Thursday, October 8, 2009
John Redhouse: Hate crimes against Natives in Grants, New Mexico
Longtime Navajo activist John Redhouse shares his writing, an interview and background, on hate crimes in New Mexico, uranium mining and protecting sacred places. Native Americans in New Mexico are preparing for the Indigenous Uranium Forum at Sky City in Acoma Pueblo, N.M., Oct. 22--24, 2009.
Subject: Recent hate crime spree in Grants probably connected to backlash to recent designation of Mount Taylor as traditional cultural property
By John Redhouse, Navajo
Date: June 28, 2009
I went to a meeting in Gallup last Friday and on the way, picked up issues of the Cibola County Beacon and Gallup Independent which carried articles on the recent hate crimes by non-Indians against homeless Indians in Grants. The recent TCP (Traditional Cultural Property) designation of Mt. Taylor (which was also featured in the Beacon) was on June 5 and the first (reported) racially motivated beatings began on June 9.
As you know, there has been an escalation of anti-Indian sentiment and hate statements (defamation in the form of testimony at recent TCP meetings/hearings, letters to the editor, comments on the street, etc.) that have now likely manifested in the recent rash of Indian-targeted assaults in the Uranium Capital of the World.
As an old civil rights activist and veteran of the bordertown wars in Gallup and Farmington in the early 1970s, I don’t think these beatings are an isolated incident. I think they are directly related to a non-Indian backlash against the TCP designation and what it (designation) means in terms of protecting and defending our sacred mountain from more uranium mining and milling, etc.
When I was on the New Mexico State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in the late 1970s, we (Gerald Wilkinson, LaDonna Harris, and myself on the advisory committee and John Dulles, II and Ernest Gerlach of the Commission who were also involved in the Window Rock and Farmington CRC investigations, hearings, and reports in the early 70s) made a similar connection with the rise of anti-Indian groups in Grants and northwestern New Mexico and growing Indian resistance (American Indian Environmental Council, First Mount Taylor Gathering, Mt. Taylor Alliance, etc.) in the Grants Mineral Belt. We had two meetings on it (the connection) in Santa Fe and Grants in March and April of 1979 and later met with John Dulles in Grants and Albuquerque.
The latter meeting with John was with the American Indian Environmental Council. This led to an area-wide civil rights investigation, public hearings, and a report in the early 1980s. John is still with the Commission (I met him at the Farmington CRC hearings in 1994 and 2004) and James Nez of NIYC (who was also at the Farmington hearings) is now on the state advisory committee (he was also a consultant to the Commission on the Grants project).
Now we have Chili Yazzie (another civil rights veteran of the Gallup and Farmington wars) on the new Navajo Human Rights Commission which is now spearheading a multi-state bordertown campaign around the Navajo Nation (Chili also was and may still be a member of the New Mexico Human Rights Commission). Also Navajo Nation Councilman and attorney Leonard Tsosie (who spoke eloquently at the 2004 Farmington hearing) is from Whitehorse Lake (which is in fairly close proximity to Grants) and I’m sure, has an active interest in the recent events.
Anyway, this morning’s Albuquerque Journal has a front-page article on the recent Grants beatings and now there is (or should be) state-wide attention on this matter.
And now in light of the recent outcomes of the Clint John and San Francisco Peaks cases, I think we need to put these recent anti-Indian developments in context and start a regional intertribal movement to deal with all this shit because it is getting more violent and deadly as we are still fighting the continuing Indian Wars as we have since 1492.
We need another Pueblo Revolt, a Navajo revolt, a general uprising among our people and nations…
Subject: re: Recent hate crime spree in Grants probably connected to backlash to recent designation of Mount Taylor as traditional cultural property
Date: July 1, 2009
By John Redhouse
The article “Milan man arrested in beating cases: MOUNTAIN RIGHTS BLAMED FOR SPILLED BLOOD” in the June 29, 2009 issue of the Cibola County Beacon stated that “The fight over Mount Taylor’s designation as Traditional Cultural Property has led to bloodshed and an arrest.” It also stated that “According to reports, an anonymous caller told officers that (Shawn) Longoria was boasting of ‘beating up the men because the Native Americans had got Mount Taylor and now they owned (sic) him.’”
