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Heard on Morning Line: Indigenous Women's Call to Action Environmental Reproductive Health & Justice

Aug 3, 2017

Vi Waghiyi, of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics and Andrea Carmen and Rochelle Diver of the International Indigenous Treaty Council.
Credit Koahnic Broadcast Corporation
The topic on Our Community today:Stories, Struggles & Songs: An Indigenous Women's Call to Action for Environmental Reproductive Health and Justice   The conversation featured Vi Waghiyi, of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics and Andrea Carmen & Rochelle Diver of the International Indian Treaty Council. Pollution doesn't just happen, and the effects can be devastating to Native communities, especially when toxic substances move up the food chain to humans and cause birth defects and disease such as cancer. To illuminate this, a term "Environmental Violence" was coined at a International Indigenous Womens' Symposium on Environmental and Reproductive Health held in Chickaloon, Alaska in 2012.   

Carmen says "Governments and corporations deliberately introduce toxic contaminants which are known to be extremely detrimental to inter-generational health without regard for the Peoples, communities, food sources and families that are negatively impacted."

One of the challenges in getting contaminated sites cleaned up is that usually it's grassroots organizations pointing out the actions of powerful governments and corporations.  

Even when it seems like a community's voice is being heard, moving entities like the military to clean up contaminated sites is still a struggle. Waghiyi says "The burden of proof is always put on the communities affected."  Waghiyi is from St Lawrence Island community of Savoonga, which was used heavily by the US military for reconnaissance during the Cold War.  "Our island is closer to Russia than Mainland Alaska. We were the eyes and ears of the US."

After 40 years of advocacy, the people of St Lawrence Island seem to have the ear of the Federal government, however, things still aren't cleaned up.  "We've come to find out the school and playground were build on top of a dumping ground."

Sharing of these sorts of stories, and spurring others to share their experiences is the focus of an event tonight which features women leaders like Waghiyi, Carmen and Diver.

Diver says,"Women from across Alaska and other regions of the world will join together at a community event in Anchorage to discuss life experiences, current issues, and action strategies regarding reproductive health, environmental violence, inter-generational health, and other struggles they face in trying to defend their lands, waters, and the health of their communities."

The event will take place from 6:30 – 9:00 pm at First United Methodist Church, 725 West 9th Ave, Anchorage on Thursday, August 3, 2017.