November 9, 2021

Learn about 50 Indigenous scientists through a 50-mile run by Dr. Lydia Jennings

Posted by Laura Guertin

November is National Native American Heritage Month. There are many resources available to learn more about the culture and heritage of Native Americans, from the National Archives to National Park Service, or from PBS to this year’s Presidential Proclamation by President Biden. But there is one suggestion I’ll make to learn more not just about one Indigenous scientist but about 50 additional Indigenous scientists she is calling our attention to.

Soil microbiologist and AGU Voices for Science Advocate Dr. Lydia Jennings is a member of the Huichol (Wixaritari) and Pascua Yaqui (Yoeme) Nations and featured in the short documentary Run To Be Visible. The documentary details her studies of extraction industries on Indigenous lands, as well as how a 50-mile run provided a ceremony of closure for her Ph.D. graduation that was cancelled because of COVID. During her run, which took place on March 20, 2021 along the Arizona Trail, she honored 50 Indigenous scientists that came before her, one for each mile (see the listing here, also provided in the credits of the video).

This is what Dr. Jennings refers to as a Running with Purpose Project, but it is about so much more than running. It is about her journey as an Indigenous scholar. It is about the impacts of mining on Indigenous lands and the role of Indigenous communities and knowledge in these places and spaces. It is about raising the voices and identities of existing Indigenous scientists and at the same time paving the way for the Indigenous scholars of the future.

The full documentary is provided here (available via YouTube):

Think about how you might use this 20-minute video with students, as Dr. Jennings has encouraged us to do in the tweet above. How would you introduce this to your class, and how would you prepare students to view the video? What questions would you have ready for discussion? What assignments would you have students follow-up with? This should not be a one-and-done viewing or assignment just because it is National Native American Heritage Month. Dr. Jennings’ work should serve as a starting point for conversations year-round in our classrooms, our departments, and in the greater geoscience community overall.