These powerful words come from Andy Orkin, an Ontario lawyer who worked on behalf of the Deline First Nations people, among the very first indigenous victims of the Atomic Age. Deline, Northwest Territories, Canada is home to a traditional Dene tribe, the only indigenous people on the mighty Great Bear Lake near the Canadian Arctic. Orkin is quoted in Part 1 of Pat McNamara's Nuclear Genocide in Canada.
The book opens by describing Port Radium, the first uranium mine in Canada, which commenced operations in 1933. Local indigenous men were hired to haul pitchblende, uranium ore containing then-coveted radium, in burlap sacks (see photos at left). Although the Canadian mines department had already alerted the federal government to the hazards, the men of Deline were not warned. They began dying of various cancers -- diseases unknown previously to the tribe -- at an alarming rate, in 1960.
Eventually, the Canadian government admitted the men's exposure to hazardous radioactive materials was to blame, but the "Village of Widows" had long since already figured that out themselves. As nuclear widow Cindy Kenny-Gilday of Deline said:
"This village of young men are the first generation of men in the history of Dene on this lake
to grow up without guidance from their grandfathers, fathers and uncles. This cultural, economic,
spiritual, emotional deprivation impact on the community is a threat to the survival of the one and only
tribe on Great Bear Lake. Itʹs the most vicious example of cultural genocide I have ever seen and it's in my own home."
The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility has posted a 1998 "Call for a Federal Response to Uranium Deaths in Deline" by the Dene First Nation People of Great Bear Lake.