Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Robin Saha

Commitee Members

Jill Belsky, Steve Schwarze


Alaska, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Alaska Natives, Arctic, contaminants, environmental justice, green chemistry, mercury, neurodevelopmental, PCBs, persistent organic pollutants, POPs, Stockholm Convention, toxins, traditional foods


University of Montana


The transport of contaminants to the Arctic and their presence in traditional foods in the region is causing concern about potential adverse health impacts resulting from exposure to these globally-borne chemicals. In this study, ten stakeholders in the issue of contaminants in traditional foods in Alaska were interviewed to determine how they define the problem, and in doing so, to determine if they perceive that the situation constitutes an environmental injustice for Alaska Natives. The interview transcripts were analyzed using five sub-frames of the environmental justice framework: distributive justice, procedural justice, indigenous rights, corrective justice, and ecological sustainability. The interview responses suggest that, viewed through five sub-frames of environmental justice (EJ), Alaska Natives do face an environmental injustice. In particular, Alaska Natives face disparate cultural impacts at the hands of contaminants and lack adequate opportunities for procedural involvement. The findings presented in this paper point to three solutions to the problem: 1) Establish a U.S. Arctic Contaminants Program to collaboratively study the situation in Alaska and to provide education to impacted populations, 2) Enact new comprehensive, enforceable, precautionary U.S. laws that govern and regulate chemicals, and 3) Extend global policies that phase out chemicals and support ecologically sustainable practices. Additionally, this professional paper, done to help support the work of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), offers suggestions for strategies that ACAT can use in their activism. These strategies consider how to best use the various EJ frames to effectively communicate with stakeholders (other activist groups and government entities) about the problems and solutions for dealing with the threat that contaminants in traditional foods pose to Alaska Natives.



© Copyright 2006 Mary Beth McKinley