Research Challenges with Native Americans Focus of Lawrence University Biomedical Ethics Series Lecture

Anthropologist Carolyn Smith-Morris will discuss the social, political and legal challenges facing ethnographic and biological researchers working with Native Americans in the second installment of Lawrence University’s three-part 2005-06 Edward F. Mielke Lecture Series in Biomedical Ethics.

Smith-Morris, assistant professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University, presents “The Ethics of Research in Indian Country: An Anthropological Perspective” Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in Lawrence’s Wriston Art Center auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

A specialist in cross-cultural medical ethics, Smith-Morris will share insights from her nearly 10 years as a researcher among the Pima Indians of Southern Arizona, a tribe better known for high rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes than for its culture and history. Much of her research was conducted during the Pima’s most hostile and unwelcoming years toward outsiders since the Pueblo Revolt of the late 1600s.

The presentation will focus on methodologies and policies that work best between researchers and tribes amid contemporary tensions — traditional /modern, Indian/Anglo, natural/technological — as well as tribal fears that research data will be misrepresented or used unethically. Smith-Morris also will address the biomedical principle of “individual autonomy” in consent for treatment and for research and how that principle often conflicts with traditional Indian culture mores of strong family, community and other group-based modes of decision-making.

A member of the SMU anthropology department since 2002, Smith-Morris first began working with indigenous peoples with field research among Australian Aborigines of western New South Wales. She earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Emory University and her Ph.D. with an emphasis in medical anthropology from the University of Arizona.

Smith-Morris’ appearance is supported by the Edward F. Mielke Lectureship in Ethics in Medicine, Science and Society. The lectureship was established in 1985 by the Mielke Family Foundation in memory of Dr. Edward F. Mielke, a leading member of the Appleton medical community and the founder of the Appleton Medical Center.