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

Health Concerns related to arsenic and uranium exposure

Hi, my name is Tommy Rock; I am a member of the Navajo Nation from Monument Valley, Utah. I am of the Salt Clan, born for the Many Goats clan, my maternal grandfather is Bitter Water Clan and my paternal grandfather is Reed People Clan. 

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

All four 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
Karmen breaks free from the pack!

Resilience & Culture Through Sports

Alisse Ali-Joseph 

June 10, 2015

Halito, my name is Alisse Ali-Joseph and I am a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. My project is Resilience and Culture through Sport and it 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.
Hongvi Preston
L-R Aaron Preston, Bucky Preston and Darold Joseph planning their story.

Hi, My name is Darold H. Joseph, I am Coyote Clan from the Hopi Village of Moenkopi. My project has given me the opportunity to have 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. 

Madeline Sahneyah sharing her daughter Ivy’s story of what it’s like to grow up deaf in a hearing world.

News Articles

Principal Investigator's Research Recognized

Tommy Rock's, PhD candidate, research relating to the exposure of Uranium Water has been recognized by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Previous CAIR Intern Honored at MLK Jr. Celebration

Now an Arizona State University (ASU) student, Amber Polyviyuma was previously honored at ASU's MLK Jr. Celebration.

Native Research Network Conference

CAIR attended and presented Research and CEOC projects at the Native Research Network Conference in June 2016. More information about the Native Research Network and conference can be found below.

Native Research Network Website
Summer 2016 Newsletter

Billy Mills Inspires Flagstaff Youth

Invited by Principal Investigator Alisse Ali-Joseph, Billy Mills visits with youth in the Flagstaff community to talk about following dreams and what it means to not give up.

High Country Running: Olympian Mills set to inspire Flagstaff
Billy Mills to Flagstaff youth: Don't give up your dreams

Navajo Nation Vice President encouraged by Navajo Medicaid Feasibility Report 

Read the article and report here.

Ha: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