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Nadira Mitchell: How Collecting Snails Turned Into a Passion for Indigenous Environmental Equity

April 4, 2022

What is your major/year?

I am a junior Natural Resources Major emphasizing in wildlife conservation and management, minoring in American Indian Studies.

What are you involved in on campus or in Tucson?

I am a founding member of American Indian Student Initiatives. We are a student-led organization here on campus with the goals of reducing environmental injustices in Native American communities. I am also a member of the inaugural Liverman Scholars cohort!

What environmental issues are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about environmental equity in Indigenous communities. As Miss Native American University of Arizona First Attendant, my platform is environmental justice, specifically protecting cultural and sacred sites. I aspire to help bring to light and remediate environmental injustices and advocate for a Just Transition from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy.

What first sparked your interest in pursuing an environmental degree?

My earliest memory of interacting with wildlife was in our front yard with snails. I remember picking up as many as I could find and tallying how many snails I collected on a discarded cardboard box. Once I finished analyzing the snails, I would put them back in their habitat in honor of my mom teaching me that we respect all animals in our Diné (Navajo) culture. This inspired me to pursue wildlife conservation and land stewardship.

In your experience at UArizona, on what occasion did you learn the most?

For me I have always learned the most while being out in the field. As a part of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program (DDCSP) we get to conduct our own research project and I learned so much about wildlife cameras, coding, and field safety while collecting and analyzing the data for my research project.

What advice would you give to BIPOC students who want to get involved with environmental issues/activism?

My advice to BIPOC students who want to get involved with environmental issues and activism is if you do not see any clubs or organizations on campus addressing the same issues you want to address, then create your own space with like-minded people.

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