Recent News

 Navajo Cancer Symposium: A Student Perspective

Jackie B. NN Symposium
Student Intern Jackie Brown


My experience at the Navajo Cancer Symposium was positive. I learned that there could be a lot of disconnect between western medicine and the views of American Indians and how to treat illness, especially cancer. Spirituality was mentioned frequently throughout the Navajo Cancer Symposium. It was nice to be able to hear the commonalities of paying homage to ancestors in the Navajo culture and being able to compare them to my own (African American). This symposium was beneficial to those that have recently lost a loved one or is acting as a caregiver to a loved one with cancer. The panel speakers were able to speak on their experiences of what it was like having to tell an elder (often times mom or dad) that they had cancer, sometimes not telling elders that they were taking chemotherapy treatments, and being provided hospice care that catered to cultural views (often times not).

Through the Navajo Cancer Symposium I learned that there is not a lot of support for those that may live in rural areas of the Navajo Reservation. Cancer can be a financial burden to anyone that may be experiencing it, especially to those where resources are sparse and cultural views can sometimes prevent people from receiving treatment.  I also learned that the jurisdiction of the State and Navajo Nation can become blurred, people needing treatment can fall in between Arizona and Navajo lines, making it unclear as to which party is responsible for treatment resources. I felt that some of the doctors that spoke at the symposium presented heavily on medications and did not speak on their experiences on working with American Indian people and steps they have taken to be more accommodating to cultural views. I was able to learn about the physiological effects of medications like Morphine and what to do to help ease the discomfort sometimes associated with taking it.

Attending this symposium was validation for me to continue with my goals of becoming a public health worker. I learned that it is important to know the population that I may be working with in the future and to also get to know the politics behind health and health decisions made. This symposium has sparked my interest in health policy and what I can do to help people get the resources that they need, in order to be able to make important decisions with confidence. 


New Investigator Projects

Community Involvement with Contamination of Navajo Lands

Tommy Rock

July 22, 2015

My name is Tommy Rock; I am a member of the Navajo Nation from Monument Valley, Utah.  Navajo use the maternal clan system, meaning that a child belongs to the mother’s clan. Therefore, my clans are the Salt clan, born for the Many Goats clan. My maternal grandfather’s clan is the Bitter Water clan.  My paternal grandfather’s clan is the Reed People clan.  Currently, I am the first one from my family to purse a post baccalaureate degree. 

The Navajo Nation has 523 abandoned uranium mines (US EPA Five Year Plan) dating back to World War II.  Some of these mines are in Monument Valley.  I grew up in an area that was heavily mined, which has given me a very personal interest in these issues.  Many of my relatives were involved in uranium mining in the past and died of cancer associated with past uranium mining. 


Health Concerns related to arsenic and uranium exposure

My career goal is to achieve a Philosophy of Doctorate (PhD) in Earth Science and Environmental Sustainability and develop my own program of research that focuses on Environmental Health in Indigenous communities. My particular interest is in pursuing a multidisciplinary approach to solving complicated issues such as sustainability in the Southwest from a Native American perspective. 

There are many environmental factors that influence public health in Indigenous Communities.  One such environmental factor are abandon uranium mines throughout Navajo Nation which still affects the people and the land.  I hope to be able to integrate the issue of health, environment, and culture especially uranium mining into more informed decision making on tribal lands. 

The purpose of my project with Center for American Indian Resilience (CAIR) is to start a dialogue about traditional Indigenous food contamination and policy development using Navajo Fundamental Law.  I collaborated with the Forgotten People to accomplish this project.  The Forgotten People are a grassroots organization that focus on social and environmental justice on the western portion of the Navajo Nation. 

The Forgotten People received approval from the trading post owner to use one of their rooms behind the deli and laundromat as a meeting space.

Community meeting in Cameron

Allfour meetings took place there.  We distributed flyers to notify the community of our meetings and even had one community member going door to door.  Lunch and snacks were provided by myself, Tommy Rock.

Our meetings consist of the community members of Cameron, Arizona.  Our first meeting was in December, community members were not present possibly due to the Christmas shopping season and the Western Agency meeting in Flagstaff.  The next three meetings went better with improved attendance and participation from the community members.  They had a great discussion in each of the last three meetings. 

Our last meeting took place with a tour at Dr. Jani Ingram’s lab at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

Tommy demonstrating sample processing in the lab to community members

The community members and I attended three presentations from the student researchers in Dr. Ingram's lab.  Dr. Ingram did a presentation for the community members too. The presentations were held at the Native American Cultural Center.

Northern Arizona University-Native American Cultural Center

Resilience & Culture Through Sport

Alisse Ali-Joseph

June 10, 2015

Halito, my name is Alisse Ali-Joseph and I am a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.  I joined the Applied Indigenous Studies Department at Northern Arizona University in 2013 and specialize in the importance of sports and physical activity as a vehicle for empowerment, cultural identity, health, resilience and educational attainment for American Indian people. I also focus on American Indian health and wellness and American Indian education. 

I grew up playing multiple sports and was fortunate enough to earn a college degree while playing collegiate tennis.  Therefore, sport not only provided me with the ability to remain physically active and healthy, but also encouraged me to continue my education. I believe that sport is a tool to empower not only individuals, but also entire communities.  For American Indian people, sports are vibrant and inclusive social activities with cultural meanings that strengthen Indigenous communities.  The lessons that athletics can teach: resilience, preparation, competitiveness, overcoming obstacles, persistence, mental and physical health, problem solving, and setting life goals—are particularly apt for American Indian youth today.


