Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 17, 2023

No Place for Whales: The U.S. Military's Poisonous Legacy in Indian Country

No Place for Whales: The U.S. Military is still cleaning up its hazardous waste strewn and dumped in Alaska, at the same time that Biden approves more oil drilling in the Arctic.

A Slow and Toxic Genocide

The U.S. military's poisonous legacy in Indian country

U.S. Military's Strewn Undetonated Bombs, Napalm Burn Pits, and Buried Weapons

by Brenda Norrell
Censored News
August 2004
Updated March 17, 2023

President Biden has approved more oil drilling in the Arctic, while the trail of the U.S. military's hazardous waste has never been cleaned up. Native Americans have been exposed to the toxic legacy of two World Wars and the Cold War, with undetonated bombs, mustard gas, nerve gas, napalm, live shells and secret radioactive dumps strewn across Indian country.

Native Americans were first the victims of physical genocide and later the targets of a slow and toxic genocide.
From the nerve gas near Goshutes in Utah, to the explosives left behind at Fort Wingate in New Mexico, to the undetonated bombs littering the Lakota Badlands in South Dakota, the U.S. military left cancer-causing debris and explosives littering the land. Among the most strewn with the military's hazardous waste are the Aleutian Islands, Islands of Hawaii, and Walker River Paiute ancestral land in central Nevada.

The deadliest remains of the Cold War remain in the soil of the Western Shoshone, where the atomic bomb was detonated at the Nuclear Test Site. Navajos and Pueblos were sent to their deaths mining uranium during the Cold War. Today, radioactive tailings remain strewn across the Navajo Nation, regardless of the United States' continual promises of cleanup. The radioactive waste from the Church Rock, N.M.,  uranium spill, one of the worst in history, continues to flow through Navajo communities, and down the Rio Puerco wash in the Flagstaff, Arizona, region.

U.S. military strewn hazards in Alaska. With clean-up in Amaknak, Attu and Bethel, the military cites the danger to whales.

In Alaska, the U.S. Defense Department has left behind a trail of hazardous pipelines, fuel-contaminated soil, and chemical agents, as shown here in the ongoing cleanup.

Racism reflects Apartheid in South Africa

The United States policy of locating dangerous military operations near Indian communities is described as national racism, reflective of apartheid practices in South Africa, in a report published on these national sacrifice areas.

''Consider apartheid: The South African state deliberately and systematically located black communities 'downwind and downstream' of polluting industries and poorly managed waste landfill sites," states a report of the genocide and ecocide.

The article, 'The Treadmill of Destruction: National Sacrifice Areas and Native Americans, by Gregory Hooks of Washington State University and Chad Smith, was published in the American Sociological Review, in August of 2004.

In the 20th century, the United States fought and won two global wars and prevailed in the Cold War, Hooks and Smith said.

''The geopolitical demands of remaining the world's leading military power pushed the United States to produce, test and deploy weapons of unprecedented toxicity. Native Americans have been left exposed to the dangers of this toxic legacy.''

Pointing to the racism of slavery and chemical pollution in the southern United States, the authors said, ''Environmental inequality in the United States also displays the imprint of the nation's racist history.''

While relying on the Department of Defense's own data, the researchers expose facts readily available, but seldom published. Written for the field of sociology, the authors examine the human side of toxicity, war, and racism.

The data is readily available, but a review of the DOD's Native American Environmental Tracking System shows the damage and impacts listed are minimal and superficial, a mere fraction of the toxicity that remains.

For instance, asbestos was cited as a hazard of buildings at Fort Wingate Army Depot, which is surrounded by the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo. Navajos, however, there are even more concerns.

Fort Wingate's explosives

Fort Wingate Depot Disposition of Energetics and MEC, formerly Fort Wingate Army Depot, east of Gallup, N.M., sits among the red rocks along U.S. Interstate 40, between the Navajo Nation and the Pueblo of Zuni Tribe in New Mexico.  After the Depot was deactivated, a portion of the site was rented to a tenant that was on site conducting the demilitarization of munitions and working to develop innovative propellants and explosives.

In 1918, the Army established the munitions depot around an old cavalry post. Then, from 1918 until its closure in 1993, the 22,000-acre installation stored and demolished ammunition, seven miles east of Gallup. The tribes then used it jointly, with the army retaining the other half for missile testing and launching.

