11/10/2016 Peter Durantine

Speaker Discusses Native American Health and Environmental Issues

Exposed to perhaps an inordinate amount of environmental health hazards compared to other populations, Native Americans have worked to ensure they are involved in federal environmental policies to protect their health and cultures, said Darren Ranco, professor of anthropology and chair of Native American studies at the University of Maine. Ranco, a member of the Penobscot Indian Tribe, talked at the Nov. 10 Common Hour, a community discussion held every Thursday that classes are in session during the semester. Ranco, whose tribe is one of the five Wabanaki Nations in Maine, spoke on “Decolonizing Tribal Environmental Health: Making Environmental Science and Policy Work for Tribal Nations.” He first became interested in the subject as a boy, when the tribe, which fishes from the Penobscot River, was warned by the government against eating too many fish because of pollution. Ranco also cited environmental concerns such as the emerald ash borer, an invasive species that attacks ash trees, which is what the tribe traditionally uses to make intricate baskets. The tree also is a symbol of the Wabanaki Nations’ founding, Ranco said. “Our very foundation can be tied to this resource,” he said.  Ranco's talk kicked off a traveling exhibition that examines concepts of health and medicine among contemporary American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people that opened this week at the Franklin & Marshall College Library.

  • Professor of Anthropology Darren Ranco, chair of Native American studies at the University of Maine. Image Credit: Deb Grove
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