Alaí  Reyes-Santos, PhD

Alaí Reyes-Santos, PhD

University of Oregon

Professor of Practice, School of Law; Associate Director, PNW Just Futures Institute

Expertise: Environmental Justicewater accessBIPOC CommunitiesWater Resources

Alaí Reyes-Santos is the associate director of the PNW Just Futures Institute for Climate and Racial Justice and founding member of the Oregon Water Futures Collaborative. Since 2020, she has done extensive community engagement work with tribal members, low income, rural, and BIPOC communities on water; environmental justice researcher and community engagement experience, with an emphasis on water resources.

The author of “Our Caribbean Kin: Race and Nation in the Neoliberal Antilles,” Reyes-Santos is a cultural studies scholar devoted to the analysis of stories about kinship, solidarity, and betrayal in the midst of socio-historical violence, with an emphasis on the Black Diaspora and its connections with multiple communities. 

Her manuscript-in-progress, Oceanic Whispers, Secrets She Never Told, intervenes in conversations about restorative justice and community healing through a Black Caribbean epistemological lens. 

An award-winning teacher, Reyes-Santos received the 2015 Ersted Distinguished Teaching Award. She is a high priestess and tradition keeper of Caribbean Regla de Osha and regla conga, an Afro-descendant ceremonial practice that survived through cross-cultural exchanges in the islands; and supports efforts to revitalize Afro-Indigenous Caribbean traditional ecological and medicinal knowledges. 


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“The removal of these dams is just the beginning in the necessary steps that must be taken to restore the health of the river, including plant, fish, and bird life, as well as of surrounding communities. No one benefits from warmer waters, for instance, produced by dams that lead to harmful bacteria and other toxic elements that pose a threat to humans and all life in the watershed; as well as by the obstacles posed to fish species that used to travel across and flourish in the basin. Now opportunities for economic and recreational practices that will better sustain water and community health can be pursued through community engagement and green economic investments. Tribes, low-income communities, and immigrant communities must be engaged as such processes unfold to avoid the pitfalls of previous economic plans for the region that left many without access to traditional food sources, relevant ceremonial and community sites, and clean water. The tribal communities that have stewarded the region since time immemorial must be at the center of any initiative as people holding the knowledge of multiple generations who have cared for those waters.”

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