Food, Maps, and Excitement

22 Mar 2019 Food, Maps, and Excitement

By Natasha Stamler, Terrascope Mission 2022

There are so many things to be excited about regarding our upcoming trip to the Navajo Nation!

Let’s be honest. The best part about going to new places is trying all of the new food. Diné food is centered around corn, beans, and squash. Although these might seem like everyday ingredients to us, these staples not only form delicious traditional dishes but also hold important cultural significance for the Diné. Conversations about Diné culture, including food, will be interesting to compare to the conversations that our class  had over dinner with Diné guests during their visit to Boston. Our trip should provide a more informal atmosphere to ask questions about important issues that the Diné are faced with: food deserts, the economics of affording higher quality food, growing crops with limited agriculture, and preserving their culture in changing times.

Beyond food and culture I am also excited to see how well the data I reviewed during Terrascope’s first semester class actually reflects what is happening on the ground. As part of our first semester project we divided ourselves into groups to focus on specific aspects of Diné life and culture. I was part of the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) group, meaning I tried to find and analyze geospatial data to figure out which problems are affecting which areas in the Navajo Nation. Our goal with this data was to determine target areas for different proposed solutions for  the water issues affecting specific places within the reservation.

However, we quickly realized that there is a lack of data for the Navajo Nation. This meant that, for example, the data concerning levels of arsenic and uranium that we examined may have been  outdated or inaccurate. Our Spring Break trip is important because it gives us an opportunity to determine how accurate our findings were, as we will be able to ask local residents and experts what has contaminated their water.

There is no better way to learn about a culture so rich as that of the Diné, and a problem as complex as water accessibility in their community, than to visit the Diné in person. I have learned so much already from researching, meeting Diné representatives, and discussing these topics with my classmates and I cannot wait to go to Navajo Nation and gain a deeper understanding.