The article “Milan man arrested in Native beatings” in the June 30, 2009 issue of the Gallup Independent stated that “Longoria was heard bragging about beating up Native American men because they had now gotten Mount Taylor and they owed him, court records state.”
The Re-Invasion of Mount Taylor
By Kee Largo
And then there were none.
The year was 1990 and the last uranium mine and mill in the Grants Mineral Belt in New Mexico had closed its radioactive doors. Due in large part to the low prices of uranium ore and concentrate.
But like the Son of Kong, the uranium beast with its many half-lives and lives is back. Due in no small part to the high or higher prices of uranium oxide.
On the 26th day of June, nineteen hundred and ninety-nine, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave public notice that it was about to issue its permit to allow Rio Grande Resources Corporation of Grants to discharge large amounts of mine wastewater pumped from the Mount Taylor Uranium Mine into the waterways that eventually run through the lands of Laguna Pueblo, Tohajiilee (formerly Canoncito) Navajo Band, and Isleta Pueblo before emptying into the Rio Grande where it carries the industrial wastewater to Ysleta Tigua Pueblo in Texas and beyond.
EPA later approved the uranium corporation’s mine wastewater discharge permit application which also stated that it “currently operates” the Mount Taylor Mine.
Rio Grande Resources Corporation is also a subsidiary of General Atomics Company of San Diego that currently owns the Mt. Taylor Mine which is also the deepest underground uranium mine in the world.
Then in 2001, the New Mexico Environment Department renewed the permits of Rio Grande Resources Corp to discharge over seven million gallons of uranium mine wastewater per day from the Mount Taylor Mine and over two million tons of uranium mill tailings slurry per day from the Mount Taylor Mill (which was not yet constructed but yet was licensed by the State of New Mexico as an Agreement State with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to mill uranium mined at the Mt. Taylor Mine).
Downstream from the approved or re-approved points of discharge are the radiologically contaminated lands of the Pueblo of Laguna, Tohajiilee Band of Navajos, and the Pueblo of Isleta.
Kennecott Copper Corporation (on behalf of SOHIO Western Mining Company) and Homestake Mining Company also submitted radioactive groundwater discharge permit renewal applications to NMED for their still-unremediated uranium mill and tailings sites which are located on the east and west sides of Mount Taylor.
Laguna and Isleta are downstream from Kennecott’s (or SOHIO’s) “inactive” L-Bar (or L-Bar Ranch) uranium mill and tailings sites and Acoma Pueblo, Laguna, and Isleta are downstream from Homestake’s “contaminated” Milan uranium mill and tailings sites which are also located near the Eastern Navajo Agency.
Four years later, EPA re-permitted Rio Grande Resources to discharge uranium mine wastewater from the Mt. Taylor Mine.
There was no noticeable (at least noticeable to this writer) change in the status of the state regulatory scheme for the massive dewatering of the Mt. Taylor Mine.
In 2006, Rio Grande proposed to discharge 18,000 gallons per day of uranium mill process water and 38,000 tons per day of uranium mill tailings slurry from the state-licensed but still unconstructed Mt. Taylor Mill.
Last year, Rio Grande Resources Corporation then filed a Notice of Intent with NRC to submit an application for a federal license for “a conventional uranium mill and tailings facility in the vicinity of Mt. Taylor uranium mining properties in New Mexico” and “current plans would anticipate an application to be developed and submitted during 2009/2010.”
Besides Rio Grande Resources Corp, there are at least ten more uranium companies interested in u mining and milling in the area of Mount Taylor and the Greater Grants Mineral Belt.
And like the Conquistadors, they continued to come.
They are Strathmore Minerals Corporation (also known as or doing business as Strathmore Resources U.S., Ltd. and Strathmore Resources, Ltd.), Urex Energy Corporation, Laramide, Ltd. (aka or dba Laramide Resources, Ltd.), Neutron Energy, Inc., Max Resources Corporation (aka or dba MAX Corporation), Western Energy Development Corporation (a subsidiary of Western Uranium Corporation), Uranium Resources, Inc., Uranium Company of New Mexico, Energy Metals Corporation, and Quincy Energy Corporation.
They join Hydro Resources, Inc. (a subsidiary of URI) and its proposed but legally challenged Church Rock and Crownpoint in situ leach mining and processing projects. And NZU’s planned but legally challengeable Hosta Butte ISL project. NZU is a subsidiary of New Mexico and Arizona Land Company.
