Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 13, 2012

Navajos still dying and fighting new uranium mining

By Don Yellowman, President of Forgotten People
Censored News
Forgotten People gather in a house at Black Falls, Ariz.,
near the uranium-contaminated Box Spring well.
Photo by Rachel Wise.
French translation
Thank you Christine Prat

Yah ah teh All:

My name is Don Yellowman, President of the Forgotten People, I am Dine, with Inalienable Rights to Clean Air, Clean Water and entitled to live and thrive on our Mother Lands.

I am here today before you to share the Forgotten People Resolution regarding the Dine Be Keh Yah Uranium Contamination Problem.

I stand before you under this Window Rock, which is a symbol of our unified strength as Dine. I believe that we are Holy People endowed by our Creator to be Stewards of our homelands and protectors of our traditional way of life.

We are facing many issues on the Navajo Nation, the people are fighting for their water rights, and against Non-Navajo interests to our natural resources and sacred sites.

Our Navajo Nation supports dirty energy production, which pollutes our air, water and homelands; and ironically we who live in Western Navajo, have been denied electricity and access to potable water because of those outside interests and policies that impede our right to prosper, like the Bennett Freeze (and the list goes on).

Today, many of our elected leaders are open and said to support Uranium mining on the Navajo Nation.

To our Leaders: Let us not put profit over people, or be blinded by ignorance or greed; let us not forget the largest Nuclear accident in the United States occurred on the Navajo Nation when a radioactive toxic waste dam broke and released its runoff into the Rio Puerco River.

History is doomed to repeat itself if ignored, on July 16, 1979, at 5 a.m. on the Navajo Nation, less than 12 hours after President Carter had proposed plans to use more nuclear power and fossil fuels. On that morning, more than 1,100 tons of uranium mining wastes -- tailings -- gushed through a packed-mud dam near Church Rock, N.M. With the tailings, 100 million gallons of radioactive water gushed through the dam before the crack was repaired.

Barely a word of this disaster ever found its way to the national media, even today if any, few Navajos and Americans even know about this unspeakable disaster.

It is my honor, as President of the Forgotten People to introduce the People’s Resolution calling for the Navajo Nation and United States Government to Fund the Remediation of Uranium Contamination; to honor the spirit of Uranium Mining Moratorium; and support the implementation of a Radiation Sensor Monitoring System across the Navajo Nation.

Forgotten People call upon Navajo Nation and United States Governments, and demand that it be resolved that our people, as all people, have the inalienable right to clean air, clean water, and the preservation of their sacred lands.

For the past seventy years, even before the nuclear disaster on our lands of 1979, in fact since the days our people first worked in the uranium mines of our nation to build the atomic weapons that were used to end the Second World War, the people of the Navajo Nation have been misled, deceived, and ignored by Government about the dangers they had been exposed to and the coming devastation that would be brought upon our children, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the lands we’ve labored and cherished over many generations.

Nearly 30,000 of our people have made claims to the US Government under the law, demanding compensation and care for their cancers and suffering and the suffering of our children, and our unborn from the poisoned wind, water and homelands.

Even though the mining has stopped, the toxic radioactive debris from the mines has been picked up by the winds to fall wherever the winds carry it. These places include our homes, our streams, our aquifers, our lungs, and the bodies of our children. The toxins will remain lethal for the next 4.5 billion years and the plague will not go away until we as people commit to ending it.

This nuclear plague upon our nation is America’s Chernobyl and we will not be ignored or marginalized. For the Navajo People, the fight against the scourge is not a matter of ideology it is a matter of life and death and it is a fight we will not lose.

Here again, our homelands are for sale for shale oil and shale gas. Enormous riches to non-natives, eager investors and corporations are poised to exploit. In this process, again, our Mother Lands that support Life are subjugated.

Radioactive, deadly Radon gas will be emitted as it was from the uranium mining from past decades. Our water will be threatened again, even as we have yet to clean up the last nuclear mining.

This time, the threat will come from the radioactive tracers that are used in hydraulic fracking, so that investors can forecast where the shale oil and shale gas will flow, as they inject high-pressure toxic fluids beneath our sacred lands.

If we do not act now, before the agreements are signed behind closed doors where the grassroots are excluded from discussion, a new plague of death and suffering will be inflicted upon us, just as it was 70 years ago, when government, didn’t think we had the right to know.

We the Forgotten People today and forever, demand an end to the needless suffering of our people. The deception of our governments can no longer be allowed. We suffer as a result of policies and business practices approved and enacted upon by Navajo Nation, State of Arizona and Federal Government elected officials.

We call upon Navajo Nation and United States Elected officials to halt any and all political and business practices that affect us, without first consulting with the people in an inclusive and transparent way.

Today, “Forgotten People” have put our governments on notice; that we the people know there is a better way and are determined as Dine to build a sustainable future that supports social, economic and environmental justice.

The Dine People have inalienable rights under our Treaties, Human Rights, Civil Rights and Rights as Indigenous People to not only exist, but to also thrive and prosper.

There can be Prosperity. There can be a better tomorrow for all. But that day will not come, if we repeat the mistakes of yesterday and if we allow the exploitation our homelands again without first cleaning-up our polluted air, water and Mother lands.

We as a nation and as a world know it is possible and necessary to protect ourselves from radioactive winds. We deserve to be informed and aware of the poison winds that may surround us.

The Navajo Nation and United States Governments can and must begin installing a People’s Radioactivity Detection network, much like the one that the people demanded in Japan just a year ago following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Thirty days later their pleads were answered. They did not have to wait seventy years to be empowered with the life-saving information.
We the Navajo people today and in the spirit of our elders and for future generations who depend on those of us living today, will not wait another moment.

The Navajo People are not strangers to battle. Our people have a long proud tradition of serving on the Front Line for the US armed forces and our Code Talkers are solely responsible for outcome of World War II. Also, let us not forget, our miners helped build the nuclear arsenal that protected America from attack during the Cold War.

We must mobilize to these challenges as warriors to battle. If need be, we will ride our horses on Washington DC. It is imperative to our survival that we the Dine people once again become the masters of our destiny and force our rights to decide the destiny of our children.

There must be a People’s Radioactivity Detection System on Navajo Nation and we will not wait for it to be installed. We have already begun raising the funds needed to start it ourselves.
ALL the downwind victims of the uranium contamination must be made eligible for compensation under the US Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act of 1990 and as amended.
The US EPA clean up program stared under the Bush administration must continue until the job is completed not when the appropriations expire.
The moratorium on new mining must be kept in place until the cleanup has been completed.
The People must be empowered to set the rules and standards for any new mining on our lands.
Let it be resolved that as Dine people, we have been endowed not by government but by our Creator to the inalienable right to clean air, clean water, and the preservation of Sacred Lands.

Let all who would seek our consent to gain access to these our precious resources and our Mother, come first to we the Dine People so that we may seek the People’s blessings.

In closing, I would like to dedicate this action to Florabell Paddock who recently passed away. In her lifetime, she suffered and died as direct result from radioactive contamination near her home in Black Falls.

Ake he,

Don Yellowman, President of Forgotten People

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