Roger Fernandes is a Native American artist, storyteller and educator whose work focuses on the traditional arts, legends, and teachings of the Coast Salish tribes of the Puget Sound region of Western Washington. He is a member of the Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe and has a degree in Native American Studies from the Evergreen State College and a Masters Degree in Whole Systems Design from Antioch University. He also studied graphic design at the University of Washington and has focused on learning, creating and teaching Coast Salish art for the past 20 years.
Roger will be our featured writer for August 2015. His writing will feature art work from K’lallam artists interpreting environmental health challenges and the removal of the Lower Elwha Dam removal and some recipes on a traditional food of the season.
In an effort to support the primary purpose of the original Native Tradition, Environment and Community Health (TEACH) Project, to identify core concepts of Native Environmental Health Science as distinct from the mainstream western understanding of the discipline, a poster contest was launched to help share the core concepts of Native environmental health that have been identified: the circle of the community, the circle of wellness, the circle of inter-relationship, and barriers to renewal. Thematic art submissions were accepted that moved forward the mission of the Native TEACH Project to connect people through cultural and traditional expressions of Native Environmental Health Stewardship. Artwork visually emphasized and answered the question “Native Environmental Health is…” The posters are a part of a series of original artwork created by American Indian artists. Each image represents one artist’s vision of what Environmental Health looks like in a Native context, emphasizing the values of Community, Wellness, and Inter-Relationship.
The primary purpose of Fact Sheets is to provide information for Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers working with tribal communities, academic institutions, research organizations, and agencies. In the past, research in and on Indigenous communities was often exploitive, unethical and even abusive. Both Fact Sheets provide an overview of the ways in which we can collectively move forward towards ethical and equitable research partnerships between Western scientists and Indigenous communities.
As we move forward collectively to rebuild trust and develop culturally relevant partnerships to improve health outcomes, we must acknowledge that Indigenous communities and western science may have different ways of understanding the concept of “autonomy” and “traditional knowledge”. Only by openly discussing and being willing to revise what we mean by “autonomy” and “traditional knowledge” can we develop healthy, mutually beneficial partnerships based on trust.
Storytelling has long been a powerful way to pass on knowledge in American Indian communities. Through imaginative storytelling and art, “The Return” conveys environmental health from an American Indian perspective. Native languages, however, typically lack equivalent terms for “environmental health” and “public health.” An illustrated story was seen as the most effective way to engage Tribal communities, from teens to elders, in conversations about environmental health and the healing power of their own traditional knowledge. One of the goals of this Native Tradition, Environment and Community Health Project was to find out how American Indian ways of understanding the world and place in it differ from the Western concept of environmental health. Surveys, interviews, and talking circles identified three core themes of Native environmental health: community, wellness, and inter-relationship. “The Return” was created from the findings. It is a dreamlike account of a Native woman and her baby, and tells how these three concepts are passed to the next generation. The book also contains a discussion guide and suggestions for related art projects.
In partnership with Nicholas (“Nico”) Salazar, a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), we created a comic/coloring book version of The Return and distributed it to NWIC, IAIA, and at the 2013 AIHEC student conference in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The primary purpose of the original Native TEACH project was to identify the core concepts of NATIVE Environmental Health Science, as distinct from the mainstream western understanding. Between 2008 and 2014, the Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health (CEEH) Community Outreach and Ethics Core, together with tribal partners:
Supported the development and piloting of a class on community-based participatory research methods at Northwest Indian College (NWIC).
Created a written survey exploring perspectives on the relationship between health and the environment, important issues within native communities, and the prospect of collaboration with larger universities.
Collected surveys from 60 NWIC students on issues related to Native Environmental Health.
Adapted the written survey for use in two student-facilitated talking circles at NWIC.
Administered the written survey to over 100 tribal college students and staff at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) student conference in Missoula in March 2009, where 30 tribal colleges were represented.
Jointly with NWIC analyzed the qualitative data we had collected and identified several underlying themes and three core concepts of Native Environmental Health.
Used these themes and concepts to create a traditional story called “The Return”, as a way to report our findings back to the Native communities.
Supported two NWIC student interns who created a short photo-montage film based on the story.
Hosted a series of informal discussions with elders and the NWIC community, culminating in a presentation of “The Return” to a gathering of over 100 elders.
Presented our findings at two national and one international Native health research conferences.
Shared the photo-montage film of “The Return” at the AIHEC Student Conference in 2011 as way to bring the project full circle.
The Native Tradition, Environment And Community Health (TEACH) Project began in 2008 with a collaborative grant supplement funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The grant funds were shared between the University of Washington Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health (CEEH) and the Northwest Indian College, partners on the project. After 2008, the work was supported by the CEEH Community Outreach and Ethics Core (COEC) and the Tribal partnerships the project helped foster.
In 2013-14, a new NIEHS collaborative grant supplement was awarded to CEEH, in partnership with the University of Arizona Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center. This Supplement grant, American Indian Environmental Health Stories: An EHS Core Center Multi-site Pilot Project, supported conversations in six tribal communities in Washington State to collect American Indian environmental health stories. The Native TEACH blogposts tell the story of the tribal conversations.
Upcoming blogposts will tell about other results of the Native TEACH project. If you can’t wait, you can find them on the Native TEACH page of the CEEH website.
For the past four years, a fishing practice has been reclaimed in Muckleshoot territory. This month will focus on a river, a community of fishermen, the relentless trials of saving our salmon, and inspiring future generations to carry the torch of ecological restoration. This month also features four authors from both the Muckleshoot Tribe and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. Join Romajean Thomas, Valerie Segrest, Louie Ungaro and Emmett O’Connell (NWIFC) as we tell the story of the Muckleshoot Springer Drive. On June 1st and 2nd, 2015- hundreds of Muckleshoot community members gathered on the banks of the White River, as their ancestors did generations before. They gathered to feed a hunger, we call it “fish hungry” and it is representative of many levels of hunger. Stay tuned this month to find out more about the historical context of this important community gathering. We will share testimony, digital story, environmental concerns and a few delicious recipes.
It is important to remember that our traditional practices have significant healing potential. Reviving traditional food ceremonies as well as our language will help us to revive our traditional food culture and promote the transmission of our cultural ways. This is important because it reminds us of who we are and where we come from, uniting us with the land and one another. Our Elders want to be clear that the culture is our way of healing and that through strong prayer, good intention and honoring the beauty and goodness of the land, we can grow a healthier future for those who are yet to come.
The Spokane reservation is located in Wellpinit, WA, just 50 miles northwest of Spokane. The Spokane, also known as “Children of the Sun” once gathered, hunted and lived on over three million acres including Eastern WA, Idaho, Montana. In 1881 they were forced onto the 159,000-acre reservation.