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“We are the Miner’s Canary”

Indigenous Delegation Sounds Alarm on Homegrown Radioactive Pollution Crisis

Events & Protest Planned in Washington, DC

Photo: A Geiger counter reading shows dangerously high levels of radioactive pollution at an elementary school playground near an abandoned uranium mine in Ludlow, South Dakota.
Credit: Clean Up The Mines.

Washington, DC — From January 25-28, 2016 Indigenous representatives from the Northern Great Plains & Southwest will be in the District of Columbia (DC) to raise awareness about radioactive pollution, an invisible national crisis. Millions of people in the United States are being exposed as Nuclear Radiation Victims on a daily basis. Exposure to radioactive pollution has been linked to cancer, genetic defects, Navajo Neuropathy, and increases in mortality. The delegation will speak about the impacts they are experiencing in their communities, which are also affecting other communities throughout the US.

"Native American nations of North America are the miners’ canaries for the United States trying to awaken the people of the world to the dangers of radioactive pollution”, states Charmaine White Face from the South Dakota based organization Defenders of the Black Hills.

South Dakota has 272 Abandoned Uranium Mines (AUMs) which are contaminating waterways such as the Cheyenne River, and desecrating sacred and ceremonial sites. An estimated 169 AUMs are located within 50 miles of Mt. Rushmore where millions of tourists risk exposure to radioactive pollution each year.

The delegation is warning of the toxic legacy caused by more than 15,000 AUMs nationwide, extreme water contamination, surface strip coal mining and power plants burning coal-laced with radioactive particles, radioactive waste from oil well drilling in the Bakken Oil Range, mill tailings, waste storage, and renewed mining threats to sacred places such as Mt. Taylor in New Mexico and Red Butte in Arizona.

Indigenous communities have been disproportionately impacted as approximately 75% of AUMs are located on federal and Tribal lands.

"In 2015 the Gold King Mine spill was a wake-up call to address dangers of abandoned mines, but there are currently more than 15,000 toxic uranium mines that remain abandoned throughout the US”, said Ms. White Face. "For more than 50 years, many of these hazardous sites have been contaminating the land, air, water, and national monuments such as Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. Each one of these thousands of abandoned uranium mines is a potential Gold King mine disaster with the greater added threat of radioactive pollution. For the sake of our health, air, land, & water, we can't let that happen.”

The Clean Up The Mines! campaign is focused on passing the Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act that would ensure clean up of all AUMs. The act was submitted as a draft to Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D–AZ) two years ago but has yet to be introduced to Congress.
Currently, no comprehensive law, regardless of mining era, requires clean-up of all these dangerous abandoned uranium mines allowing corporations and the federal government to walk away without taking responsibility for the continuing harms they have caused.

"With adherence to out-dated, racist policies promoting colonialism, such as the 1872 mining law, Indigenous peoples across the country will continue to be oppressed, and we will continue to demand that our land be returned and restored to its original condition, to that of before the colonization by the United States,” stated Leona Morgan of Diné No Nukes. “The United Nuclear Corporation mill tailings spill of 1979, north of Churchrock, New Mexico left an immense amount of radioactive contamination that down-streamers, today, are currently receiving in their drinking water. A mostly-Navajo community in Sanders, Arizona has been exposed to twice the legal limit allowable for uranium through their tap--this is criminal!" said Morgan.

Diné No Nukes, which is participating in the delegation, is a collective focused on educating the general Navajo population about the issues created by US Atomic Energy Commission, as well as ongoing and new threats from the nuclear industry.   

The delegation will hold a protest in front of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Headquarters in opposition to the proposed Clean Power Plan’s irresponsible support for deadly nuclear energy on Tuesday, January 26 at 10am.

The Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment (LACSE) and the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), and Indigenous World Association (IWA), part of the delegation to Washington, DC, are asking Congress to take measures for cleaning up the estimated 489 abandoned uranium mines in New Mexico.

"These uranium mines cause radioactive contamination, and as a result all the residents in their vicinity are becoming nuclear radiation victims,” states Petuuche Gilbert, a member of the Acoma Nation, LACSE, MASE, and IWA. "New Mexico and the federal government have provided little funding for widespread clean up and only occasionally are old mines remediated.  The governments of New Mexico and the United States have a duty to clean up these radioactive mines and mills and, furthermore, to perform health studies to determine the effects of radioactive poisoning. The MASE and LACSE organizations oppose new uranium mining and demand legacy uranium mines to be cleaned up," said Mr. Gilbert.

Regarding the purpose of the trip and the presentations to audiences of all ages, Ms. White Face stated, "We believe that as more Americans become aware of this 'homegrown' radioactive pollution, then something can be done to protect all peoples and the environment."

All events are free, donations welcomed.

Monday – Jan. 25, 2016
Panel Discussion
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Georgetown University
White-Gravenor Hall Rm 211, 37th St NW & O St NW, Washington, DC 20057
Facebook Event Link

Tuesday – Jan. 26, 2016
Protest against Clean Power Plan
10:00 am
EPA Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
Facebook Event Link

Enviro & Social Justice Organization Meet & Greet
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
La Casa Building
3166 Mount Pleasant St. NW, Washington, DC 20010

Wednesday – Jan. 27, 2016
65th Anniversary of the first nuclear detonation at the Nevada Test Site, now the Nevada National Security Site

Dinner & Presentation for Physicians for Social Responsibility, DC Metro Chapter
6:00 pm –  8:00 pm
12717 Greenbriar Rd, Potomac, MD
(Please RSVP: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Thursday – Jan. 28, 2016
Panel Discussion
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Nipponzan Myohoji Temple
4900 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20011
More info: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Indigenous Delegation:
Northern Great Plains
Charmaine White Face (Oceti Sakowin), Defenders of the Black Hills
Harold One Feather (Oceti Sakowin), Defenders of the Black Hills
JD Buckley (Oceti Sakowin), Defenders of the Black Hills

Tommy Rock (Diné), Diné No Nukes
Leona Morgan (Diné), Diné No Nukes
Petuuche Gilbert (Acoma), Laguna and Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment & Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, Indigenous World Alliance
Klee Benally (Diné), Clean Up The Mines!, Indigenous Action Media

For more information: www.cleanupthemines.org/dc
Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Mission Statement

"Defenders of the Black Hills is a group of volunteers without racial or tribal boundaries whose mission is to preserve, protect, and restore the environment of the 1851 and 1868 Treaty Territories, Treaties made between the United States and the Great Sioux Nation."

Speaking about radioactive fallout, the late President John F. Kennedy said,

"Even then, the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby who may be born long after we are gone, should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent."

July 26, 1963 upon signing the ban on above ground nuclear tests

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