Native Americans imperiled in ‘national interest’
When the first Europeans arrived in what they called the New World, they were greeted hospitably by the peoples to who the Americas were anything but new.
In additions to guns, armor, and horses, the Europeans brought invisible invaders, microbes that would kill many times more the numbers of indigenous people who fell to the guns and swords of the invaders.
And invisible enemies are still assaulting those who first called this land home, particles far smaller than the living organisms that had brought lethal epidemics of measles, small pox, and other ailments new to the Americas.
These new afflictions were brought by miners and scientists, assaulting the earth for uranium to build the bombs brandished during the Cold War and that still form the backbone of the national arsenal.
In the latest episode of Days of Revolt, journalist Chris Hedges talks with two Native Americans about the radioactive threat to their peoples, as well as the impacts of coal mining and fracking.
Charmaine White Face is of the Oglala Tetuwan Nation, or from POW Camp 344, the original designation of what became today’s reservation. Petuuche Gilbert comes from the Acoma Nation in New Mexico, the oldest continuously inhabited urban community in the country.
One of the deepest concerns of the Acoma has a direct connection to UC Berkeley, the two national laboratories in New Mexico, both of which have intimate connections with the University of California and its Berkeley campus.
From teleSUR English via The Real News Network:
Days of Revolt: Sacrifice Zones
From the transcript:
HEDGES: Let me ask you, Petuuche, in New Mexico are there, is it a similar situation as South Dakota, Wyoming? Different in any way, what you’re confronting?
GILBERT: I think it’s very similar in terms of the dependency of the United States on nuclear energy. So I call New Mexico a very irradiated state because of its attention on nuclear research. So in Mexico not only do you have abandoned uranium mines and mills, but you have your two National Laboratories–.
HEDGES: Los Alamos.
GILBERT: Los Alamos National Laboratories that still makes smart bombs. And that Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque that stores supposedly the world’s largest collection of nuclear warheads. And then you have your WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project plant in Carlsbad which is now closed because of problems, a fire that occurred a couple years ago. And then you have a uranium enrichment facility in New Mexico.
So yet this whole state that’s so dependent on this nuclear research, and the whole nuclear fuel cycle, what our concentration is is up, where I’m from, is the mines and mills which we call the legacy uranium mines and mills in the Grants Mining District. You have today, the EPA tells us there’s 97 abandoned uranium mines and five mills. And of course, all of these have created radioactive poisoning of the land, the people the environment and wildlife.
HEDGES: What is a, what is a mill? What does a mill do?
GILBERT: A mill would process the uranium ore into yellow cake.
HEDGES: I see.
GILBERT: So in, in this Grants [inaud.] you get five plants. They’re all closed, now, and they are administered by the Department of Energy or another [crosstalk].
HEDGES: And are you seeing the same kind of health effects?
GILBERT: Same kind of health effects. The refusal of the state of New Mexico, the refusal of the United States to do epidemiological studies or other real serious risk health impact studies. And that does–for example, today the citizens are okay with going with new uranium mining, because they don’t have the information to influence them, that radiation poisoning affects them and that they were all radiation victims as a result of these mines and mills.
HEDGES: And you’re seeing the elevated cancer rates that you’re seeing in South Dakota.
GILBERT: Yes, yes. There’s this one community that published what they call a death map in the Albuquerque Journal. It’s the Blue Water Valley Downstream Alliance organization. Their villages are less than 100 yards away from an old Homestake [inaud.] mill site, and that the people are dying from cancer, they claim, as a result of living right next and adjacent to this old mill.
So definitely radon gas, or radioactive particles contaminated the groundwater, that are affecting the health and welfare of the people, including the wildlife.