Detecting environmental contaminants within the Yurok Tribal Community

Detecting environmental contaminants within the Yurok Tribal Community

July 2024

Recent increases in adverse health conditions among Yurok Tribal members living on the Yurok reservation in northwestern California have intensified concern among tribal members that contaminants from nearby forestry and agriculture activities may be a causative factor.

Research collaborators from the Yurok Tribe Environmental Department and the University of California Davis launched a co-led project to better understand this exposure risk. In this study, the team uses silicone wristbands to collect data on personal chemical exposures of tribal members, in order to identify potential differences in the level and type of contaminant exposures by gender, location of residence, season, and life activities. It is anticipated that data on contaminant exposure from the wristbands may correlate with contaminant detections in soil and water, thus creating a more complete dataset on environmental contaminants and pathways of exposure.

In this webinar, project co-leaders Joe Hostler and Beth Rose Middleton described how this project was initiated, the steps that were taken to develop shared leadership, and how the new understanding generated by the work will inform policies and thereby reduce detrimental health impacts, for the benefit of current and future generations of tribal members.

Key Takeaway Messages

  • When long-term, trusted relationships are established, they often lead to new HIBAR projects.
  • It is important for academics to recognize that non-profit and community partners may need additional resources.
  • Universities can support HIBAR projects by recognizing that they require more time and flexibility.
  • By emphasizing aligned values, organizations can create a supportive environment for HIBAR projects.
  • Respectful approaches to data sovereignty are really important in HIBAR projects.

Watch the full webinar recording and a short video with key takeaway messages below. 

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Webinar Speakers

Madjid Mohseni
University of British Columbia

Irving Leblanc
Community Circle

Beth Rose Middleton is a Professor of Native American Studies at UC Davis. Her research centers on Native environmental policy and Native activism for site protection using conservation tools. Her broader research interests include environmental and climate justice, fire policy, intergenerational trauma and healing, Native land stewardship, rural environmental justice, Indigenous analysis of climate change, Afro-indigeneity, and qualitative GIS.

Joe Hostler is an Environmental Scientist with the Yurok Tribe Environmental Department, located along the lower Klamath River in northwest California. He is a Traditional Cultural Practitioner and an Indigenous Scientist who utilizes Western Science with Traditional Ecological Knowledge to help protect the health of the people, plants, animals, and environment for the benefit of current and future generations. 

Watch the full webinar recording

Watch key excerpts from the webinar