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American Indian Students Initiative


Navajo Reservation, Tohono-O’odam Reservation, & San Carlos Reservation in Arizona

Marison Bilagody, Dynikka Tso, Maria Pablo


Problems dealing with environmental issues are very prevalent across the country. In the United States, one of the biggest problems is the issue of the amount of waste that is dumped in landfills. In today’s age of convenience, where single-use containers and plastic utensils are used at all the time, it is easier than ever to add to the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. So reducing the amount of waste is an important first step to take in achieving that goal. The most common way is through the use of recycling programs to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. While recycling programs have become more and more commonplace all around the United States. It is not the case on Native American reservations across the country. On the Navajo Reservation, it is extremely difficult for people to dump their trash, let alone, recycle their waste. With people having to travel up to an hour round trip just to dump their trash at a Navajo Sanitation transfer station, people would often dump their trash illegally or burn it. We, as Native American students at the University of Arizona, want to change this reality on the reservation.


As students, we are currently putting together a club focused on pushing for and establishing programs on multiple reservations in Arizona to raise awareness and take action on the environmental issues that are so prevalent in these areas. Our club, which is called American Indian Student Initiatives, plans on working with three different schools on three Native American Reservations to establish recycling programs at said schools. We plan on working with Tuba City High School in Tuba City, AZ on the Navajo Reservation, Baboquivari High School in Sells, AZ on the Tohono-O'odham Reservation and San Carlos High School in San Carlos, AZ on the San Carlos Reservation. Our goals with establishing recycling programs at these schools are to raise awareness of recycling in these communities, reduce the amount of waste that ends. With this initiative and with this club, we hope that we will begin the push to change the environmental state of Native American communities across Arizona. We have big goals in the future that will help not only Native American families and students in knocking down the barriers that affect their daily lives but goals that will also help our planet. With this initiative, we seek to become the generation that our ancestors had hoped for.

  • Registered and officially recognized as a student-run organization at The University of Arizona campus on September 27, 2019.

  • Partnered with the Native American Student Association (NASA) cultural center, American Indian Science Engineering Society (AISES), GRID Tribal Alternatives, South West Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC), Students for Sustainability (SFS) club, and Baboquivari High School.

  • Helped install a solar panel system to a family living without electricity with GRID Tribal Alternatives on the Navajo reservation.

  • Organized an Environmental Justice panel discussion with other environmental organizations on campus and provided environmental outreach services (sustainable rainwater harvesting project and recycling program) to the Baboquivari High School.

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