Fort Wingate was the center of the Hantavirus outbreak during decommissioning

In 1993, when Navajos were dying from the Hantavirus and respiratory hemorrhaging, the Indian Health Service in Window Rock, Arizona, kept confidential an IHS map showing that all of the initial deaths from Hantavirus occurred in a circle around Fort Wingate Army Depot, which was being decommissioned at the time.

When the wind currents and populated areas were taken into consideration, Fort Wingate was located dead center, the nucleus of the Hantavirus deaths.
As the army depot buildings were being torn down, and Navajos were dying from Hantavirus, said Navajo Councilman George John of Red Mesa, Ariz.

''I believe it is the result of biological warfare, stored at Fort Wingate, and released during the decommissioning,'' John said.

The Army denied the allegation and the Centers for Disease Control said the Hantavirus was carried by field mice. However, CDC's determination was considered invalid by Navajos. The areas on the Navajo Nation with the largest populations of field mice are in the pinon forests of the Chuska and Tsaile mountains, the region least affected by Hantavirus. There was also no justification for the sudden outbreak.
Another case in the Department of Defense NAETS files reveals more mystery in a Navajo Nation DOD site.

Nauaya Gra Rex AX on western Navajoland: All records purged

''Nauaya Gra Res AX'' is listed without information, on or near the Navajo Nation, with impacts unknown. ''The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) DERP-FUDS files consist of a one-page document that states that no records are available for the site.'' The National Archives and Records Administration, Pacific Region, also reported there are no records available, stated the report of the Department of Defense NAETS.

What was Nauaya Gra Res AX? The only other reference on the Internet describes it as a military site in Coconino County in Arizona. The county includes the western portion of the Navajo Nation.

Calling it environmental inequality, Hooks and Smith said the poisoning of Indian country is not explained by capitalism alone but involves complex geopolitics. The consequences of military expansion are the voracious consumption of natural resources and the deposition of toxic waste.

Hooks and Smith's study only considers closed military bases, because of national security concerns. But it opens the door to examining the environmental hazards at functioning military bases in and around Indian country.

Cold War uranium mining left unprotected Navajo miners dead in the Four Corners region but is not listed by the DOD because it was carried out under corporate contract.

Also, research often fails to reveal the combined toxicity generated from military bases, numerous power plants, coal mines and oil and gas wells in and around the Navajo Nation.

Hooks and Smith said the wars of the 20th century have been unprecedented in their ferocity and lethality. Political sociology must examine the destructiveness of war and the unevenness of ''sacrifices'' for national security.

Their research shows that American Indians were first the victims of physical genocide and later the targets of a slow and toxic genocide.

''That is, over the course of the 19th century, through a process that would be referred to as ethnic cleansing in contemporary debates, the United States forced nearly all Native Americans onto reservations located in western states.''

As the United States became the world's leading military power, it built a vast military complex in the same western states in which American Indians were concentrated.
The military chose federally owned and American Indian lands, often in close proximity and primarily in the west that tended to be too dry, remote, or barren to attract colonizers and corporations.

As this data slowly becomes public, the inequality has come to be identified as ''environmental genocide.'' With a domino effect, once a locale has been seriously degraded, it often attracts additional pollution.

Indian country is now riddled with the United States' ''national sacrifice'' and ''human sacrifice zones.''

Bombing Ranges left the land littered with unexploded bombs

On former bombing ranges, such as the South Unit of the Badlands on Pine Ridge tribal land in South Dakota, live bombs remain.

The government estimates that unexploded ordnances - including mines, nerve gases and explosive shells - contaminate 20 million to 50 million acres of land in the United States.

It will take up to 1,000 years to return this land to safe and productive use.
''Some may be so damaged, we may not attempt to clean it up,'' Hooks and Smith said.

"Bombs in Your Backyard," by ProPublica, reveals the U.S. military's radioactive dumps, underground storage tanks and unexploded ordinances spread across Indian country. These cancer-causing hazards have contaminated groundwater and surface water. The unexploded ordinances pose the risk of exploding. Below are just a few of these.

