Haskell students and faculty will compile information to help address the many environmental concerns of urban and rural American Indians.
In Arizona, radiation from uranium mines causes leukemia among the Navajo.
In Washington and Oregon, logging and commercial fishing threaten traditional Indian salmon harvests.
In South Dakota, extended families of 10 and 20 people crowd together in dilapidated public housing units on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where non-Indian companies and tribal officials propose dusty, caustic strip mining operations as an opportunity for economic salvation.
"Each tribal organization has a vast array of environmental problems, all the way from water quality, to hazardous waste, to transportation," said Bill Welton, a natural resources instructor at Haskell Indian Nations University.
"One of the misconceptions people have is when they think of the environment they think of birds and deer," Welton said. "We're talking about the human environment too ... which certainly is based upon the strength and health of the natural environment."
This summer, Haskell was the biggest winner in the region among recipients of environmental justice grants awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The grants ranged from $12,050 to $20,000. Haskell was the only organization in the region to receive two of the grants, each for $20,000.
One will be used to develop a computer-based inventory of natural resources on the four Indian reservations in Kansas.
The other will be used to create a clearinghouse of contacts and environmental data from more than 500 Indian nations around the country.
Both projects will involve faculty and students at Haskell and will help spread information about how tribal members across the nation can attempt to solve the many environmental problems they face on their reservations and in urban communities.
Those problems range from issues of water, fishing and mining rights on rural reservations in western states, to housing, social and public health concerns among urban Indians.
They are intended to support projects based on the concept of environmental justice, which arose in the 1980s out of a recognition that minority communities are disproportionately subjected to environmental degradation and suffering.
"That's where all the waste transfer stations are located, the highways, the railroads, the incinerators," Welton said.
In an effort to address environmental concerns in minority communities, the EPA awarded 15 small grants this summer worth $273,103 to 14 organizations in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska.
In Kansas, in addition to the two Haskell grants, the EPA also awarded $20,000 grants to support projects at Friends University, Wichita, the Kickapoo Tribe, Horton, the Prairie Band of Potawatomi, Mayetta, and the National Hispanic Council on Aging of Wichita.