It should however be noted that Church Rock, Crownpoint, and Hosta Butte are located within the exterior boundaries of the Eastern Navajo Agency or the New Mexico Navajo Checkerboard Area and therefore subject to the territorial jurisdiction of the Dine Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 or the Navajo uranium ban. Not to mention the applicable federal Navajo Indian Country doctrine.
But still they continued to come, like the cavalry.
The uranium invasion of Mount Taylor and aboriginal Navajo and Pueblo lands in western New Mexico proceeded as uranium leases, uranium exploration permits, and uranium mining permits were expeditiously if not automatically issued by the New Mexico Land Office, New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division, federal Bureau of Land Management, and the Cibola National Forest Service via the 1872 Mining Act and other antiquated laws from the Manifest Destiny era.
Dr. David Begay, Ph.D. and Navajo medicineman, was among the first native voices to speak out publicly against the latest wave of drilling and desecration.
As policy adviser to the Dine Hataalii Association, Dr. Begay later worked with the Navajo Nation, Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Zuni Pueblo, and the Hopi Tribe to protect the sacred mountain from expanded uranium leasing and development.
The regional intertribal coalition led by Acoma Pueblo filed a joint application with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division to list the uranium-threatened mountain as a traditional cultural property on the State Register of Cultural Properties.
The state division then referred the listing nomination to the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee which then considered the request and granted (and re-granted) an emergency but temporary listing of the endangered mountain as a TCP on the state register.
The temporary listing was in effect for one year as the nominating tribes and pueblos applied for a permanent listing.
The Cibola County Commission resolutely opposed the temporary listing, and even more resolutely opposed the proposed permanent listing.
Earlier the pro-uranium, anti-Indian county commission had resolutely supported uranium mining and milling on Mount Taylor and the Grants Mineral Belt—as had the politically unprogressive and culturally insensitive McKinley County Commission.
After the temporary listing, Mount Taylor was honored by the All Indian Pueblo Council as part of the 2008 National Days of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places.
Earlier AIPC passed a resolution opposing uranium mining and milling on the holy mountain—as did the resolutely opposed Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache tribes.
Mount Taylor was also listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2009.
Acoma Pueblo nominated the endangered mountain to the list.
On June 5, 2009, the state cultural properties review committee decided to permanently list Mount Taylor as a traditional cultural property on the state register of cultural properties.
The designation would help protect 439,000 acres or 686 square miles of the 11,301-foot mountain. The new TCP boundary extended from the mountain’s summit to the bases of five of its mesas.
However the permanent listing does not totally ban existing and proposed uranium exploration, mining, and milling on Mount Taylor. It does however trigger a mechanism for state and federal agency consultations with Indian tribes, communities, and organizations (such as the Dine Hataalii Association) on the potential effects of uranium leasing and development on traditional cultural properties and other significant cultural resources in the affected areas.
Also getting the temporary and permanent listings was not exactly an Indian-friendly process. The first meeting of the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee (which granted the temporary listing) was legally challenged by the Cibola County Commission. A separate but related public meeting in Grants on the first temporary listing was described as “very heated” and racially charged. Speaking in defense of the Turquoise Mountain was Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum coordinator Anna Rondon who later said, “I was there because the mountain is sacred to me and I am Navajo. This is all about stopping uranium.” More racial tensions described the second meeting of the state cultural properties review committee in Grants. At the open but racially divided meeting, hundreds of Indian supporters and hundreds of non-Indian opponents of the controversial listing sat on opposite sides of the Grants High School basketball gym. Violently opposed whites and Hispanics called the listing “an Indian land grab” but their inaccurate racial characterization had no public policy impact as the state committee re-granted the temporary listing (which was the second temporary listing). After a third committee meeting in Santa Fe (this one on the permanent listing application), Navajo Nation Vice President Ben Shelley reported, “We were slandered with words from the landowners.” Actually these landowners or settler colonialists are the real Indian land grabbers but I digress. Longtime Navajo environmental activist Robert Tohe was also quoted as saying, “Prior to this vote, there was a lot of divisiveness and veiled threats on what would happen if Mount Taylor was designated as a TCP. You could hear people from the Grants area express that sentiment towards the tribes. But they never addressed the (TCP) application itself. There is every justification to have that as a traditional cultural property.”
