On Poisoned Land | Contaminated Life on the Dine’ (Navajo) Reservation

A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council warns of the Navajo Nation as a case study in irresponsible nuclear resource extraction:

“For decades the Navajo Nation has been especially affected by boom-and-bust uranium mining. On Navajo land alone, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from 1944 to 1986; left behind were more than 500 abandoned uranium mines, four inactive uranium milling sites, a former dump site, and the widespread contamination of land and water. Only recently has the government attempted to assess and mitigate this contamination, but full reclamation of the land is unlikely.”
According to an international water charity, DigDeep, Navajo people are 67 times more likely than other Americans to live without running water or a toilet. In practice, this means families across the Navajo Nation have to wash their children’s hair in small washtubs. They have to haul all drinking and washing water from the closest towns and cities, with round trips sometimes reaching 100 miles. The tasks required for even the smallest of families are time-consuming and strenuous.
In September 2014, at Window Rock, Ariz., the Obama administration reached a settlement with the Navajo Nation after years of litigation over mismanagement of lease revenues and royalties from mining, ranching, and timber harvesting on Navajo trust lands. The United States will award the Navajo $554 million to settle claims arising from the federal government’s mismanagement of tribal trust funds dating back to 1946, making this the single largest settlement between the United States government and an American Indian tribe, reported The New York Times.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday, January 18, 2017, it reached a legal settlement with Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoran Inc. (NYSE: FCX) to clean up 94 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. The U.S. government will cover half of the costs of the clean-up settlement. Read the article here | Phoenix Business Journal

“This historic settlement will clean up almost 20 percent of the abandoned mines on the Navajo Nation,” said Acting Regional Administrator Alexis Strauss for the EPA Pacific Southwest. “Cleaning up the uranium contamination continues to be a top environmental priority for our regional office.”

The U.S. government and mining companies mined radioactive uranium from hundreds of mines on Navajo lands from the end of World War II and throughout the Cold War.

The last mine shut down in 1986.

Reckoning with What is Owed — and What Can Never be Repaid — for Racial Privilege

Nietzsche’s “guilt”, whiteness, and what the real cost is to live in the land of another | Oh, and the difference between freedom and liberty

[I once feared buying a house because I didn’t want to be owned. I had saved money with no purpose in mind other than the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Now I’m bound to this house, though I’m still free to lose it if I choose. But that isn’t the version of freedom that interests me at the moment. I’m more compelled by a freedom that would allow me to deserve what I have. Call it liberation, maybe. If debt can be repaid incrementally, resulting eventually in ownership, perhaps so can guilt.

What is the condition of white life? We are moral debtors who act as material creditors. Our banks make bad loans. Our police, like Nietzsche’s creditors, act out their power on black bodies. And, as I see in my own language, we confuse whiteness with ownership.]

 

By the Ones We Left Behind

The Apache Indians are divided into six sub tribes. To one of these, the Be-don-ko-he, I belong.

Our tribe inhabited that region of [Arizona and New Mexico] mountainous country which lies west from the east line of Arizona, and south from the head waters of the Gila River.
East of us lived the Chi-hé-nné (Ojo Caliente), (Hot Springs) Apaches. Our tribe never had any difficulty with them. Victorio, their chief, was always a friend to me. He always helped our tribe when we asked him for help. He lost his life in the defense of the rights of his people. He was a good man and a brave warrior. His son Charlie now lives here in this reservation with us.
North of us lived the White Mountain Apaches. They were not always on the best of terms with our tribe, yet we seldom had any war with them. I knew their chief, Hash-ka-á-í-la, personally, and I considered him a good warrior. Their range was next to that of the Navajo Indians, who were not of the same blood as the Apaches. We held councils with all Apache tribes, but never with the Navajo Indians. However, we traded with them and sometimes visited them.
To the west of our country ranged the Chi-e-á-hen Apaches. They had two chiefs within my time, Co-si-to and Co-da-hoo-yah. They were friendly, but not intimate with our tribe.
South of us lived the Cho-kon-en (Chiricahua) Apaches, whose chief in the old days was Cochise and later his son, Naiche. This tribe was always on the most friendly terms with us. We were often in camp and on the trail together. Naiche, who was my companion in arms, is now my companion in bondage.
To the south and west of us lived the Ned-ní Apaches. Their chief was Whoa, called by the Mexicans Capitan Whoa. They were our firm friends. The land of this tribe lies partly in Old Mexico and partly in Arizona. Whoa and I often camped and fought side by side as brothers. My enemies were his enemies, my friends his friends. He is dead now, but his son Asa is interpreting this story for me.
Still the four tribes (Bedonkóhe, Chokónen, Chihénné, and Nední), who were fast friends in the days of freedom, cling together as they decrease in number. Only the destruction of all our people would dissolve our bonds of friendship.

