Even in the most isolated regions on the Navajo Nation, a lot of Navajos know Chris Shuey, Co-Investigator to the Navajo Birth Cohort Study and Director of Southwest Research and Information Center, as their own son. For over thirty years, Chris and his staff from their Albuquerque office have helped Navajo communities make sense of how to deal with making their home environment and water sources that much safer.
At a recent meeting in Churchrock, NM where the Red Water Pond community help its annual commemoration of the infamous uranium tailings spill into the Puerco River in July 1979, a community elder said when Phil Harrison, a community advocate introduced Mr. Shuey, “Our son Chris, his hair has turned grey helping our community overcome all this push for uranium,” he said to much laughter and applause.
The Southwest Research and Information Center Research Field Staff have worked on the DiNEH Project, a study that preceded and information the Navajo Birth Cohort Study. SRIC’s involvement since the early 1980s has helped turn the issues related to the legacy of uranium into priority issues on the Navajo reservation. SRIC works in collaboration with the University of New Mexico’s Community Environmental Health programs and the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry to collect data from Navajo participants for the Navajo Birth Cohort Study.
The DiNEH Project has been instrumental in hiring research field staff from the effected communities to conduct the research on the Navajo reservation. The DiNEH Project focused on families affected by uranium tailing and abandoned mines in the easter portion of the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Birth Cohort Study will conduct a study focusing on moms-to-be and her baby, where the Research Field Staff will be responsible for helping recruit participants, providing in-depth home environmental surveys, and provide public outreach.
The SRIC research field staff were essential to training more field staff, and due to their experience with previous research, the staff is well-versed in cultural sensitivity issues while doing scientific research.