Ella Weber is a tribal citizen of MHA Nation (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) from Crookston, Minnesota. She is a sophomore at Princeton studying public policy, specifically looking at education and public health. Ella hopes to expand access students to quality education and healthcare for low-income and indigenous through public policy initiatives and advocacy. This is part of a series of interviews in which you can get to know the grants given under the 2022 Equity Rises Request for Proposals and the people behind all the work.
Question 1: Tell us about your work! What kind of goals do you have? What are you excited about?
I am research fellow with Nuclear Princeton, an undergraduate-directed project that highlights the under-acknowledged impacts of nuclear science, technology, and engineering on Native lands, communities, and beyond. I am working with the Princeton Program on Science & Global Security to study the consequences of nuclear weapon policies on native communities. In particular, we are trying to understand the potential impact of nuclear fallout on native lands should a nuclear war occur. I am hoping to facilitate a conversation with the local communities that would be affected. As a tribal citizen of MHA Nation (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) from Crookston, Minnesota, I am excited to work directly with my community leaders on this project.
Question 2: How do you measure progress?
Progress can be measured in all sorts of ways. For our project, we are generating new scientific data and insights but also engaging directly with communities following an ethnographic approach to understand how they deal with the consequences of national security policies. Too often, they are left out of these conversations. But beyond generating scholarly insights, I like to measure progress by the positive impact felt by the communities I am working with. This allows me to learn and grow as a researcher and build better connections with the communities I work with.
Question 3: What's the most interesting or memorable project you've gotten involved with in your career?
The most memorable project I have been involved with was the Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet of Minnesota. On the project I was able to work with young women from historically underrepresented groups from all regions of the state. We were able to advocate for legislation that directly impacted our communities. This project was the beginning of my passion for health and education policy.
Question 4: What’s the one thing about the nuclear policy field you wish people knew or would talk about more often?
I wish more people talked about the effects of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. Despite the uranium mining stopping decades ago, the negative health effects can still be felt by the communities today.
Question 5: Who or what motivates you?
I am most motivated by my family. They have always been my biggest supporters and I want to make them proud.
Question 6: What do you think the nuclear field needs right now?
I think the nuclear field needs more Indigenous voices. Indigenous communities have been historically disproportionately affected and we are not given the proper platform to talk about the effects of all things nuclear on us.
Question 7: What is the best book you’ve read recently?
I am personally a fan of the book Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.