For over 50 years, the people of the Amskapi Piikani (Blackfeet) Nation have relayed information of “something bad” being covertly dumped within their remaining homelands. These stories, addressing contaminated waste and the locations of rumored dump sites, have also been linked with perceived cancer clusters among residents who live within the Blackfeet Nation. The concept of environmental injustice suggests that often the most vulnerable populations, including communities of color, experience the most negative realities of environmental toxic exposures, and it is not uncommon for toxic wastes to be disposed of within Native American lands. Given that Blackfeet communities suffer from some of the highest rates of cancer in the state of Montana, these narratives warrant further investigation. This research examined whether illicit dumping within Blackfeet sovereign lands can be substantiated and if this is a case of environmental injustice. This investigation employed a mix of both traditional Indigenous and Western-based scientific methodologies, both quantitative and qualitative. Traditional methodologies included the use of Indigenous oral narratives. These oral narratives are then further informed with Western processes of document review and geologic, water, and radiation surveys. The authors found compelling evidence through the oral histories and document reviews for toxic dumping within Blackfeet lands; however, cursory water and radiation surveys were not conclusive. This initial inquiry provides the foundation for further research needed to press this investigation.
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Vol. 92 • No. 1