pollution in Indian Country.

The Center for Indigenous Environmental Health Research is based at the University of Arizona.   

Researchers are focusing their work on environmental health problems in Indian Country

The five year, five million dollar project is rooted in the study of native land contamination. Dr. Jeff Burgess is the project’s director. He says researchers will work with native peoples to examine any contaminants found in their food, water, air, and houses.

Burgess says that it’s not just native lands that face pollution. He says that people living off reservations should be just as concerned.

“The contamination is not unique to tribal lands, the same contamination will occur off the reservation in a number of different locations and I think that what’s unique or special about tribes is they will often use the resources on their land to a much greater extent than let’s say people living in non-tribal lands would,” says Burgess.

He says Natives who use their lands for hunting and growing crops could potentially have a greater exposure to contaminants versus non-natives.

“It’s really important to involve the tribal members both on the reservation and students, tribal students that are in universities, in that process and to make sure that the research that is being done can directly inform any actions they want to take,” says Burgess.

Burgess says the Center for Indigenous Environmental Health Research includes the main grant, and pilot projects, that will reach out to other tribal areas across the U.S.  

Read the project’s abstract on the EPA’s website.