"Uranium, Radioactivity and the Great Sioux Nation," by Charmaine White Face
- Charmaines talks are extremely moving and enlightening. The story of this 21st century genocide of the Native Americans in the US must be heard. See attached report. Hattie Nestel, WILPF at large
Uranium, Radioactivity and the Great Sioux Nation
by Charmaine White Face
The Oceti Sakowin, the Great Sioux Nation, lived in the middle of the North American continent prior to the development of the United States and Canada. The original territory of the Great Sioux Nation covered fourteen (14) American states and parts of three (3) Canadian provinces. However, unlike the European concept of territory, other smaller Indigenous nations also resided in the same area and traded with, or were allies of the Great Sioux Nation, according to natural law.
With the colonizing movement to the center of North America in the United States and Canada, which primarily occurred in the mid to the late 1800s, the majority of the population of the Great Sioux Nation almost became extinct due to displacement, war and disease. The Great Sioux Nation began making treaties with France in the early 1600s and the last treaty was made with the United States in 1868 at Fort Laramie in what is now the American state of Wyoming. The Treaty specifically delineated a geographic area for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Great Sioux Nation.
In 1874, gold was discovered in the Black Hills which are sacred to the Great Sioux Nation and were in the center of the last Treaty Territory. The United States President at that time, Ulysses S. Grant secretly told the US Army not to stop any gold miners or other trespassers from entering the Treaty territory in violation of the Treaty. The herds of millions of buffalo which were the economic base of the Great Sioux Nation, were slaughtered, and the remaining Sioux people were forced by starvation into Prisoner of War camps which are now known as Indian Reservations. The entire Region was and continues to be used for mining, agriculture, logging, tourism, and housing for Euro-American citizens while the majority of people of the Great Sioux Nation still reside on the Indian Reservations. The state of South Dakota contains nine Indian Reservations and the majority of the population of the Great Sioux Nation. Eight of the ten poorest counties in the United States are on Reservations. Unemployment rates range from 60 to 80%.
The Treaty Territory of the Great Sioux Nation is now being polluted by uranium and other nuclear particles by: past above ground detonations of atomic bombs; underground nuclear power sources in military installations; abandoned uranium mines and prospects; abandoned uranium boreholes; and new uranium mining.
Above ground detonations of Atomic Bombs
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States detonated more than 100 atomic bombs above the ground in the American state of Nevada. The radioactive fallout from those detonations was carried by the prevailing winds across the United States. However, the majority of the people of the United States were, and continue to be unaware of the danger of the radioactive fallout. Those who were children from 1951 to 1963 have a very high incidence of thyroid cancer or thyroid disease according to the National Institute of Cancer.
Furthermore, with specific regard to the Great Sioux Nation, the US Indian Health Service has a policy of assisting only those in immediate need of health care calling it "life or limb." As thyroid cancer is a slow growing cancer, Sioux patients with thyroid cancer cannot have the surgery they need to remove the thyroid gland. The cancer then is able to spread to other areas of the body as the thyroid sends hormones to all parts of the body. Thyroid disease and cancer in western South Dakota affects nearly 20% of the population while the national average is 2%.
Underground Nuclear Power Sources in Past Military Installations
During the 1950s and 60s, thousands of underground missile installations and radar stations were built within the Fort Laramie Treaty Territory without the consent of the Great Sioux Nation. When a local Air Force base was threatened with closure, an article appeared in a local daily newspaper about the need to keep the Air Force Base in operation in order to monitor an underground nuclear reactor which powered one of the radar stations. This leads to the question of how many other military sites within the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty territory were powered by nuclear energy, and what was done with the radioactive waste. The major concern is for the aquifers which will be destroyed by the underground radioactive pollution.
Abandoned Uranium Mines and Prospects
Beginning in the 1950s, mining for uranium began in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty Territory in the American states of Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota. The mining for uranium continued into the 1970s until the price for uranium fell. From a report by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2006, entitled Uranium Location Database Compilation: Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, 2,885 open-pit uranium mines and prospects were abandoned in the Treaty territory without reclamation. Radioactive dust and water runoff has been allowed to affect the environment of the Treaty Territory for nearly 70 years. Many of the rivers running through the reservations have been, and in some cases still are the drinking water sources of the Sioux people living in the villages. The rivers also provide drinking water for domestic animals and wildlife which are a human food source.
Abandoned Uranium Exploratory Wells
Again without the consent and knowledge of the Great Sioux Nation, more than 10,000 exploratory wells for uranium were drilled to depths of 800 feet in the Black Hills. The Black Hills are a sacred place with many prayer sites, indigenous medicinal plants, other flora and fauna not found elsewhere on the planet, and also contain the remains of the ancestors of the Sioux people. It is unknown at this time how many burial sites, sacred sites and aquifers have been damaged or destroyed by the 10,000+ exploratory wells. These wells were left unmarked, and uncapped. The circumferences of some of these wells are large enough for a man to fall through.
Furthermore, the underground aquifer system of South Dakota is such that the water travels from the Black Hills located on the western border to the eastern, more populated part of the state. In 1980 a report was prepared by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was responsible for some of the uranium exploration, and their facts showed that the aquifers were all being cross contaminated with nuclear radioactivity due to natural cracks in the Earth and the numerous exploratory wells.
