Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights 2020

Monday, October 27, 2008

Alaska's Youth Protest Palin and Uranium Mining

Elim Students Against Uranium (ESAU)
Organizers: Emily Murray & Flora Simon
Box 39907, Elim, AK 99739
(907) 890-2351

Alaska's Youth Protest to Gov. Palin and the State of Alaska Against Uranium Mining
By Pearl Johnson

Through covert dealings, Gov. Sarah Palin, State Dept. of Natural Resources, Bureau of Land Management, the Alaska and U.S. senators and representatives and an ANCSA corporation entrusted with the security and health of their constituents have accepted the lease proposal to explore for uranium at the Fireweed/Boulder Creek area located in southwestern Seward Peninsula, without the knowledge, consent nor approval of the citizens of Western Alaska.

When students of Elim, Alaska first realized this, they began researching the effects of uranium mining and created educational posters to share what they learned. A community meeting was organized in Elim to share their findings and garner support to protest this action. The community responded favorably and in March 2007, demonstrated when the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race went through their town.

On September 17, 2007, a letter was sent to Gov. Palin inquiring what she planned to do about uranium mining at Boulder Creek which is located north of their community. She has yet to respond to this letter... Click here to read the letter.

In her State of the State speech on January 17, 2007, I quote: "With our rich energy supplies, we can contribute globally in many arenas, if we do things right. We must lead with trust - founded upon a most ethical government. To sustain our future......we must look to responsible development throughout the state... from mining etc. We can be good stewards of God's green earth."

Core drilling has been completed at Boulder Creek. Pollution in this watershed will negatively impact and irreversibly destroy the area and sustain heavy environmental and cultural damage impacting the communities of Council, White Mountain, Golovin, Koyuk, Elim and Shaktoolik. To allow the total destruction of this beautiful land, lush meadows, rich green forests, flower fields, pristine lakes and rivers is unthinkable. This fragile ecosystem nourishes and supplies Inupiaq, Yupik and non-native people, and healthy populations of every plant and mammal species indigenous to Arctic Alaska. It is not a frozen wasteland but a biologically diverse home to millions of salmon, beluga whale, seals, crab and annual migrations of birds from the Americas. The great Western Arctic Caribou Herd has wintered here, along with local reindeer, grizzly and black bear, and moose. Wolves, fox, lynx, beaver, otter, muskrat, mink, weasel, squirrel and porcupine traverse through quiet grasslands and marshes. Eagles, hawks and owls, robins and ravens fly through wind blown rocky enclaves in search of insects and small rodents. Berries, herbs and teas color the landscape along with wild cotton, cat tails and willows.

Why would you destroy this? If mining is allowed, air, wind and waterborne pollutants will turn this area into an arid, desolate wasteland unfit for habitation forever. Did the politicians decide how the residents of this area were going to live, stricken with cancers and deformed fetuses? Where would they go? The birthright of the residents of this area has been sold. And, they have been abandoned by the politicians and left to fend for themselves!

The village of Elim and other Seward Peninsula communities were never given the opportunity to discuss planned exploration and drilling of uranium nor voice their concerns regarding mining. The regional native corporation, Bureau of Land Management, State Dept. of Natural Resources and the elected officials charged to care for their constituency did not study the impact uranium mining would incur in the region. Had they done that, they would have realized that mining for uranium is unregulated and no method of extracting uranium is safe and would have informed the impacted area of the pros and cons of development. And Gov. Palin has broken her oath of office and despite her State of the State speech, has gone against her promises of "doing things right, mutual trust, trustworthy government and responsible mining development " by allowing a proposal to mine uranium on the Seward Peninsula which now threatens the livelihood and lives of the people of Western Alaska.

The organization, Elim Students Against Uranium (ESAU), has been spearheaded by Emily Murray and Flora Simon. Emily Murray, "We may be the minority but as an indigenous nation, our voices will be heard and we will stand tall and fight for what we believe in."

ESAU is continuing to educate organizations and communities in the region and plans to take this protest to the United Nations Permanent Form on Indigenous Issues should Gov. Palin, the State of Alaska and mining conglomerates continue pursuing heavy mining development at Boulder Creek. Flora Simon, "This process of exploring, mining and being possessed by the mighty dollar has even corrupted the minds of our leaders that we voted for. The ones that are to be praised the most are the students of Elim that care enough to speak up and want to protect their subsistence lifestyle, for these are the ones that will benefit or be destroyed."
For More Information:
Western Mining Action Network
Elim Uranium Mine Student Blog
Big New’s: Uranium in Norton Sound Reigon
Indigenous Environmental Network
Images Courtesy: Big New’s: Uranium in Norton Sound Region
For more information contact:
Flora Simon - flora_simon@yahoo.com
Tom Goldtooth ien@igc.org
The Indigenous Environmental Network • PO Box 485 • Bemidji • MN • 56619

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