Next Hopi Scientist


From Landmark Stories, University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Dr. Carrie Nuva Joseph grew up in Moenkopi on the Hopi Reservation, seven miles downstream from an inactive uranium mill site. The Hopi villagers living downstream the site use water from the Moenkopi wash for agriculture purposes.

As a young mother, she noticed cancer rates higher than average in the area. To better understand why this was happening, she went back to school to get her doctorate and learn how inactive uranium mill sites, specifically those located close to Native American communities, impact those who live there.

Her research helps assess the knowledge base of Hopi community members concerning the waste site, as well as answering questions about cell covers that are supposed to prevent contamination. It is important for her to bring back her research to her community. As a Hopi woman and an indigenous scientist, she feels very connected to the land and sees the importance of communicating science and informing her community about hazardous waste to protect human health.

There are more than five hundred abandoned uranium mines within the Four Corners Region (where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet). Many are located in tribal communities where human health effects due to environmental contamination are evident. Carrie wants to use environmental science to help prevent further contamination in the area and make sure that information is correctly conveyed to her community and others like it.

This short documentary will be released in 2020 and is made possible in partnership with the The Village of Moencopi (Lower) Administration Office, The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office , and the University of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Science and Tribal Extension Program.

Producer/Photographer/Editor: Sandra Westdahl Drone, Photographer: Cody Sheehy, Sound Recordist/Mix: Galen McCaw, Communications: Caroline Mosley


For more information about Carrie Nuva Joseph, please click here.


2 thoughts on “Next Hopi Scientist

  1. Environmental racism is one of the most egregious and pernicious forms of bigotry. Here in Dallas lead poisoning in the southern part of the city impacted large numbers of Black and Hispanic families who comprise the majority of the population. In Northeastern Oklahoma, which is home to several Native American communities, the Tar Creek Superfund site has poisoned groundwater for decades, again with lead. Lead poisoning is especially dangerous to children.

    I became more aware of industrial pollution and its effects on the environment when I began working for an engineering company nearly 20 years ago. We had a contract with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mining has proven one of the most serious of all environmental hazards and also one of the most difficult to rectify.

    That non-White communities have been subjected to residencies by hazardous industrial plants and/or groundwater contamination shouldn’t be surprising. Then again, many industrial companies haven’t had much concern for the waste they produce.

    Kudos to Dr. Nuva Joseph for working against this madness!

    1. Alejandro, always thankful for your comments. I once had the opportunity to visit Picher, Oklahoma (Tar Creek) now one of the largest Superfund sites in the U.S. Such a tragic story, both for Native and non-Native people in the area. I will never forget the sight of seeing red and orange colored metals seeping to the surface from underground springs and mine shafts. Thanks again for your comment.

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