New Uranium Processes
The illegal states of South Dakota and Wyoming are currently allowing uranium mining companies to enter the region and begin exploration for uranium in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty territory. Again these actions are being undertaken without the consent, or approval of the Great Sioux Nation. Wyoming and Nebraska also have current operating uranium mines.
Actions leading to Genocide
In 1992, in a collection of essays entitled, The State of Native America, Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance, South End Press, Boston, Massachusetts, Professor Ward Churchill, and former Vice Presidential candidate, Winona LaDuke, in Chapter VIII entitled "Native North America, The Political Economy of Radioactive Colonialism," wrote about the mining of uranium and the subsequent pollution from nuclear radiation on the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty territory as genocide of the Sioux people.
The physical genocide of the Great Sioux Nation is imminent through the effects of nuclear radiation and the resulting illnesses. A report entitled Cancer Mortality Among American Indians and Alaska Naives: Regional Differences, 1999-2003 by Haverkamp, Espey, Piasano, and Cobb in February, 2008, shows that Native Americans on the Northern Plains have more than twice the rates of lung cancer compared to people living on the East or West Coasts, and 30% more than the American population as a whole. Lung cancer is one of the prime indicators of radioactive pollution.
The upholding of all of the Articles of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 is the only resolution for the problems encountered by the Great Sioux Nation. The United States cannot be allowed to continue their genocidal policies on the people of the Great Sioux Nation by continually avoiding addressing the issue of radioactive pollution in the North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. The entire area must be cleaned of all radioactive pollution in the air, ground and water, and the restoration of the native species must be allowed to happen.
Representatives of the Sioux Nation Treaty Council have exhausted all domestic remedies within the United States, and have been taking their claims to the United Nations since 1984 with no resolution to date. However, they will continue to carry their message to the world in hopes of achieving success before the Great Sioux Nation becomes extinct.
For a way to help and more information on Defenders of the Black Hills and their work with the Sioux Nation Treaty Council, go to www.defendblackhills.org
Or write: Defenders of the Black Hills, PO Box 2003, Rapid City, SD 57709
Email: bhdefenders@... Phone: 605-399-1868
Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act
(a) Findings.Congress finds that
(1) thousands of abandoned uranium mines and exploratory sites are located throughout the United States, posing substantial, but unquantified, public health and environmental hazards;
(2) the number, location, existing hazard, and off-site migration potential for toxic and radioactive materials from these sites is unknown, as are the costs of appropriate remediation and clean-up of these abandoned sites;
(3) there is no minimum threshold for radiation damage (no dose which is harmless), and radiation causes cancer and other organ damage, especially during fetal development and in young children;
(4) capping the total radiation exposure from these abandoned sites, and reducing this exposure level over time, is in the best public interest; and
(5) the costs for clean-up of these abandoned sites have been externalized from the past uranium mining operations onto the general taxpayers, as have the public health and environmental costs of these toxic sitesthe costs for reclamation of any new uranium exploration and mining operations must in future be borne by the mining industry itself.
(b) Purposes.The purposes of this section are
(1) to authorize and direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Commission) in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to develop an Action Plan for sire specific reclamation of abandoned uranium mines and exploratory sites; and
(2) to further authorize and direct the Commission as well as the EPA to place a National Environmental Security (NES) moratorium on any processing or approval of new permits for uranium exploration or mining operations until the above Action Plan is adopted.
(c) Reclamation of Abandoned Uranium Mines and Exploratory Sites.
(1) Inventory.The Commission, EPA, and state and local entities, will establish an inventory of all existing abandoned uranium mining and exploratory sites, grouped into appropriate categories, and assessing those parameters needed to fully quantify and qualify the current radiation levels, off-site migration potential, and current public health and environmental risks.
(2) Reclamation Options.The Commission will establish a range of reclamation options, including technical standards and associated unit costs for their implementation, to achieve exposure risk-reduction levels of 90, 95, and 99 percent for each category of abandoned site inventoried in (1) above.
(3) Action Plan.Based on the Inventory and Reclamation Options established in (1) and (2) above, the Commission will develop a National Environmental Security (NES) Site-Specific Action Plan for reclamation of all existing abandoned uranium mining and exploratory sites, prioritizing sites based on combined risk-reduction and cost criteria. The Action Plan will include a total exposure level and hazard rating projected over time as the Plan is implemented, and establish minimal threshold exposure levels that are to be achieved before any new uranium operations are resumed. The Action Plan shall be subject to public notice, review, and comment at each site of concern.
(4) Process.The Action Plan, including the Inventory parameters and Reclamation Options, and the exposure threshold level, shall be subject to public notice, review, and comment.
(d) Moratorium on New Uranium Exploration and Mining Permits.The Commission shall place a moratorium on any processing or approval of new licenses for uranium exploration or mining operations until the above National Environmental Security Site-Specific Action Plan is adopted. Any future licenses issued by the Commission shall be conditional on maintaining compliance with the exposure threshold levels established in (c)(3) above.
For more information, email bhdefenders@... or write to Defenders of the Black Hills, PO Box 2003, Rapid City, SD 57709