Category Archives: Pueblo

Anthropology in a climate of change, war, and internecine environments 2

[In process]
Part 1**

Part 2*** From a follow-up to the newslist discussion about anthropology and climate change–

Q. “So…what can we do to solve this problem? Can we think like engineers?”

Please, don’t. Not even anthropological engineers. For example, see this — Continue reading


More on (traditional) stone carving and lung hazards HazArt

This article comes via NationTalk, native newswire, employment and tender service

Study probes link between soapstone and cancer – Waterloo Record

Forty-six-year-old Jimmy Cookie feels dizzy and has trouble breathing every time he carves into a slab of soapstone.

Now, University of Manitoba researchers are looking at whether Cookie’s lung problems could be linked with the traditional soapstone carving that’s popular in his home community of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut.

Soapstone (also known as steatite or soaprock) is a metamorphic rock, a talc-schist. It was used prior to the invention of pottery or ceramics for bowls in the Americas. It also conducts heat well and is mostly inert, thus its use for stove (cooking) utensils, sinks, and laboratory countertops. Alaska soapstone (now rare) can be transformed into gorgeous sculptures.

Although chemically inert for the most part, the stone is a soft material and scratches easily into fine, fibrous particles (talc, actually. In some rocks, a form of asbestos I believe The soapstone dust composition showed breathable asbestos fibers from the amphibole group (tremolite-actinolite). The results suggest talc asbestosis occurrence among soapstone handicraft workers.). The dust can penetrate lungs deeply and irritate the tissues leading to talcosis or talc pneumoconiosis (similarly to silicosis or asbestosis).

Wikipedia isn’t very helpful on the mineralogy and the physical structure. See the articles cited here–

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004 Jul 23;53(28):627-32.
Changing Patterns of Pneumoconiosis Mortality — United States, 1968–2000
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pneumoconioses are caused by the inhalation and deposition of mineral dusts in the lungs, resulting in pulmonary fibrosis and other parenchymal changes. Many persons with early pneumoconiosis are asymptomatic, but advanced disease often is accompanied by disability and premature death. Known pneumoconioses include coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), silicosis, asbestosis, mixed dust pneumoconiosis, graphitosis, and talcosis. No effective treatment for these diseases is available. This report describes the temporal patterns of pneumoconiosis mortality during 1968-2000, which indicates an overall decrease in pneumoconiosis mortality. However, asbestosis increased steadily and is now the most frequently recorded pneumoconiosis on death certificates. Increased awareness of this trend is needed among health-care providers, employers, workers, and public health agencies.

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

One of the classic cases of cancer from use of minerals in traditional arts is
Malignant mesothelioma. A cluster in a native American pueblo.
Driscoll RJ, Mulligan WJ, Schultz D, Candelaria A
N Engl J Med. 1988 Jun 2; 318(22): 1437-8

Unfortunately, there isn’t a publicly available copy on the Internet and no access to journals in Bethel. As I remember the article–
Mesothelioma is an asbestos caused lung cancer. In this case a cluster was found that had nothing to do with brake repair or mining. Instead, people discovered the fire resistant mat they used for soldering silver jewelery also whitened dance moccasins when used as a buffing surface. In addition, the mat had a tendency to flake after substantial use as a fireproof work surface. The mat was an old-fashioned fire resistant mat, made of asbestos.

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Native Crafts Health Effects Project

As part of the HazArt project | Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H) of Traditional Indian Artisans and Craftspeople Project (HazArt) | we tested the ambient air quality during a firing of black-on-black (reduced) pottery. This field project was a collaboration of Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, Inc., Sandia National Laboratory, and Tewa Women United.

The project was recorded August 1993 by Catalina Reyes of KUNM for National Native News. Her story was broadcast that September.

Principals on the broadcast are

  • Kathy Sanchez (potter) and Evelyn Garcia (assisting the firing), Tewa Women United
  • Pat Herring, CIH, Sandia National Laboratory and
  • myself (M. Pamela Bumsted, Ph.D.), head of the ENIPC environmental office.
  • Mary Attu, doll maker and skin sewer, was also interviewed
  • Field location was the pot firing shed (stable) of the late Maria and Julian Martinez, San Ildefonso Pueblo, great-grandparents to Ms Sanchez and Garcia. Read earlier post,
    | Maria Martinez’s open-source earthenware |

    This digitized audio file does not represent the quality of the original audiotape. The audio is copyright. I’m sorry the quality is not good. I’ll get it improved eventually. There are photos of the project, in deep storage. These too will one day be available.

    The following picture shows the traditional firing. Please read the story and view the pictures at

    Maria Julian Martinez firing pots
    click to play

  • | Native Crafts health effects audio file in mp3 format. 5 minutes, 19 seconds |

  • Social Bookmarks:

    There is an interesting history of the founding of National Native News by Gary Fife, currently with the Anchorage Municipal Light and Power. [I rather miss the old format (and Nellie Moore, Sharon McConnell, and Patty Talahongva).]

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    On-line exhibit Maria Martinez

    Following up on

    there is an on-line exhibit, fairly superficial, but will give a taste of the quality and history.

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    Maria Martinez’s open-source earthenware

    This newstory gives the background to the revitalization of Pueblo traditional pottery styles in the early to mid-20th century. Kathy Sanchez and her sister were colleagues in the HazArt study of potential occupational hazards. | Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H) of Traditional Indian Artisans and Craftspeople Project (HazArt) |

    Maria Martinez… drew no lines between art, community, and reverence for life…. According to Vernon G. Lujan, the director of the Poeh Museum in Pojoaque, N.M., which is devoted primarily to Pueblo art, Martinez spearheaded a revival of the Pueblo tradition of familial collaboration. Her art, he said, could not be separated from who she was as a woman, mother, wife, and lifelong community resident.

    Martinez’s great-granddaughter Kathy Wan Woe Povi Sanchez recalls the ways in which her ancestor transmitted cultural values…. Sanchez is a potter who seeks to live her life in her great-grandmother’s footsteps. Defining herself as an activist (she is also co-director of Tewa Women United), she sees environmental protection as part and parcel of making pottery. “I etch or paint my pottery with stories of caring for Mother Earth,” she said. “When I’m at Indian Market, I tell people the stories. It’s an opportunity to speak the truth about the air, the water, and the earth.”

    Lujan explained, “Without a doubt they revived a unique Tewa way of firing at zero oxidation that had gone out of existence. At a certain point in the firing they smothered the pot with cow dung and let it bake and smoke for several hours.

    by Soledad Santiago, The New Mexican, August 18, 2006

    Read the rest