HazArt1 Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H) of Traditional Indian Artisans and Craftspeople


Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H) of Traditional Indian Artisans and Craftspeople Project

The Environmental Office of Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, Inc. and the Northern Pueblos Institute of Northern New Mexico Community College are interested in knowing if artists and craftsmen are concerned about whether there are health, safety, or environmental risks to themselves or others from their occupation. We have developed a questionnaire to be distributed at the21st Annual Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Artists and Craftsman Show, to be held at Santa Clara Pueblo on July 17 and 18.

Depending on the interests of the community, we will use the questionnaire results to develop craft and hazard-specific information booklets and workshops for artisans; to work with home-based artists and small businesses to modify processes cheaply and efficiently; and to engineer new technology or tools or safety equipment appropriate to the tasks involved.

The public is also invited to stop by the Pueblo Environment, Safety, and Health Booth for information on environmental issues and programs of interest to north central New Mexicans. This is a project to identify any environmental, safety, or health hazards resulting from their occupations that may be of concern to American Indian artisans and craftspeople.

While hazards of “western” or contemporary art, industrial crafts, or fine arts have been examined (e.g., lead glazes, oil paints, theatre and dance groups) almost no basic or applied research has been directed towards traditional arts, especially those practiced in Southwestern communities. Community members will work with us to identify hazards and to develop new (or to apply any existing) culturally appropriate processes, materials, protective clothing, equipment, information, or training to mitigate these hazards.

For example, we are looking to develop “vernacular ergonomics”, the use of everyday objects such, anthropometry, and specially developed exrecises to prevent muscle, joint, and eye strain. Artists will also help us understand how traditional processes, many with centuries of refinement, were and are able to promote healthy Pueblo ways of living. The results of this project will be available for artists and craftspeople in other communities to benefit from, in this and other countries.

This project is a joint effort of the Environmental Office of Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, Inc., Northern Pueblos Institute of Northern New Mexico Community College, the Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing Technology Transfer Training Initiative (ECMT3 I) of the US Department of Energy and Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque (Organizations 6611, 7711, 7712), and the Hazardous Materials Management Program of Santa Fé Community College.

Our first efforts are directed towards understanding respiratory hazards associated with pottery making. This concern was raised at a Pueblo community cancer awareness workshop – if cigarette smoking causes cancer, what health effects might there be from dung-fired or fuel-fired kilns such as those used in making traditional black-on-black pottery? Commercial, dry, unmixed clays do pose a risk of lung injury from silicosis. Would sanding or other finishing treatments of fired pots pose similar risks?

Artists at the SWAIA (Southwestern Association for Indian Arts) Pow-Wow in June suggested we examine

  • skin rashes associated with the use of pickling agents in silversmithing
  • lint and dust associated with fabrics, weaving, and needlecrafts
  • allergy complications brought on by the nap of leathers
  • eye strain and lighting when doing fine beadwork
  • posture, exercises, and ergonomic design for muscle and ligament strains associated with nearly all arts, including cooking
  • joint and skin complaints when working wet clay
  • environmentally friendly ways to control insects, and fungus in feathered and antlered ornaments, trimmings, costumes, organic materials
  • protection from inhaling dust

For further information about this release, contact [note the contact info is no longer valid]
M. Pamela Bumsted, Ph.D.,
Associate Director Environmental Office, ENIPC PO Box 969 San Juan Pueblo, NM 87566 505-852-4265
Karen Young,
Coordinator Northern Pueblos Institute, NNMCC 1002 N. Oñate Street Española, NM 87532 505-747-2194

One response to “HazArt1 Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H) of Traditional Indian Artisans and Craftspeople

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