Native America

Native American land has been targeted for decades for uranium mining and, more recently, for radioactive waste dumps. Native Americans have disproportionately been affected by the serious health consequences from uranium mining and have struggled for compensation and restitution. The Navajo Tribe has now banned uranium mining on their land.



3rd Annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, July 30-August 1

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps helped lead the nuclear power and uranium mining workshops at the 1st (2008) and 2nd (2009) annual "Protect the Earth" gatherings held at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. These events were devoted to stopping metallic sulfide and uranium mining throughout Michigan's Upper Peninsula, particularly at the sacred Ojibwe "Eagle Rock" site on the Yellow Dog Plains near Lake Superior. Save the Wild U.P., one of the annual gathering's sponsors, has an excellent map showing the location of this Kennecot "Eagle Project," numerous other metallic sulfide mining proposals, and three known uranium mining proposals. Uranium mining is unprecedented in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, although it has already devastated Ojibwe lands at Elliot Lake, Ontario to the east, as described in the book of Serpent River First Nation testimonials edited by Lorraine Rekmans and Anabel Dwyer, and as depicted in an iconic photo by Robert Del Tredichi showing a wall of uranium tailings, visible behind the trees -- radioactive waste from the Stanrock mill near Elliot Lake, Ontario.

At the June 2010 Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Wisconsin, Kevin also met with Gabriel Caplett and Teresa Bertossi, editors of Headwaters: Citizen Journalism for the Great Lakes. Along with youth from the Keewenaw Bay Indian Community who had recently been arrested trying to defend Eagle Rock from bulldozers, Gabriel and Teresa gave an emergency presentation at Wisconsin's Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free networking caucus about the imminent mining threat at the sacred site. Hence the urgency of this year's 3rd annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering.

Check out this year's beautiful poster. This year's event will feature Ojibwe environmental justice activist Winona "No Nukes" LaDuke as keynote speaker, and renowned Native American musician Joanne Shenandoah. See the text of the email announcement just sent to Beyond Nuclear here.


The hidden costs of uranium mining in Moab

Jen Jackson writes and insightful piece in the High Country News about the gradual and insiduous toll that uranium mining takes on the largely indigenous communities that do the deadly work. Here's an excerpt:

With other extractive industries, we tend to see the tragedies boldly splashed across the front page of the newspaper -- the massive oil spills, deaths on the natural gas rigs, or the dozens of coal miners killed in collapses and explosions. We can't avoid a general awareness of some of the true costs of fossil fuels-based energy production. But many of the costs of nuclear power -- beyond the Three Mile Island tragedy now fading in our memories -- have been more insidious.

Cancer deaths do not occur suddenly, inside a mine. Instead, they happen slowly and at a remove from the time and place of exposure. The deaths occur at home or in the hospital, surrounded by grieving loved ones rather than reporters with TV cameras. The family mourns, but the nation goes on about its business; nobody makes speeches. Mining disasters are horrible, but uranium takes an even more deadly toll. And it's not just the miners who are affected. It's also the families that live near the mine or the mill.


Arizona tribes ban uranium mining

The Hualapai Tribe has renewed a ban on uranium mining on its land near the Grand Canyon, reports the Associated Press. The Hualapai join other Native American tribes in opposing what they see as a threat to their environment and their culture. The tribal ban adds to a temporary mining ban on nearly 1 million federally owned acres around the Grand Canyon.


July 16 marks anniversary of worst accidental release of radioactive waste in US history

On July 16, 1979, just 14 weeks after the Three Mile Island reactor accident, and just 34 years to the day after the Trinity atomic test, the small community of Church Rock, New Mexico, became the scene of another nuclear tragedy.

Ninety million gallons of liquid radioactive waste, and eleven hundred tons of solid mill wastes, burst through a broken dam wall at the Church Rock uranium mill facility, creating a flood of deadly effluents that permanently contaminated the Rio Puerco river. For more on the disaster at Church Rock and the implications today, read Linda Gunter's essay. For more details, see Killing our Own and Southwest Research and Information Center.


Native Americans and the nuclear fuel chain

The first link in a nuclear chain that binds us to catastrophic weapons and energy is uranium mining. The final link is the intensely radioactive waste these industries produce. Native Americans are targeted at both ends of the chain.

The health of members of tribal communities living near operating and abandoned uranium mines and mills has been negatively affected and they continue to demand population-based health studies to explain these illnesses. No extensive health studies have ever been conducted among these populations.

To date the only proposed site for a high-level radioactive waste site for geological disposal is on Western Shoshone Indian land at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. However, it appears that president Obama will likely cancel the flawed Yucca site after decades of wasted time and billions in wasted dollars.

Dozens of Native American reservations have been targeted for high-level radioactive waste “parking lot” dumps. The anti-nuclear and environmental justice movements, working with members of these Native communities, have stopped every such proposal thus far. On the western part of the Navajo Nation about 1 in every 5 drinking water sources contains uranium and arsenic that exceed EPA drinking water standards, and many of these contaminated water sources are located close to abandoned uranium mines.

Indian tribes in Alaska are facing the prospect of a new prototype reactor that could contaminate America’s most pristine watershed.

At Prairie Island, Minnesota, Indian land involuntarily hosts a massive dry cask storage “parking lot” for spent fuel rods just 600 yards from the tribal day care center.

The Seneca Nation of Indians is downstream from the West Valley dump for nuclear power and weapons wastes and the country’s failed commercial irradiated fuel reprocessing plant.

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