Through imaginative storytelling and art, “The Return” conveys environmental health from a Native American perspective. A center within the UW School of Public Health worked with Native American tribes to create and publish the illustrated story as a 32-page comic book.
One of the goals of this Native Tradition, Environment and Community Health Project was to find out how Native American ways of understanding the world and our place in it differ from the Western concept of environmental health. Surveys, interviews, and talking circles identified three core themes of Native environmental health: community, wellness, and inter-relationship.
“The Return” was created from the findings. It is a dreamlike account of a Native woman and her baby, and tells how these three concepts are passed to the next generation.
Michelle Montgomery, senior fellow in the UW Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the UW Center for Genomics & Healthcare Equality, and Nicholas Salazar, a student at the Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., developed the book. Montgomery is a tribal member affiliated with the Haliwa Saponi and Eastern Band Cherokee.
The UW Center for Ecogenetics & Environmental Health and the Northwest Indian College co-managed the project. The effort began in 2008 with a collaborative grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences.
The book was distributed at the 2013 American Indian Higher Education Consortium Student Conference in Green Bay, Wisc. More dissemination opportunities are planned. The end of the book contains a discussion guide and suggestions for related art projects.
“The Return” comic book is posted as a PDF.