After the vote on June 5, there was another anti-Indian backlash as racism reared its ugly head again in the hostile bordertown and former boomtown of Grants, New Mexico which was once the Uranium Capital of the World.
On June 9, the racially motivated hate crimes began. The target—five homeless Navajo men. All severely beaten with rocks, bats, knives, brass knuckles, and pellet guns by a gang of young Hispanic men. One of the punks said, “Let’s kill this fucking Navajo.” The attacks—four of them, or at least four of them reported—continued until June 18 when one of the attackers was arrested after being heard bragging about “beating up the men because the Native Americans had got Mount Taylor and now they owed him.”
On June 24, Rio Grande Resources Corporation Manager Joe Lister met with the Grants City Council. Not about the recent hate crimes which should also include attempted murder. But about the legal permanent designation of Mount Taylor as a traditional cultural property.
Mr. Lister said, “As a resident of Grants for 50 plus years and a manager of one of the local uranium mines, it is my responsibility to protect our resources, on top of and in the ground. I have concerns and believe you guys should, about the recent TCP designation of Mount Taylor.”
To which City Mayor Joe Murrietta said, “I voiced my displeasure in the hearings. We are seeing what we can do.”
City Manager Bob Horacek added, “The city is seeking legal action to protect the city’s interests. Our attorney is involved.”
Ben Shelley later came to town to condemn the hate crimes and the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission investigated the recent pattern of racial violence against tribal members and held a public hearing in Grants.
But as of this writing, the rest of the hate criminals remain at large.
John Redhouse on Activism, Uranium, Mount Taylor, and More
By Ana Sazi
In a rare but free-ranging interview, SIUF adviser and consultant John Redhouse speaks candidly of his long activist career, early connection to the uranium issue, and the continuing struggle to protect Mount Taylor.
John, I know you have been around the block a few times, but can you tell us a little bit about yourself? You’re pretty enigmatic, you know.
Yeah, sure. Uh, where to begin. Let’s see. I’m Navajo and Ute from Farmington. Grew up as a bordertown kid so I know all about racism. Farmington was also a boomtown in the 50s and 60s so I know something about boomtowns and attendant energy and environmental issues. Excuse me, let’s back up. It’s been a while since I spoke to somebody other than myself. I’m Navajo and Ute, as I said. My maternal clan is Todachiinii and my paternal clan is Bitahnii. I think everybody knows that I’m Navajo but I’m also a quarter Ute on my mother’s side. Her father was a Ute. Anyway, that’s pretty much who I am—tribally or bitribally and by clan.
When did you become an activist? Or when did you decide to become an activist?
Good question. Or questions. One of the defining moments for me was when I was 15. I had this white friend and we used to hang out together. And one time, we were playing basketball—one on one—and we were playing to 20 and the score was tied 18-18, and then I hit a long-range jumper and won the game. Then he said, “You fucking Navajo.” I was shocked because this was my good friend saying that. We had done all kinds of things together. So I asked him, “What did you call me?” And he said with a smug smile, “You heard me.” I told him to get out since we were playing in my yard. And he said with that same shitty smile, “If that’s the way you want it, goddammit”, and left. I thought about what he said all that night. Then the next day, I was playing basketball at another kid’s place. And then my former friend came over—uninvited—and started playing with us—like nothing had happened. I pushed him and then beat him up. And then he ran home but before he left the other kid’s yard—and from a safe distance—he called me a whore.
Well, he was afraid to call me a fucking Navajo again or I would have went after him and he knew it. He probably thought it was the next worse thing he could say to me. Oh, and just for the record, I wasn’t a whore in those days. But that whole incident raised my consciousness considerably and later I politicized all that anger and hatred growing up and fighting racism—even in my backyard. The good thing about all that—besides scoring the winning shot and later kicking his white racist ass—was that I was no longer apolitical or color-blind after that. And I’ve been on the right side of the issue ever since.
So how did you politicize your anger and hatred?
