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Alaska Native advocates are supporting legislation that would expand testing and regulations for trace amounts of PFAS chemicals in Alaska’s groundwater that’s been linked to cancer and other serious health conditions. State Sen. Jesse Kiehl (D-AK) has sponsored legislation that would police seven varieties of the so-called “forever chemicals” that don’t break down and often enter the environment from firefighting foams used at airports.
“These things are bad for people in extremely small amounts. We’re talking about parts per trillion in your drinking water.”
The Juneau Democrat’s bill comes in response to Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s move to water down Alaska’s regulation of PFAS which are a manufactured compound found in industrial and household items including non-stick cookware. Jackie Boyer, policy director of Native Peoples Action, an Indigenous rights group in Anchorage, told Alaska senators that American Indians and Alaska Native people are at a risk for contracting certain types of cancers.
“This impacts individuals, families, babies and children and animals and fish, and there may be more in the future. Additionally, the contamination may compound an individual already exposed by continuing to practice our ways of life by hunting and fishing contaminated sustenance.”
Alaska’s senators also heard from local officials in Yakutat, a predominantly Tlingit community of 600 people that has PFAS contamination in wells near the airport. The tiny community is facing a $6 million cost of extending water mains to supply households and businesses whose groundwater is contaminated by the “forever chemicals.”
Indigenous people in Maine are working on a plan to boost tourism for the state’s five Wabanaki Nations. As Lily Bohlke reports, they’re set to take part in a state tourism conference this week.
The Wabanaki Cultural Tourism Initiative has received both a federal grant from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a state grant from the Maine Office of Tourism.
Charlene Virgilio is with the Four Directions Development Corporation, the first Native Community Development Financial Institution in Northern New England. As a member of the Penobscot Nation, she says cultural preservation is central to the project. Its goal is to create unique experiences to share the ways that Wabanaki people have long been stewards of the land and water.
“Canoeing, kayaking along the ancestral rivers that we have. Traditional fishing methods, whatever – those kinds of things that will help preserve culture, but also help tourists experience that culture.”
Virgilio adds authenticity is a key component for many Wabanaki communities interested in boosting tourism. Matthew Lewis, also with Four Directions and a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, says in addition to preserving and sharing culture, this effort is a way to bring more revenue to Maine’s indigenous communities and boost the local economies. He says there are so many artisans in the community to engage with, for instance.
“Tourism can sometimes have a negative connotation with some communities, saying we don’t want folks just driving through, taking pictures, doing the sort of like Disneyland package – we want meaningful engagement with the community, and meaningful engagement with the culture.”
Lewis adds as they map out the robust four-season tourism industry they hope to achieve by 2030, they also have to consider what infrastructure is needed from hotels and restaurants to workforce development and hospitality training.
The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM announced this week a partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute.
The partnership is intended to increase youth programming. It will offer a summer internship for one IAIA student and five to eight mini-grants for Indigenous youth.
A livestream event is planned for May 12th and will feature guest speakers including Dr. Jane Goodall.
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