Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm
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Room 102, Harvard Hall, 1465 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

The River is In Us: Achieving Environmental Reproductive Justice in a Mohawk Community

As a Native community downwind, downstream and down gradient from one federal and two New York State Superfund sites, Akwesasne Mohawks have had their share of concerns about the impacts of contamination on the health of their bodies, culture, and environment. Akwesasne formerly relied on fishing and farming for its livelihood until it was discovered in the 1970s and 1980s that neighboring industries had released fluoride into the air and PCBs into the river that bisects the community. This discovery led Akwesasne community members to embark on a decade-long community based participatory research project (CBPR) with a large university in an attempt to determine if it was safe for Mohawk mothers to breastfeed their babies, and if the overall health of the community had been impacted by exposure to contamination. Based on ethnographic and archival research, this presentation discusses the benefits and challenges of CBPR for effective research in Native American communities; the collateral impacts of environmental contamination on Indigenous health, culture and food systems; and the inspiring ways in which this community is developing programs to ensure their own resiliency, and that environmental reproductive justice is achieved.

Elizabeth Hoover is Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies, and teaches courses on environmental health and justice in Native communities, indigenous food movements, Native American museum curation, and community engaged research. Elizabeth received her BA from Williams College, a MA from Brown in Anthropology/Museum Studies, and PhD from Brown in Anthropology, with a focus on environmental and medical Anthropology as it applies to Native American communities responding to environmental contamination. Her book  “’The River is In Us;’ Fighting Toxins in a Mohawk Community,” (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) is an ethnographic exploration of Akwesasne Mohawks’ response to Superfund contamination and environmental health research. Her second book project “From ‘Garden Warriors’ to ‘Good Seeds;’ Indigenizing the Local Food Movement” explores Native American farming and gardening projects around the country: the successes and challenges faced by these organizations, the ways in which participants define and envision concepts like food sovereignty, and importance of heritage seeds. Elizabeth has published articles about food sovereignty, environmental reproductive justice in Native American communities, the cultural impact of fish advisories on Native communities, tribal citizen science, and health social movements

Co-Sponsored by Folklore and Mythology and Harvard University Native American Program

Contact Name: 

Ruth Goldstein

Research Areas: 

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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