Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 2, 2013

Navajo government, US EPA, fail to protect Dine' from strewn Cold War uranium tailings


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The Sacrifice Zone
Navajo Nation government and US EPA have failed to protect Dine' from strewn radioactive uranium tailings -- from the Four Corners region to western Navajoland -- in the same region where three coal-fired power plants poison the air, water and land

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

NAVAJO NATION -- The grassroots gathering at the International Uranium Film Festival on the Navajo Nation began this morning, with talks by Native Americans battling uranium mining in their homelands. The festival will also feature 21 films, many focused on the poisoning and disease of the Cold War uranium mining on Navajoland, known as a "sacrifice area" to the US.
Navajo President Ben Shelly spoke during the opening of the gathering, being held at the Navajo Nation  Museum, on Dec. 2 --4.
President Shelly said he is still "talking" with the US about cleaning up the Church Rock, N.M., uranium tailings spill that happened in 1979. Shelly said he is still "talking" about cleaning up the Tuba City dump site too.
The Church Rock spill poisoned the region of the Navajo Nation, and then flowed down the Rio Puerco toward Flagstaff, Arizona, poisoning more land and water and causing cancer and disease.
President Shelly, however, offered no guarantees that there would be no more uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. Speaking of the need for cleanup of the strewn radioactive tailings, Shelly said he told US officials that the US first must clean up the abandoned uranium tailings, then, Shelly added, "we might talk" about more uranium mining.
During the morning session, San Carlos Apache Wendsler Nosie began by speaking of his wife, Dine' from Cameron, Arizona. Nosie described how important women are to Apaches and how women are held in high regard in the family and community.
Nosie spoke of identity and about being who you are. Speaking of the struggle against the telescopes on sacred Mount Graham, he said when you challenge something that is bad, "they will come at you" with something greater.
Nosie spoke of the importance of working with the youths, and not getting pulled down by those who oppose you.
Nosie said the fight is over "if we lose our identity." Nosie spoke of the struggle to maintain identity, healing with the children, and the importance of giving back to Mother Earth.
Carletta Tilousi, Supai and Hopi, spoke on the protection of the natural resources and human life. Tilousi spoke on the importance of protecting the Supai homeland and Grand Canyon from uranium mining. She talked of the trade routes with Navajos, and how food has been grown in the region, as the people sustained themselves. She thanked Dine' medicine men for helping Supai with healing remedies.
The uranium mining has already been going on in the Grand Canyon region, which has resulted in cancer and death for Supai. Tilousi said the plants too in the Grand Canyon region have been poisoned, as can be seen in the yellow spots in the leaves.
"Those areas are not just sacred to the Havasupai, they are also sacred to the Navajo people," Tilousi said.
Duane 'Chili' Yazzie spoke on how the modern-day Navajo government is not the peoples own government, but one "imposed on us."
Jonathan Perry, Dine', Becenti Chapter Vice President, encouraged everyone to continue in the struggle to protect the water and life.
Petuuche Gilbert, Acoma Pueblo, Acoma Laguna Coalition for Safe Environment, spoke on the power of prayer to protect this sacred land. Petuuche spoke on the importance of the people advocating for no uranium mining. He said the struggle continues to persuade tribal councils to say 'No' to uranium mining, especially when tribal governments have that "carrot dangled" in front of them.
"It is up to us on how to protect our homeland," Petuuche said, pointing out the enormous amounts of water that mining companies are using.
He said there is now a 30 year lawsuit against Kerr McGee.
Further, there is currently a theft of Indian water rights underway in New Mexico.
"We have to work together," Petuuche said of the battle to prevent new uranium mining.
Nadine Padilla, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) coordinator, spoke of the importance of Native and non-Native groups working together, and revealing the unity and force strengthening them.

Watch video from Monday morning, 30 minutes, with Acoma Petuuche Gilbert and Nadine Padilla of MASE:
Watch more videos of sessions:
Info on gathering

1 comment:

Ky'neto said...

any talks about the uranium mine near Crownpoint, NM?