Well, the Red Power Movement saved me. Otherwise, I would have just self-destructed. Would have probably been just another drunk on the streets. In the summer of 1968, I read Stan Steiner’s book The New Indians which was about the emerging Indian power movement. And the National Indian Youth Council. Long before Alcatraz and AIM, there was NIYC. I remember I was particularly struck by the words of Clyde Warrior when he ended one of his famous speeches for a Greater Indian America. His words were in the form of a challenge, “How about it? Let’s raise some hell!” I then joined NIYC and a month after I graduated from high school, in 1969, I went to the Clyde Warrior Memorial Institute in American Indian Studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder. It was one of three summer institutes run by NIYC. There I met great people. Scholars like Bob Thomas who lectured on classic colonialism and internal colonialism. Vine Deloria, Jr., who was going to law school at CU, spoke to us about treaties and treaty rights. That was when his article “Custer Died For Your Sins” came out in Playboy. Actually, it was a chapter from his upcoming book by the same name. Charlie Cambridge, who was director of the Boulder institute, knew Vine and once took Wilbert Tsosie and I to his house for a barbeque and personal conversation. That was a real honor for me, just a kid out of high school. After the institute, NIYC had its annual meeting in Albuquerque. There I met more great people. Gerald Wilkinson, Sam English, Bill Pensoneau, Stanley Snake, and other young warriors and alumni from the 1968 and 1969 institutes. Of course, I knew Richard Nichols and Bernard Second from the 1969 Boulder institute. And David Redhorse from Farmington. I also had a huge crush on Barbara Walkingstick but…well, what can you say, love hurts. Anyway, after the meeting, we had a demonstration at the BIA. With picket signs, a sit-in, and a spirited accountability session with the Area Director. Then a couple months later, we raised hell at the NCAI convention in Albuquerque. And a month after that, we had our own conference at the University of Oklahoma in Norman to evaluate the institute program. There I met Browning Pipestem, Wyndham McKinney, and Ted Grinnell. And OU Indian Club president Dennis Red Elk who was leading the student protest of Little Red—the racist Oklahoma Sooner mascot. And this was all before Alcatraz and before AIM became national. In five months, my life had changed—forever—and NIYC was a big part of that change.
How did you get involved in the uranium issue?
I think I’ve always been involved in this issue. You see, my mother came from Red Rock—now called Red Valley—and there was a lot of uranium mining in the Red Rock-Cove area from the late 40s to the late 60s. And a lot of her relatives—the men—worked in the mines. And then they started dying of cancer in the early 70s. So most of the girls she grew up with became widows by the time they were 50. My father came from Teec Nos Pos—on the other side of the Carrizo Mountains—and there was a lot of uranium mining there too. It was the same thing as Red Rock and Cove. In his case, it was some of his half-brothers—who lived on both sides of the mountain—who worked in the mines and later died of cancer. So the extended families of both of my parents were directly affected by uranium mining. They are my own people, part of my flesh and blood, so I’m already involved. When I was about nine, I remember seeing a little girl at one of my mother’s relative’s place at Oak Springs. She looked like that little Japanese girl in National Geographic who was the victim of industrial mercury poisoning. It was summer and she was lying on a cot in a shade house. She couldn’t talk, she couldn’t move, and they were fanning her to keep her cool. I didn’t make the causal connection then but I knew something terrible was happening out there. And then I used to hear stories from one of my aunts on my father’s side about these big snakes—like 30-feet long—crawling up the Carrizo Mountains. I was still a little kid then but I felt in my heart that something wasn’t right over there either. Well anyway, as an activist, I got involved in the uranium issue in 1973 when Fred Johnson of DNA and I began working against the Exxon uranium lease which included Red Rock. By then, I had made the causal connection between radiation and cancer after I read a series of articles on the plight of Navajo uranium miners in the Albuquerque Tribune. We challenged the Exxon lease until 1977 when the federal courts finally ruled against us. NIYC was part of the EIS challenge suit. But in the end, it was economics—not the law—that won the battle for us.
Yeah. You know, the low price of uranium. In 1983. That’s when Exxon pulled out. And when they pulled out, they hadn’t mined one ton or milled one pound of uranium on their lease. But they did drill some 400 exploratory holes in the shadow of Beautiful Mountain where my grandmother and mother used to graze sheep in the summer.
What about Mount Taylor?
