261830 Water, A Resource for Health: Understanding Impacts of Water Contamination in a Native American Community

Monday, October 29, 2012

Alma Knows His Gun McCormick, AA , Messengers for Health, Crow Agency, MT
Beldine Pease, Crow Tribal member , Messengers for Health, Crow Agency, MT
Myra Lefthand, BA in Human Services, MSW, Certified Substance Abuse Counselor; Crow Tribal member , Department of Community Health Education, Crow/Northern Cheyenne Indian Health Service Hospital, Crow Agency, MT
Ada Bends, Crow Tribal member , Health Department, Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe, Crow Agency, MT
Margaret Eggers, MS, MA , Science Department, Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency, MT
Tamra Old Coyote, BS, Crow Tribal member , Crow Water Quality Project, Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency, MT
Timothy McCleary, MA, PhD , Crow Studies, Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency, MT
Anne Camper, MS, PhD , Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University Bozeman, Bozeman, MT
Introduction. To the Apsaalooke (Crow) people, water is sacred and it is life. Beyond meeting physical needs, water provides a form of spiritual cleansing and healing. Tribal members concerned about the health and cultural impacts of water pollution initiated collaboration with Little Big Horn College, the local Tribal College, and Montana State University Bozeman to determine contaminants and assess risks. Data from this community-based risk assessment show significant contamination of both rivers and home well water. We realized the impacts of contamination of domestic, cultural and recreational water sources were broader than quantitative methods could describe and added qualitative methods. Methods. Messengers for Health joined the partnership, bringing extensive experience in qualitative research. Four bilingual community research partners identified and interviewed 32 knowledgeable Tribal members, so they could share their concerns about how poor water quality has affected their lives, including cultural practices. Their input is essential in designing solutions to mitigate risks without having to give up more of our traditions. The Crow-speaking interviewers are analyzing the interviews, following the emic approach in anthropology, which fits our culture's holistic worldview. These results will be compared with an etic analysis being done by community and academic partners, utilizing ATLAS-ti. Results/Conclusion. Water contamination not only directly affects our community's health through consumption, but also has social, economic, political and cultural impacts which have health consequences. Contamination threatens to separate us from our Mother Earth as it disrupts traditional practices. Inexpensive, hi-tech home water filters are being piloted as one potential solution.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Environmental health sciences
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain the limitations of usual risk assessment methods in capturing the broader impacts of surface and groundwater contamination on the health of the Apsaalooke (Crow) people, due in part to how sacred the water is to us. Discuss lessons learned from comparing our consensus emic “analysis” of interviews by bilingual (English/Crow) speakers, with our etic analysis of the interviews by both community and academic partners, utilizing Atlas-ti. Describe how the etic approach to analyzing interviews was unfamiliar and confusing to Tribal members; “We don’t take things apart, we keep it all together. It’s all related, it’s more holistic.” Discuss the role of community-based participatory research in designing and implementing culturally appropriate risk mitigation strategies.

Keywords: Native and Indigenous Populations, Environmental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As Executive Director of Messengers for Health, and ITHS grant P.I., Alma McCormick is the lead community partner on this project. Born and raised on the Crow Reservation, she speaks Crow fluently, and has worked in Native American community health for 20 years. Alma is active in half a dozen different health organizations. She has co-authored six peer-reviewed publications on CBPR projects. Alma provides mentorship for community outreach activities of Billings Clinic Cancer Center.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.