Believe it or not, there’s an even more terrifying story of governments dismissing and even ignoring poisoned water supplies—and it’s been going on for years.
In the western U.S., water contamination has been a way of life for many tribes. As Brenda Norrell, a news reporter in Indian country, describes, the situation in Navajo nation is “more horrific than in Flint, Michigan.”
Since the 1950s, their water has been poisoned by uranium mining to fuel the nuclear industry and the making of atomic bombs for the U.S. military. Coal mining and coal-fired power plants have added to the mix. The latest assault on Navajo water was carried out by the massive toxic spills into the Animas and San Juan rivers when the EPA recklessly attempted to address the abandoned Gold King mine.
In a pretty shocking and hard-to-deny statement, Justin Gardner of The Free Thought Project claims that “no one cares because they’re Native American.”
Charmaine White Face from the South Dakota-based organization Defenders of the Black Hills explains the Gold King Mine spill of 2015 was supposed to be a “wake-up call to address dangers of abandoned mines.” Unfortunately, that did nothing to get rid of the other 15,000 uranium mines that have been abandoned all over the U.S.
“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,” White Face continued. “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, and water, we can’t let that happen.”
Yet there’s nothing anyone can ultimately do—according to Gardner, “there is no comprehensive law requiring cleanup of abandoned uranium mines, meaning corporations and government can walk away from them after exploiting their resources. 75 percent of abandoned uranium mines are on federal and Tribal lands.”
Last week, in an attempt to raise awareness of the continuous and persistent contamination of water supplies, Diné No Nukes visited protests in Washington D.C. and spoke out against these practices.
“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.”
If you think government officials simply aren’t aware of the dangers that these practices have caused, think again.
Gardner explains, “Politicians continue to take advantage of Native Americans, making deals with mining companies that would continue polluting their water supplies. Senator John McCain sneaked a resolution into the last defense bill which gave land to Resolution Copper. Their planned copper mining would poison waters that Apaches rely on and would desecrate the ceremonial grounds at Oak Flat.”
These horror stories have persisted, disproportionately throughout Indian land, for years. Considering how hard it is to get any government action to occur on a widely-reported story like that of Flint, Michigan, what can we expect for those that live on Navajo land that have been fighting this battle, to no avail, for so long?
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