Migration Medicine: How Shifting Woodlands Affect Navajo Health

Authors: Sasha Keams*,
Topics: Environmental Science, Indigenous Peoples, Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: Navajo, Ethnomedicine, Ethnobotany, Climate Change
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For centuries, Navajo people have harvested their food, medicine, tools, and shelters from the environment. Now that the climate is changing and causing vegetation redistribution, the tribe’s way of life is being threatened. This research examines how anthropogenic climate change has affected the juniper-pinyon woodland ecotones, and how consequently this affects the ethnomedicine of Chinle Agency in the Navajo Nation. Literature was the primary base for the research conducted. The first set of data that was used were historic and modern survey maps. These map shows the area that the juniper and pinyon occupy currently, and where they use to be located. Survey maps were located through database searches as well as web searches. At around sixteen million acres, the Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the United States yet the Navajo have limited western medical resources. Additionally, very few roads outside of towns and major highways are paved and can be rendered unusable due to the weather. However, the impact of rising temperatures and droughts, both factors of climate change, are altering the vegetation distribution which can be seen within ecotones fairly quickly – especially when one habitat is more resilient to climatic change than another. Since pinyon and juniper are no longer able to thrive in the woodland biome, they have moved into the brushlands. The brush species are struggling to survive causing organisms that depend on those species to struggle as well.

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