arizona’s broken arrow
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Arizona’s Broken Arrow
November, 2008, Page 134
magazine she only wanted to speak through her attorney, just as she told the Arizona Daily Star in 2005. Through her attorney, she told the Star that she was only trying to understand “the biological underpinnings of the health issues of the Havasupai.” The paper quoted her as calling the tribe’s allegations “hysterical.”
Armstrong wasn’t the only one who’d blow the whistle on this research project. So would the man who founded the project, John Martin. But that would come long after most of the damage already had been done.
NOBODY UNDERSTOOD HOW BAD THINGS WERE
until early 2003.
By then, a lot of things had changed at Arizona State University. Lattie Coor (who did not return calls for comment on this story) had retired and been replaced by the brilliant, bold and ambitious Michael Crow. Martin was pleased that President Crow adopted an “Indian initiative” and wanted ASU to be “the place to go for North American Indian studies.”
Crow also wanted ASU to become a “new American university” and pegged a lot of hopes on a future filled with biogenetic research. Becoming a major research university is a bragging right in the academic world, and Crow went after the idea vigorously.
So Martin was particularly upset when he learned in early 2003 that a graduate student named Dan Garrigan had used Havasupai blood samples for a doctoral dissertation on migration patterns that had nothing to do with diabetes and also, without permission, had used Martin’s own lineage studies of the tribe.
What this meant is that one of ASU’s first human research projects had gone awry, and the implications could threaten relations with the entire Indian community.
Martin alerted top ASU officials that there was a problem brewing with this dissertation and that there had been no “informed consent” for this research. Then he invited an old friend from Supai to attend the dissertation presentation. It was March 4, 2003, and for an entire tribe, the world was about to change.
CARLETTA TILOUSI GREW
up in Supai and has known John Martin since she was a child. “John allowed me to drive his car so I could get a license,” she remembers. “That’s how close he was to my family.”
When the Havasupai project began, it was Martin’s closeness to the tribe – “he knew a lot of our stories and a lot of the ancestors” – that convinced members this was legitimate. After all, she remembers, it would be the first time the tribe had ever allowed its blood to be taken for a research project.
Carletta was finishing high school, and she thought the study sounded so good because the diabetes problem was so bad. “I’m dying, they’re dying, let’s do it,” she remembers thinking.
After high school, she traveled the world for several years and worked for the United Nations on environmental and justice issues.
“I experienced different cultures and societies and languages, and that’s what made me go to college,” she says. She knew she’d be one of the few tribal members to ever earn a college diploma. She chose ASU and was getting a bachelor’s degree in justice studies in 2003 when Martin invited her to the dissertation presentation.
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