Diné Environmental Institute (DEI)

General Information

The increased awareness of the science, math, environmental, and technological fields of profession are a primary goal for DEI. With research based learning and a focus on cirriculum development, we aim toward a progressive system of student learning, adhering to the college mission so each student will develop into a determined, self-reliant student in the science, math, environmental, and technological fields.


Diné College –Shiprock Campus provides technical and cultural support to the U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, and in cooperation with the Navajo Nation Division of Health, in examining connections between residential and industrial coal usage.

As part of a joint collaborative effort between Diné College and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (OLM), under a sub-contract with the S.M. Stoller Corporation Research, student interns have been assisting in the assessment of remediation design of contaminated soils and.

The objective of the Region 9 Water Quality survey project is to document an overview of unregulated water sources for unauthorized domestic usage by the Navajo public.

The purpose of the study is to compare the current self-reporting of health symptoms to a previous study conducted by the Navajo Division of Health in 1998, and determine if self-reported health symptoms significantly changed in relationship with distance from oil and gas production facilities.

Uranium Impacts:

DEI conducts environmental research to determine impacts to Navajo communities affected by past Nuclear Industries under the Manhattan Engineering District and the Atomic Energy Commission. The rush into nuclear energy left long last impacts to our environmental: water, land, air, animals and human health.

DEI’s research activities assesses risks from Abandoned Uranium Mines and mill processing sites as points of exposure to the environment and human health. These assessments include mills site phytoremediation and bio-sequestration studies, uranium mined watershed studies and investigations of occurrences of heavy metals and radionuclides in domestic animals (sheep, cattle and goats). DEI has a Cooperative Agreement with USEPA-Region IX using the recent Tronox Settlement Agreement that resulted in a billion dollar settlement to cleanup uranium mines and associate uranium waste on Navajo lands. Much of these resulted from Kerr McGee Industries uranium mining and milling practices and lack of reclamation of mined lands.

DEI is also involved in other environmental studies and sampling activities in the local Navajo Nation’s Northern Agency area, mainly the continue sampling of the San Juan River resulting from the 2015 Gold King Mine Spill incident.

Diné College’s Diné Environmental Institute Research & Outreach and NSF/TCUP Study

A study by Diné College’s Diné Environmental Institute Research & Outreach and NSF/TCUP program is being conducted. “The Investigation of Occurrences of Heavy Metals and Radionuclides in Domestic Animals on the Navajo Nation, Cove, Apache County, Arizona” is a collaboration between Diné College (DC), Northern Arizona University (NAU) and University of New Mexico (UNM).  The research plan is to build on the preliminary study design to investigate heavy metals and radionuclides in livestock organs and tissues. DC will be taking the lead role by and through its existing Cooperative Agreement # 99T54301. The requested funding and Scope of Work of this research study “Investigation of Occurrences of Heavy Metals and Radionuclides in Domestic Animals on the Navajo Nation, Cove, Apache County, Arizona” (The Livestock Study) will be part of this Cooperative Agreement.

The presence of abandoned uranium mines in many Diné communities has caused concern about exposure to heavy metals from abandoned mine waste. While previous research demonstrated greater risk for developing chronic diseases when people are exposed to abandoned U mine waste (Hund et al 2015), there remains limited work addressing the role of animal tissue as a point of exposure. This is a critical gap to address because certain locally raised animal tissue, such as mutton meat and organs, is a traditional food source for the Diné people. Assessing the accumulation of heavy metals in animal tissues will inform efforts assessing human metal and radionuclide exposure. The study will compare uranium levels in tissues and organs from livestock grazing in mining versus non-mining areas on Diné Lands. The research questions that will be addressed in this study are:  1) Do livestock raised in an area of uranium contamination accumulate significantly higher tissue levels of uranium, compared to livestock from a control area? 2) In what tissues does uranium accumulate as the result of chronic exposure to environmental sources of contamination?

As required by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Region IX, San Francisco, a Quality Assurance Project Plan was developed and approved to assure quality assurance and quality control compliance are met for scientific validity.

Cove Livestock Study Quality Assurance Project Plan

Superfund terminologies/definitions & Diné Glossary:

As a part of the Tronox clean-up activities, DEI developed a Diné Language Glossary on Superfund project terminologies. This Glossary will assist Diné interpreters and translators to better communicate with impacted Diné communities and promote community participation and input.

Diné Language Translations of Tronox-Specific Terminologies