A most promising Indigenous scientist

Indian Country Today

Laguna Pueblo citizen Serra Hoagland, Ph.D. talks with us about her work and her recent AISES award and our own Joaqlin Estus joins us with reactions from Alaskan tribes over two bills and a lawsuit involving a mining road. Plus Stewart Huntington updates us on the tragic events surrounding one South Dakota boarding school.

Each year at the annual convention of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, professionals are recognized for their outstanding work. On today's show we'll talk with Laguna Pueblo citizen Serra Hoagland. She's this year's recipient of AISES's Most Promising Engineer or Scientist Award. 

Plus Indian Country Today national correspondent Joaqlin Estus brings us tribe's reactions to Trump signing a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls bill, the Ambler Road project lawsuit, and much more.

And Stewart Huntington has more on the Native students who died at Rapid City South Dakota’s old Indian Boarding School and how they're being memorialized. 

Here's some quotes from today's show.

Serra Hoagland:

"I work at Salish Kootenai College, which is the only tribal college and university in the United States with a four year degree program in forestry, wildlife, and in fishery. So it's the place to recruit Native students in the natural resources. So I'm placed there as part of the agency to recruit our students. And I also conduct tribally relevant research. And then the sort of third duty that I have is conducting various inter-tribal partnerships and collaborations, and one of those being closely tied with AISES."

"I completed my dissertation and my Ph.D. in 2016. And since that time I've been actively publishing peer reviewed literature on topics related to forest management and wildlife management. Even topics related to things like traditional ecological knowledge. And I most recently secured a book contract as being one of the guests co-editors for Johns Hopkins University Press. And it will be the very first book on tribal wildlife management. So those were some of the things that they highlighted as sort of monumental in my early career, the publications and the future that we might be publishing on."

"Yeah, and that's actually a critical piece. So I do that one through the direct engagements that I do with various tribal nations. One that I'm really fortunate to continue working on is with the Mescalero Apache and South Central New Mexico. Working with some of their wildlife populations down there. So the direct tribal engagement is one way to do that. And also I'm invited to a fair amount of guest lectures at various universities and institutions on topics like wildlife management. And we kind of have to start at step one, which we all know as sort of our history and the things that, how we relate to wildlife and the things that we've learned from wildlife over multiple generations. And I bring that into the classroom and share that with predominantly non-Native students. And so that's helping us sort of bridge that gap in representing Indigenous knowledge. But we're also bringing in more Native scholars to the table. You know, I've been blessed to have several mentors of mine who are tribal wildlife managers and colleagues and mentors, but we're far and few in-between. And so part of the goal too, is bringing in more young Native scholars into the conversation and so that they can be leaders too."

"For us, everything that my mom has taught me is broad brush respect for every living thing. And I had that from the start. And so I carry that with me. I carry that on a pretty deep level to conserve what we have left as far as our relatives. And it's interesting thinking of it, you know, being Indigenous people's day yesterday that was the day I was supposed to hit the road from Montana to drive back down to New Mexico, to my reservation where I drew for a bull elk tag. Every year that's the thing that I look forward to the most is being able to go back home. And through hunting, I think I became a better biologist. Unfortunately this year with (COVID-19) our governor, which I think was the right decision, has made the decision to not allow any out of state Tribal members for any of the hunts. We're in a changing world right now, and I think we can look back to our traditions and how resilient we've been through so many different pandemics and so many different government relationships. And we can look back to our stories and our traditions to really ground us at this time."

Joaqlin Estus:

"Alaska is a place with not very many roads and there's one road for instance that goes north from Fairbanks up to the North slope. That's the Dalton highway. It was built for oil and gas to support oil and gas development. So now the state is planning to build a road extending from the Dalton highway 200 miles west to the Ambler Mining
District in Northwest Alaska. And this would open up hundreds of thousands of acres of land for mining. And there are rich reserves of gold, silver, copper, and led in the area. Federal agencies gave the project the go ahead in July. Now tribes in the area are suing to get it stopped. The thing is, they're worried about food security. It costs so much to ship anything out to this remote part of the state that the cost of food in the stores is really high. And you add to that the high cost of electricity and heat and people need food from the land. It's not only important to put food on the table, but for sharing with family and community events. So they're really worried that this road is going to bring a lot of people in they're going to see increased traffic, increased hunting on the fishing game and also social impacts. So the state says that the road will be closed to the public and will only be open for 12 years, but critics are really skeptical because there's sure to be public pressure to open the road to the public. And other critics say that the state should not be pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a road that benefits just one company right now. And this road would also cut through some wilderness areas."

"People are calling it a huge victory and something that's going to correct an injustice. And the thing is, is that homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native American and Alaska Native women and girls. But there's been no remedy on the horizon really for decades then came a horrific murder in North Dakota. Savanna Greywind, Sioux, of the Spirit Lake Nation. She was 22 years old. She was pregnant. She was murdered by her neighbor who cut her unborn baby out of her body and the baby survived. And it took a crime like that, that brutal of a crime to bring this to the public attention and really bring the public pressure for legislators to do something. So they passed 'Savannah's Act'. And then 'Invisible No More,' Two laws. and what these will do is provide a means for law enforcement. It basically is going to bring data into the picture. The Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle did a study and they showed that there were, I think it was 5,000 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and children that were not showing up on a federal database. And so without the data, law enforcement is under resourced for investigations and public awareness is not there. A lot of the media coverage points to the behavior of the victim and that sort of thing. So these new laws will require agencies to collect data. And then it also sets up a federal commission where people can talk about recommendations for solving this. Because it's kind of a complicated problem. I mean, there are a lot of contributing factors."

"The Institute of American Indian art museum of contemporary Native art in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Alaska Native heritage center in Anchorage were named American cultural treasures by the Ford Foundation. They're 2 of 20 organizations owned or serving people of color that Ford is recognizing. Ford did this because as we all know, with the pandemic, organizations that rely on revenue from ticket sales have been really hurt by the pandemic. Especially organizations for people of color who get less money in the first place and so have less reserves to get them through this. The Ford Foundation found they were looking for organizations that have a record of outstanding excellence and that have strong ties to communities of people of color. And the thing is, this is not just honorary. Ford Foundation put together $156 million dollars from 16 foundations and donors to give to these institutions. And so they're giving out grants of 1 to $6 million dollars to these 20 organizations. They're also going to provide technical assistance in management, finances, and that sort of thing."

"The contemporary Native art museum in Santa Fe is home to the largest collection of contemporary Native art in the world. They have 9,000 works of art that were created since 1962. The Alaska Native heritage center is known for its language and cultural preservation programs. If you ever come to Anchorage, I highly recommend it. And they have youth leading the tours of these facilities. So the heritage center teaches youth about their own heritage, their own culture. They gain a lot of skills and traditional crafts and that kind of thing, public speaking one of the people who was at the press conference about this, Aaron Leggett said he got his start as a curator at the Alaska Native heritage center. And now he's a senior curator for the Anchorage Museum here in Anchorage."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

Also on today's newscast.

Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today. Based in Anchorage, Alaska, she is a longtime journalist. Follow her on Twitter @estus_m or email her at jestus@indiancountrytoday.com. 

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