I got involved in the Mount Taylor uranium issue in 1974 when Gulf began constructing the Mt. Taylor Mine. I was Associate Director of NIYC then. We campaigned against the mine but we couldn’t stop it. That was before the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and other Native American religious freedom protection and cultural preservation laws. Also involved in the NIYC uranium work at different times from 1975 to 1978 were Al Ortiz, Herb Blatchford, Marley Shebala, Louise Four Horns, Luci Tapahonso, Ron Hudson, Robert Tohe, James Nez, Aldine Ferrier, Esther Keeswood, Geneva Platero, Frank Carillo, Manuel Pino, Al Henderson, Winona “No Nuke” LaDuke, and some of our ace staff attorneys Tom Luebben, John Kelly, and George Harrison. But the organization was also involved in about 200 other issues at the time so our uranium work was at best understaffed and underfunded.
That must have been frustrating.
Very frustrating. And then we couldn’t get a good legal angle to effectively challenge the mine project. The mine was also located on a Spanish Land Grant so NEPA didn’t apply. My god, what right did the King of Spain have to unilaterally claim and grant our sacred mountain to those nakais who are now committing hate crimes against our people—the original owners? Plus there were 37 other mines and five mills operating in the Greater Mount Taylor and Grants Mineral Belt region. And more were being constructed and planned. We were like that little Dutch boy who had all of his fingers in the dike and the North Sea wasn’t waiting for shit.
I hear you.
Well, let’s talk about the First Mount Taylor Gathering in 1979.
First, we need to go back to August, 1978 when I resigned as NIYC Associate Director. One of the reasons I resigned was to serve as interim director of the organization’s New Mexico Indian Environmental Education Project which had just gotten funded. I recruited Elouise Chicharello and Lisa Chavez to serve as permanent co-directors of the state-wide project. Two women—one Navajo, one Pueblo. But Elouise couldn’t serve because she was going to Antioch Law School in DC on our paralegal program. So Lisa became the project director and hired Eulynda Toledo as assistant director and Maurice Thompson as resource librarian. I resigned as interim NMIEPP director and worked as a project consultant. Later that month, I went to the National No-Nukes Strategy Conference in Louisville, Kentucky where I conducted a series of workshops on Indian uranium and nuclear issues. I also spoke at the conference. Anyway, I met Tom Campbell there. He first turned me on to the Mount Taylor uranium issue in 1974 when he was with the Central Clearing House in Santa Fe, and later hooked me up with fellow Santa Fean Brant Calkin of the Sierra Club who had led a blockade of a uranium exploration road in Water Canyon on Mount Taylor. He had consulted with Al Ortiz on the cultural significance of Mount Taylor before the road blockade. Later the three of us---Tom, Brant, and I—did a radio show in Santa Fe on this and other critical environmental issues. Anyway, I met with Tom and other members of the Natural Guard Fund who were also at the Louisville conference, and together we came up with the idea of an Indian-led anti-uranium protest gathering at Mount Taylor in the spring of 1979 which would be coordinated with other front-end actions around the country. Other nationally-coordinated actions were planned to take place against the middle stage and rear-end of the nuclear fuel cycle in the summer and fall of 1979, and then culminate in a massive citizens march and civil disobedience or direct action in the nation’s capital which would be aimed at shutting down the capital and shutting down the whole nuclear fuel and weapons chain in the spring of 1980. My Natural Guard Fund brother Brett Bursey described the scenario of escalating actions before the final action in DC which would be direct action and mass civil resistance with no compromise and no surrender. He said, John, with your help, we start at Mount Taylor which is at the front-end. We go front, middle, rear---boom, boom, boom. And then we move on Washington. Brett, who was also with the Palmetto Alliance in South Carolina, was a true direct action warrior and had spent time in prison for his beliefs and convictions. He and other members of the Natural Guard Fund believed in and practiced direct action. I was impressed with the national anti-nuclear movement at that time and saw it as a very powerful social change movement like the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement—both of which had a tremendous impact on society. In fact, there were many veterans of those movements in the anti-nuclear movement. Besides Tom, I already knew Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman of the Clamshell Alliance which was very direct action. So I joined the Natural Guard Fund and at one of our caucuses at an anti-nuclear summit meeting in Stoughton, Massachusetts in December, 1978, we finalized our plans for the Mount Taylor Gathering and related sister actions. A month earlier, I met with Lynda Taylor in Albuquerque. The