Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights 2020

Friday, November 6, 2009

O'odham resist militarization and contamination

O'odham resist militarization and contamination

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Photo: Ofelia Rivas at the Indigenous Uranium Foum at Acoma Pueblo/Photo by Brenda Norrell

TUCSON - Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham, describes how the US Border Patrol and Tohono O'odham police are violating the rights of the O'odham who live along the Arizona/Mexico border. On Censored Blogtalk Radio, Rivas describes the ongoing militarization of her homeland and how O'odham ancestors were dug up during the construction of the US/Mexico border wall by the contractor Boeing.

Rivas, founder of O'odham Voice against the Wall, describes how all federal laws were violated to build the border wall, which became a barrier on an annual O'odham pilgrimage route. Rivas, speaking in an interview at the 7th Southwest Indigenous Uranium Summit, issued an invitation to a fundraiser for the O'odham Solidarity Project on November 13 in Tucson. Ward Churchill will speak, followed by a concert by Resistant Culture.

The uranium forum brought together Indigenous Peoples from the Americas whose lands and water have been poisoned by uranium mining. Now, more Indian territories are targeted for uranium mining in these cancer alleys.

On Tohono O'odham land, copper mining ruptured the earth and contaminated the groundwater and soil of the Tohono O'odham with uranium. As Indigenous Peoples gathered in Acoma Pueblo for the forum, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that Cyprus Tohono Corporation agreed to spend $6 million to investigate the contamination, about 30 miles south of Casa Grande, Arizona.

The cleanup is too late for the Tohono O'odham who died from cancer in this cancer cluster. Rivas came to the Indigenous Uranium Forum to learn more about the contamination and cancers left behind by the results of Cyprus mining. Now, Tohono O'odham are now fighting the planned Rosemont copper mine, 30 miles southeast of Tucson, mining that could destroy O'odham sacred places in the Santa Rita mountains and further contaminate the region.

Meanwhile, the Center for Biological Diversity announced that 100,000 letters and e-mails have been sent to the Bureau of Land Management to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining. Havasupai are among those fighting the planned uranium mining near their sacred Red Butte, uranium mining that could contaminate the aquifer and water supply of the region's people.

The Center said, "The comments, which were submitted in a public comment period that ended last Friday, voice support for the Interior Department's proposed 20-year ‘mineral withdrawal' that would prohibit new mining claims and the exploration or mining of existing claims without valid existing rights across nearly 1 million acres surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. The withdrawal would extend and strengthen protections set forth in the two-year land segregation announced by the Department on July 20."

Rivas has also been leading efforts to fight a toxic hazardous waste dump in the O'odham ceremonial community Quitovac, south of the border in the state of Sonora. Earlier, the US EPA admitted that US corporations operating factories in Mexico would be allowed to dump their hazardous waste there, instead of returning the waste to the country of origin of the raw materials, the US, as required by law.

Listen to Ofelia Rivas' Interview:
Read more at Americas:
Indigenous Uranium Forum denounces mining, militarization and hate crimes in Indian country
By Brenda Norrell/Americas Program

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