2004 Progress Report: Lifestyles and Cultural Practices of Tribal Populations And Risks from Toxic Substances in the Environment

EPA Grant Number: R831046
Title: Lifestyles and Cultural Practices of Tribal Populations And Risks from Toxic Substances in the Environment
Investigators: Harper, Barbara L. , Harding, Anna K. , Harris, Stuart G. , Waterhous, Therese S. , Wilcox, Anthony
Current Investigators: Harper, Barbara L. , Harding, Anna K. , Harris, Stuart G. , Waterhous, Therese S.
Institution: Oregon State University , Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Current Institution: Oregon State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: August 1, 2003 through July 31, 2006
Project Period Covered by this Report: August 1, 2003 through July 31, 2004
Project Amount: $449,970
RFA: Lifestyle and Cultural Practices of Tribal Populations and Risks from Toxic Substances in the Environment (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice , Global Climate Change , Tribal Environmental Health Research , Health , Safer Chemicals


This partnership between tribal and university scientists is preparing regional subsistence lifeways scenarios that illustrate how tribes may be exposed to environmental contaminants when practicing traditional activities as part of their cultural lifestyle. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has standard suburban exposure scenarios and exposure factors. There is no set of multipathway tribal scenarios with exposure factors that reflect the greater environmental contact rates and native diets that comprise subsistence lifeways. The scenarios will be based on the major ecological zones across the mainland United States and can be modified so that they are site-specific for individual tribal use. The scenarios will help tribes dealing with contamination issues and other health- or risk-related needs such as developing water quality standards or hazardous substances codes.

The Principal Investigator, Barbara Harper, is an employee of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) and has a joint appointment with Oregon State University (OSU). Stuart Harris, manager of the CTUIR Department of Science and Engineering, is a co-investigator. OSU faculty participants include public health, nutrition, geography, and exercise physiology faculty, as well as graduate students. Several Tribes are participating from various ecoregions: the Aroostook Band of Micmas Indians (Maine), the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Leech Lake Band, the Swinomish Tribe (Washington, Puget Sound), the Elem Tribe (Pomo, California), the Spokane Tribe (Washington, upper Columbia Basin Plateau), and CTUIR (Oregon, lower Columbia Basin Plateau). All of these tribes are either members of the National Tribal Environmental Council Superfund Working Group (SWG) or have interacted with the SWG and its members.

Progress Summary:

With the support of the Tribal representatives on our Advisory Board, multipathway exposure scenarios are complete for several Tribes/regions (upper Plateau–CTUIR and Spokane Tribe; Great Basin foothills–Washoe Tribe), 50 percent complete for one (central California valley–Elem Pomo), in the literature review stage for three more (Coast Salish-inner Puget Sound–Swinomish; Maine-northeast woodlands; and Oklahoma–Quapaw), and in the design phase for another (Great Lakes region). The literature review consists of ethnohistorical, ecological, and biomedical bibliographic development across a wide range of eco-cultural and health disciplines. Much of this review is focused on reconstructing an early contact lifestyle rather than a currently disrupted condition because the goal is to be able to evaluate situations where resources are being restored or preserved, healthy lifestyles gained or regained, and where aboriginal or Treaty rights are being exercised. Therefore, no surveys of current members are planned other than confirmatory cultural interviews.

Ecoregion descriptions and reviews of foraging and nutritional aspects of representative Tribes in several ecoregions are underway. Several suggestions made by the Advisory Board about habitat descriptions and dietary variations within ecoregions have been incorporated. For example, each ecoregion scenario will need to include recommendations for upland versus lake-river-wetland focused diets, and inland versus coastal diets where applicable.

OSU faculty advisors have been added to the project’s investigator or advisory roles as specific data gaps are identified. For example, documentation for the inhalation direct-contact pathways revealed a significant data gap that is being addressed with a new task (heart rate monitoring during traditional activities). There is ample evidence that subsistence lifestyles are more active than the “average” American lifestyle and, therefore, the daily average inhalation rate will be higher. The current subsistence inhalation rate, however, is extrapolated from literature about suburban and military activities, so a new task was designed to gather data directly from tribal members performing traditional tasks. This will allow us to cross-walk traditional activities with the suburban activities for which there is a great deal of data relating to ventilation rate, oxidation and metabolic systems, caloric needs, fitness levels, and so on. This will allow us to document the subsistence inhalation rates more accurately, which is needed to evaluate airborne exposures in risk assessment.

Future Activities:

The activities are primarily literature reviews. The new task, heart rate monitoring, will use Polar E600 monitors. These monitors have been purchased and participants are being recruited.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 16 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Native American, subsistence food patterns, cultural activity patterns, community assessment, environmental management, human health, health risk assessment, physical processes, risk assessment, cultural diversity, human health risk assessment, behavioral characteristics, cultural practices, dietary exposure, ecological risk assessment, environmental genetics, environmental hazard exposures, environmental toxicants, environmentally caused disease, hazardous environmental exposures, health risks, human exposure, human health risk, human susceptibility, nutritional information,, RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, PHYSICAL ASPECTS, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, HUMAN HEALTH, cultural diversity, Health Risk Assessment, Exposure, Risk Assessments, Susceptibility/Sensitive Population/Genetic Susceptibility, Biochemistry, Physical Processes, genetic susceptability, Immunology, Risk Assessment, ecological risk assessment, hazardous environmental exposures, health risks, environmental genetics, behavioral characteristics, cultrural practices, genetic predisposition, Human Health Risk Assessment, human exposure, nutritional information, environmental health literacy, environmental toxicants, environmentally caused disease, human susceptibility, native americans, cultural practices, tribal population, dietary exposure, environmental health education, human health risk, Native American, genetic susceptibility

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2005
  • Final Report