Program Schedule

MPM-A.    Risk Assessment, Risk Management & Indigenous People: Legal, Scientific, Social & Cultural Contexts.
Organized by: Elaine Faustman
Authors: TBD TBD, World Health Organization, Health and Human Rights Team; Tano M, International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management; Donatuto J, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Water Resources Program; Resource Management and Environmental Studies Program, University of British Columbia; du Monceau M, Resource Management and Environmental Studies Program, University of British Columbia

Abstract: This proposed mini-symposia is organized by Dr. Elaine M. Faustman and co-organized by Dr. Terre Satterfield. Please note that proposed speakers have not yet been confirmed.

Risk assessment in the international context immediately requires thinking across nations as well as peoples. In particular, the World Health Organization has made strides in defining how we think about “peoples, ” especially indigenous peoples, and addressing their specific health needs. Manifestations of the importance of these considerations can been seen in challenges regarding indigenous resource management, incorporating cultural considerations into risk assessments for Native Americans, and addressing economic and political aspects of land use internationally.

Speakers will address health and environmental issues faced by indigenous peoples in the context of legal, scientific, social, and cultural aspect of both risk assessment and risk management.

Organizer: Elaine M. Faustman (Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA):
Dr. Elaine Faustman directs the University of Washington’s Institute for Risk Analysis and Risk Communication, which aims to enhance risk assessment methods and their scientific underpinnings. She also teaches graduate level risk assessment as well as risk management courses. In addition, Faustman co-directs the Pacific Northwest Center for Human Health and Ocean Studies. Center projects assess, among other topics, marine toxin exposure associated with shellfish consumption. In the Pacific Northwest, Native American tribes and Asian and Pacific Islander communities in particular consume higher levels of shellfish compared to the general population. Estimating risk of neurological impacts linked to marine toxin exposure among these populations requires incorporating consideration of cultural practices and consumption behavior, including shellfish preparation and cooking practices, into risk assessment methodology.

Co-Organizer: Terre Satterfield (Associate Professor, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, CA): Dr. Terre Satterfield’s studies at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia involve sustainable thinking and action with respect to disputes concerning the environment. Satterfield, an anthropologist by training, studies how risk relates to environmental justice and social movements. Satterfield also examines the relationship between values regarding the environment and risk management, as well as the limitations of conventional measures of environmental values. Currently, she is assessing community participation in the decision-making process concerning clean-up of Cold War bomb production facilities. In addition, she is studying how indigenous peoples of New Zealand introduce principles of their culture’s belief system into controversies centered on genetically modified organism management. She also participates in a disease and environmental risk perception study funded by WHO in Chile and China.

“WHO’s Mandate on Indigenous Peoples: Promoting Health and Human Rights”
World Health Organization representative TBD (from WHO’s Health and Human Rights Team):
The health status of the world’s 300 million indigenous peoples is lower, overall, than that of non-indigenous peoples. The World Health Organization (WHO) is committed to the protection of indigenous peoples’ health, which is interlinked with human rights. According to the WHO constitution, “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being….” World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions specify focus areas regarding WHO’s health protection and promotion efforts. This speaker will describe the efforts of WHO’s Health and Human Rights Team, which has established a workplan to address those focus areas laid out by the WHA. Key components of this workplan include raising awareness of health challenges, building capacity of public health professionals to address health needs, exposing health disparities, issuing guidelines for health policy makers, and convening partners and catalyzing action to foster the health of indigenous peoples.

“Indigenous Resource Management in the Legal and Scientific Contexts of Risk”
Merv Tano (President, International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management, Denver, CO):
Indigenous peoples face unique challenges regarding natural resource management and environmental protection. Merv Tano, president of the Denver, Colorado-based International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management (IIIRM), will discuss IIIRM’s approaches for addressing risk assessment and risk management in the context of indigenous peoples’ rights. IIIRM is a non-profit corporation that specializes in law and policy research. IIIRM aims to cultivate tools indigenous peoples can use to improve management of their resources and land, as well as the impacts of scientific and technological developments on their lives. IIIRM works to create culturally appropriate approaches to its efforts and to develop educational programs and workshops designed to address relevant and timely issues concerning indigenous peoples’ rights.

“Socio-Cultural Considerations in Human Health Risk Assessment for Native Americans”
Jamie Donatuto (Environmental Specialist, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, WA; doctoral student, University of British Columbia, CA):
Jamie Donatuto’s doctoral research is entitled “There is no word for ‘risk’ in the Lushootseed language – Redefining human health risk assessments for Native Americans by incorporating socio-cultural factors: a case study.” Her studies in the Resource Management and Environmental Studies Program at the University of British Columbia complement her work as an environmental specialist for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington State. Donatuto will talk about her work to develop a novel indigenous community health assessment framework that melds currently utilized human health risk assessment factors with indigenous knowledge as informed by Swinomish principles of community health. Community health includes biophysical health, as well as socio-cultural health, environmental and ecosystem health, and mental and spiritual health Her research is conducted in the context of a case study of the Swinomish, a tribe impacted by shellfish contamination. Shellfish are considered a culturally and socially ‘keystone’ species to the tribe.

“Indigenous sea claims and the protection of coastal resources in Chile”
Maria du Monceau (doctoral student, University of British Columbia, CA):
Maria du Monceau’s is a doctoral student in the Resource Management and Environmental Studies Program at the University of British Columbia. This presentation analyzes discourses of risk as they are linked to debates about territoriality and self-governance. The study is based on emerging politics of risk and identity as they have played out in the context of marine conversation planning and the Mapuche-Lafkenche people, an aboriginal coastal community located in southern Chile. The Lafkenche or “people of the coast” operate within a subsistence economy based on the harvest of shellfish and seaweed. However, these fishing communities are now affected by the discharge of pulp mill waste and by the expansion of fish farms in the coastal area, which restrict aboriginal use and access to marine resources. Neither siting nor environmental impacts assessments are done with open and informed consent of indigenous communities, hence, Mapuche organizations have raised their concerns not only as a threat to their ancestral rights but as a violation of their more fundamental human right to operate and subsist in a safe environment. Specifically, Lafkenche communities are concerned about the impacts associated with the installation of pulp mill pipelines to the sea as well as the long-term possibility of aquaculture companies infringing on essential human rights, including access to food sources and ceremonial sites. One of the strategic goals of these communities is to integrate the coastal zone into their territorial claims, including collective rights over natural resources. This has meant that Lafkenche people have been forced to enter the contentious domain of regulatory practices that, by and large, are governed via principles of risk assessment. Risk assessment is, however, politically and empirically indifferent to questions of the cultural significance of natural resources, in which identity politics and claims about ancestral territories are central.

[back to schedule]