Karmen breaks free from the pack!

The act of playing sports fosters:  self-discipline, self-efficacy, teamwork, confidence, work ethic, leadership, and resiliency within the participants. For example, running has long been a key spiritual element of American Indian culture—one through which individuals can demonstrate strength and resilience, create a space for their own agency, growth and self-awareness. Through resilience, one may make a difference for future generations.

 I want to help youth see the benefits of sport, therefore, a goal of mine has been to host a youth sport day at Northern Arizona University. I was fortunate enough to partner with the Native American Community Action (NACA) Pathways Program, a substance abuse prevention program tailored for at-risk Native American youth in the Flagstaff, Arizona community. NACA’s Pathway Program provides information and education on developing and maintaining healthy lifestyles to enrolled youth and their families.  On April 25th we hosted Resilience & Culture through Sport day in conjunction with the Northern Arizona Spring Football game on the NAU campus.

 Resilience and Culture through Sport was a day-long program to promote health and culture, and focused on how sport fosters resilience. The purpose was to provide American Indian youth the opportunity to participate in sport as a cultural strength, as well as engage with Native American collegiate athletes, coaches and students.  We had 30 youth from fourth grade to high school participate.  A highlight from Resilience and Culture through Sport, was a talk by NAU football head coach Jerome Souers.  Coach Souers is the only Native American Division I football coach in the NCAA.  Additional highlights include participating in a tennis clinic hosted by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), running with Hopi High School cross country coach and former NAU All-American Juwan Nuvayokva, watching the Spring Football game, and meeting the NAU men’s basketball team.

Coach Souers
Coach Souers is a member of the Lakota Nation and Cheyenne River Tribe

Since sport has long provided a means for people to exercise sovereignty, identity and balance, both individually and collectively, this program served as a platform upon which participants exercise resilience. Our hope is to instill the passion for sport by introducing American Indian youth to the power of movement. By exposing youth to a college campus, introducing them to Native American role models and allowing a safe space to exert energy, our goal is to ignite a spark that will guide American Indian youth to set goals and reach their dreams. We believe that sport has the potential to raise a generation of leaders.



Hopi Disability Conference 

Disability Conference Group Page
L-R Madeline, Aaron, Kellen, Desiree, Kwaayesnom, Shawn, Bucky and Darold.
Darold Joseph


My name is Darold H. Joseph I am Coyote Clan from the Hopi village of Moenkopi and I am a doctoral candidate in the Disability and Psychoeducational Studies department at the University of Arizona. I currently serve as Research Assistant with the Center for American Indian Resilience and a Lecturer, with the Applied Indigenous Studies Department both at Northern Arizona University.  My experience includes serving persons with developmental disabilities in urban areas, as a special education teacher, and as a special education administrator in a rural junior high and high school serving American Indian students.

Desiree Shawn
L-R Desiree Cody and Shawn Namoki editing Shawn’s story.

Through these experiences I learned about the various barriers and challenges individuals with disabilities and their families face when trying to improve their quality of lives. Some of these challenges include, combating the negative stereotypes and generalizations our society constructs about people with disabilities; coping with the process of acceptance, loss, denial, diagnoses; and parents learning how to cope and manage having a child with a disability.  I also saw individuals and their families struggling with policies and laws that were meant to be accommodating but instead contradicted individual rights to equity and fairness. Each of these issues effect the opportunity to attain higher standards of living including: independent living, higher education and employment. Within these experiences there are many unheard stories. 

Hongvi Preston
L-R Aaron Preston, Bucky Preston and Darold Joseph planning their story.

However challenging, I have also witnessed the ability of people with disabilities to practice resilience. In March 2015, I facilitated a digital story training workshop in collaboration with the Hopi Health and Human Services Department and the Office of Hopi Special Needs. The purpose of this workshop was to support individuals with disabilities create and tell their stories of resilience. The following are the personal stories of resilience of four amazing individuals with disabilities and their families who at times have struggled but found the resilience to continue on.  Our hope is that their stories will speak to a broad audience to educate our society about the assets these individuals possess that included the intersection of culture, community, education, disability, and identity. 

Kellen Erica
L-R Kellen Polingyumptwa and Erica Kalliestewa recording flute music for Kellen’s story.
Madeline Sahneyah sharing her daughter Ivy’s story of what it’s like to grow up deaf in a hearing world.

Click on the title to view the Digital Stories:

  1. My Invisible Life

         Kellen Polingyumptewa, Hopi Community Health Representative

  1. Hongvi’s Story  

         Aaron Preston, KUYI radio announcer and Bucky Preston, Father 

  1. Welcome to My World  

         Ivy Sahneyah, Student, Galladet University and Madeline Sahneyah, Mother

  1. “Hak Navasngwu, Kush Hintak Katsi” (Take Good Care of Yourself, You Don’t KnowWhat’s Going to Happen)

         Shawn Namoki Sr., Mentor, Hopi Substance Abuse Prevention Center Team 

*Darold and his panel have been asked to present at the American Indian Disabilities Summit in Phoenix, AZ March 2016

Digital stories were supported by the National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20MD006872. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health


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Navajo Nation Vice President encouraged by Navajo Medicaid Feasibility Report

Read the article and report here.

Has:san Preparatory Student News

April 7, 2014 Ha:san High: Preparing Native Students for College and Life
January 28, 2014 Ha:san Preparatory Students Focus on College-Bound Future