other Natural Guard Fund board members who she knew had told her about me. Lynda was working on the Karen Silkwood case—Karen Silkwood, incidentally, had called NIYC shortly before her death in 1974 but that is another story—and was also working with Jim Garrison of the Sunflower Alliance in Oklahoma. I also met Jim at the Louisville conference. Anyway, Lynda wanted to move to New Mexico and work on Indian uranium issues, especially as they related to Kerr-McGee. She and Jim had already worked with Frank Thomas, and she knew Franklin Eriacho. When I met with Lynda in November, 1978, she was in town to speak at a Karen Silkwood Memorial march and rally. Vernon Bellecourt was there and we also marched and spoke at the rally. That’s when he said that AIM fights cavities. You know, the holes from all the drilling and mining on Indian land. I had known and worked with Vernon since 1972. Anyway, Lynda later moved out here and began working with Sarah Harvey from Red Valley on Navajo uranium radiation victims issues. I also recruited her to work as a non-Indian liaison for the Mount Taylor Gathering which still did not have a lead Indian organization. In August and September, 1978, there was a big organizational split within NIYC. My resignation as Associate Director was part of that split. But there were a lot of other people who left the organization and some of them—including me—formed the American Indian Environmental Council. Herb Blatchford, Diana Ortiz, Geneva Platero, and I incorporated the new group in October, 1978. Diana was later elected AIEC board president and Herb and I served as advisers. Anyway, I was fired as NMIEPP consultant by NIYC Executive Director Gerald Wilkinson in December, 1978. The firing had nothing to do with my project work. It was part of the continuing fallout from the organizational split and other unresolved internal issues which mostly had to do with the increasing but unchecked authority of non-Indians in the organization and the corrupting influence of increased federal funding on the organization’s original principles and traditional values. As Mimi Lopez put it, we were becoming part of what we were fighting against and that’s when we decided to split. In protest of my unfair firing, Herb and Al Henderson resigned as NIYC board members. Even former NIYC Associate Director Charley John called Gerry and chewed him out. So did former NIYC board member Michael Benson. And, of course, former NIYC Associate Director Sam English was always chewing him out. Sam said that he thought that NIYC was holding me back anyway. Anyway, Herb and I no longer had any ties with NIYC—even though Herb co-founded the organization in 1961 and served as its first executive director and later as board vice president. So, with the split final and nothing hanging between us, I was free to work directly with the American Indian Environmental Council. I then met with Diana and we agreed that AIEC would be the lead Indian organization for the Mount Taylor Gathering which was held in late April, 1979. After the gathering, the multi-cultural Mount Taylor Alliance was formed—thanks to the great coalition building efforts of Lynda Taylor, Lewis Pitts, and a young Japanese man named Hiroshi—I can’t remember his last name. I probably couldn’t pronounce it anyway. But he was also on The Longest Walk I in 1978. Also joining the MTA Mod Squad was Becky Hardee of the Natural Guard Fund. Then there was the Florencia Gathering against WIIP in September, 1979. And then the Dalton Pass Gathering in April, 1980 with sister actions around the country and in Washington, DC. Ultimately, though, we didn’t shut down Washington or slay the nuclear beast. But the Three Mile Island event in March, 1979—which we did not factor into our earlier strategic planning—had the after effect of permanently shutting down much of the nation’s uranium and nuclear industry and thus saved millions of lives from unnecessary radiation exposure. A lot of this historical stuff is in my papers which I donated to the University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research in 2006. And lot of it is still in my working files which I didn’t donate…Your eyes are starting to glaze over, so maybe I better stop now. These old movement war stories, I got a million of them.
I believe it…yawn.
Well, I was just getting started but…
I have to go now. I have a headache. I think you should just go back to being a reclusive relic.
But don’t you want to hear about me and Bonnie Raitt when we both first served on the MUSE Foundation board? Well, it was in mid-April, 1979 and we were meeting at a HoJos in Saugerties near Woodstock in upstate New York when…
Oh god. This interview is over. I am so out of here.
What about lunch? You promised me lunch.
Buy your own lunch.
Sigh...I tell you, I get no respect.
Mr. Redhouse, 58, is writing a book on the history of Indian activism from 1969 to 1980. The University of New Mexico Press (for whatever bizarre reason) has expressed interest in publishing it. I just hope they don’t ask me to review it.
Posted by Censored News, publisher Brenda Norrell at October 08, 2009