Tohono O'odham: Military's radioactive waste pit and explosives

"The site comprised 34,798.5 acres. The site is located on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation (formerly Papago Indian Reservation), in the Schuk Toak District, about 1.5 miles east of the village of Queen's Well. The Army constructed two training areas, each of which consisted of concentric circles formed from white rock and wooden structures. The site is currently owned by the U.S. Department of Interior and is under the control of the Tohono O'odham Reservation. The Schuk Toak District of the Tohono O'odham Nation uses the property for cattle grazing. This property is known or suspected to contain military munitions and explosives of concern (e.g., unexploded ordnance) and therefore may present an explosive hazard. (Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)",-121.3791491875,37.77031312367954,-102.4826648125&c=shrink\

(Above) The U.S. government says it has cleaned up underground radioactive storage tanks that were located 15 miles southwest of Sells, Arizona, on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Fallon Paiute and Shoshone Land: Navy's Bombing Range burned napalm

(Above) The Navy's Bombing Range in Fallon, Nevada, has 34 hazardous sites, including contaminated groundwater and soil, sites of spills and underground storage tanks. This is the homeland of the Fallon Paiute and Shoshone Nation. Paiute Myron Dewey live-streamed from the bombing range the day before he was killed. Myron, known around the world as a journalist and drone activist at Standing Rock, was hit head-on, on an isolated dirt road near his home at Yomba. Myron opposed the expansion of the bombing range, which was later approved.

Napalm burn pits at the Navy's bombing range at Fallon were documented during investigations into the cause of a child leukemia cluster at Fallon. Censored News reports:

Walker River Paiute Nation's land: 168 hazardous military sites, including mustard gas pits

(Above) Mustard gas disposal, bomb open burn pits, rocket launch debris, radioactive waste, and unexploded ordinances were hazardous waste left behind by the Hawthorne Army Depot and Department of Defense in central Nevada. It is the Paiute homeland in the area of the Walker River Paiute Nation in Nevada. Wovoka and Paiute journalist Myron Dewey are buried on the Walker River Nation.

"A disposal area for mustard and phosgene chemical munitions (HWAAP-A05) was located during the assessment. The area was first used during World War II; it was last used in 1946 to decontaminate and bury an unspecified quantity of mustard munitions and their toxic agent contents."

Lakota Badlands: Undetonated bombs strewn 

(Above) Badlands Bombing Range, Pine Ridge, South Dakota: Contaminated groundwater and hazardous surface water from bombing. Lakotas have found undetonated bombs here.

High-risk hazardous waste sites are indicated in red in Alaska.

The islands of the southwest tip of Alaska have radioactive dumps and unexploded ordinances

On Amchitka Island, a radioactive landfill has contaminated the groundwater and surface water. Access is restricted. It is not expected to be cleaned up until 2025.

"Amchitka Island is located in the Aleutian Islands, approximately 180 miles west-southwest of Adak, at 51N5' latitude, 179E longitude. The Army occupied this 71,000-acre island on 12 January 1943 with no formal withdrawal from the public domain. It was used for a base and airfield in support of the Aleutian Campaign against Japanese forces that had captured nearby Kiska and Attu."

"Airfields, hangars, control and warning facilities, gun emplacements, fuel tanks, docks, and other structures supported 14,500 troops. The Atomic Energy Commission used Amchitka from 1965 to 1973. From 1987 to 1993, the Navy built and operated an Over the Horizon radar facility on the island. The property is currently owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service There is a landfill associated with Removal Actions which was not closed upon completion of this project. See F10AK1010 Landfill Closure Rpts. (Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The Hawaiian Islands are littered with military's explosives and hazardous waste

Pakini bombing range is just one of the sites on the islands of Hawaii where the U.S. military left explosives and cancer-causing waste.,162.1547256071117,43.660344938825155,-77.78668064288831&c=shrink

Military's leaking fuel tanks poison water of thousands in Honolulu

Search for more: Hazardous waste strewn by military: 'Bombs in Your Backyard,' by ProPublica, shows hazardous waste sites of the U.S. Defense Department.,170.61480785595717,64.98541518881855,-39.26800464404285&c=shrink

Read more:

Remembering Margene Bullcreek and the Goshute's nerve gas neighbors: The U.S. Army in Utah

Chemical weapons were stored at Tooele Army Depot, southwest of Salt Lake City, near Skull Valley Goshute

Top Secret: Nauaya Gra Res AX: All military records were purged about this site on the Navajo Nation, with Dine' John Redhouse

Research for this article began in 2004 and was published as "A Slow and Toxic Genocide," by Brenda Norrell.

Access to information about individual tribes and installations may be found in a database maintained by the Department of Defense. A portion of the information is only available to tribal members with registration. Not currently available.

Copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News. May not be used without written permission.

No comments: