Enduring Legacies Native Case Studies

Theme

Indigenous Science


New!The Navajo Horse Policy Dilemma: Too Many Horses? T’ooahayoo Nihilii?

Author:Linda Moon Stumpff, PhD

Wild horses have long been a symbol of the West. For Dine people on the Navajo Reservation, horses are at the center of multiple relationships for healing, cultural meanings and practical use. Today, the lines between wild horses and feral horses are blurred in federal policy and in tribal policy as horse populations seem to be growing. The numbers for the Navajo Reservation are unusually high, and tribal leaders have tried several policies. Policy fragmentation, lack of credible numbers, and unknown genetic and physical impacts to herds from removing horses create significant challenges for tribal leaders. Recent attempts to create partnership hold promise, but the way forward remains unclear and new strategies will need to be forged.

New!Does Smudging Belong in the Workplace?

Author:Toby Sawyer

This short case describes a conflict among the staff at an urban Indian center about the use of smudging in the workplace. An employee used a smudging ritual to cleanse the office after a hostile client stormed into the center and threatened his ex-wife and the staff. He was subsequently arrested. The center staff is divided about the appropriateness of using smudging in the workplace. The director must make a decision about how to handle the situation.

New!Darkness to Dawn: Columbia River Native Tribes’ Science and Salmon Restoration Success

Author:Brian Footen

From the start of its 1243 mile journey in the Canadian Rockies all the way to the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River drains the heart, soul and bounty of the Pacific Northwest. In this water is a history of a river and people that goes back 15,000 years. The bountiful water has supplied the world with food and energy. The development of the river for hydro-power and irrigation has played a critical role in modern history. This development, however, has come at great cost to the original inhabitants of the area and the primary resource that they thrived on: the salmon. The Nez Perce, NiMiiPuu, lived in the Columbia River basin for thousands of years. This existence was altered by the arrival of European settlers, and in 1855, the Nez Perce signed a treaty that defined an area over which they had jurisdiction and rights to the resources, including salmon, vital to their culture and survival. Since then salmon populations have declined. Dams and the resulting habitat degradation have had negative impacts on salmon survival. Some populations have been listed as endangered, and policies regarding how these fish are treated have complicated the recovery process. Recent efforts by the Nez Perce tribe, however, have shown that in spite of a mechanized river and political resistance, the river still has enough bounty to bring back a salmon run that was nearly extinct.

New!Your Tribal Land is Not Secure: Traditional Knowledge and Science Face Wildfire in the Valley of the Wild Roses

Author:Linda Moon Stumpff, PhD

Through the discussion of two tribal college students, this case begins an exploration of vulnerability and resilience after repeated and devastating fires as a result of drought and climate change at Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. The Pueblo holds a rich store of traditional knowledge about the fire-prone ecosystems. This knowledge contributes to restoration efforts after a series of high-severity fires in the Jemez Mountains. Forested lands and wilderness shrines are lost, Santa Clara Creek and watershed suffer from erosion, and much of the Pueblo’s protected lands burned along with Pueblo archeological and cultural sites on public lands. Long ago, the Pueblo created a three zone management system that preserved the upper wild lands as a sacred source of water, protected the middle creek as an ancestral home, and created a homeland supported by sustainable agriculture in the Rio Grande Valley. Deep interviews and discussions with key tribal and western scientists provided sources for a case that explores how western science and Pueblo wisdom converge in interactions to restore around the Pueblo lands model.

Hantavirus and the Navajo Nation: A Double Jeopardy Disease

Author:Linda Moon Stumpff

This case discusses the outbreak of hantavirus in 1993, focusing on the impacts to the Navajo Nation in terms of the loss of life and health from the disease, followed by events that were sometimes linked to negative external and internal events. The investigation and media coverage following the disease itself created a double-jeopardy situation for the Navajo people who were already suffering from the impacts of the disease. The case unfolds around the differing, but sometimes parallel approaches of Western medicine and Navajo traditional medical knowledge in the areas of understanding, diagnosing, and caring for patients who came down with what came to be known as Sin Nombre Virus. This particular variety of the global disease hantavirus appeared in the United States in 1993. The case offers the opportunity to compare perceptions about the scientific investigations into the disease from the perspectives of Western science and from the unique perspectives of Navajo culture and healing methodologies.

Luna / Tsu-xiit the “Whale”: Governance Across (Political and Cultural) Borders

Author:Emma S. Norman, Ph.D., Northwest Indian College

This case examines the multiple discourses (identities) created around Luna, a lone juvenile orca (or killer whale, Orcinus orca) in the remote waters off of the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. This case illustrates the complexities associated with managing “resources” that transcend both political borders (in this case, the Canada-U.S. border) and cultural borders (Western - non-Western). The case compares the experiences of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, which recognizes Luna (or, in the perception and language of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Tsu-xiit) as its chief incarnate, with those of governmental employees (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, or DFO) who are charged with the task of protecting marine life and habitat. The case illustrates how a single living being can hold multiple meanings to multiple people. In so doing, the story of Luna brings to light two main points: Modern conceptions of nature are constructed socially, and governance of shared resources requires an acceptance of diverse worldviews – particularly in the case Native and Western belief systems.