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Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Apr;110 Suppl 2:259-64.

Holistic risk-based environmental decision making: a Native perspective.

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Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, Hogansburg, New York 13655, USA.


Native American Nations have become increasingly concerned about the impacts of toxic substances. Although risk assessment and risk management processes have been used by government agencies to help estimate and manage risks associated with exposure to toxicants, these tools have many inadequacies and as a result have not served Native people well. In addition, resources have not always been adequate to address the concerns of Native Nations, and involvement of Native decision makers on a government-to-government basis in discussions regarding risk has only recently become common. Finally, because the definitions of health used by Native people are strikingly different from that of risk assessors, there is also a need to expand current definitions and incorporate traditional knowledge into decision making. Examples are discussed from the First Environment Restoration Initiative, a project that is working to address toxicant issues facing the Mohawk territory of Akwesasne. This project is developing a community-defined model in which health is protected at the same time that traditional cultural practices, which have long been the key to individual and community health, are maintained and restored.

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