We are vanishing from the earth, yet I cannot think we are useless or Ussen would not have created us. He created all tribes of men and certainly had a righteous purpose in creating each.
For each tribe of men Ussen created He also made a home. In the land created for any particular tribe. He placed whatever would be best for the welfare of that tribe.
When Ussen created the Apaches He also created their homes in the West. He gave to them such grain, fruits, and game as they needed to eat. To restore their health when disease attacked them. He made many different herbs to grow. He taught them where to find these herbs, and how to prepare them for medicine. He gave them a pleasant climate and all they needed for clothing and shelter was at hand.

Thus it was in the beginning: the Apaches and their homes each created for the other by Ussen himself. When they are taken from these homes they sicken and die. How long will it be until it is said, there are no Apaches?”

geronimo

Photograph by E. Rinehart, 1898

—by Chief Geronimo, as taken down by S.M. Barrett

 

Ian McKellen Reads William Shakespeare | In Defense of Immigrants

To Those Who Voted to Kill me | Repealing ACA

[I hope that you have to feel the pain that I have to go through. I could try to be a better person and say that I didn’t wish this on anybody, but at this point, the only way for you to understand the real, heartbreaking pain that millions of Americans like me are feeling is to actually experience it. I want you to know what it’s like to cry yourself to sleep because you don’t know if you’ll be able to access the medications that keep you alive. I want you to know what it’s like to feel guilty about how much your treatment costs, even though you know there’s nothing you can do about it. I want you to know what it feels like when politicians prioritize their hatred of a president and a policy over your literal means to live. I want you to know what it’s like to live in pain and sickness and to have people say that your desire to alleviate that suffering without experiencing complete financial ruin is “entitlement.”

I want you to know the horror, the heartbreak, the pain, and the fear that 30 million Americans losing their health insurance will feel. I want you to fully experience the impact of the suffering that you have inflicted upon us. It’s just too bad that the world doesn’t work this way.]

To the Politicians Who Voted to Kill me | The Huffington Post

North Dakota Latest Introduced Bills, and the Scalp Bounty

Sometimes a crucial distinction lies merely on the tactic, and not the sentiment.

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[A bill that state GOP Rep. Keith Kempenich introduced would exempt drivers from liability if they accidentally hit a pedestrian, according to the Bismarck Tribune. House Bill 1203 was written up in direct response to groups of protesters blocking roadways, Kempenich told the paper. He claims protesters were seen jumping out in front of vehicles.

“It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” Kempenich said. “They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger.

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Another measure would make it a crime for adults to wear masks nearly across the board, while another would allow the state to sue the federal government over millions in extra police costs, according to ABC News.”]  Read the full report | The Huffington Post

Now, let’s draw an analogy (with a practice poorly documented and sensationalized):

[Beginning in the 1830s, two Mexican states (Sonora and Chihuahua) authorized scalp bounties against Apache Indians, but these were as controversial in Mexico as they had been in the British colonies.

In New Mexico and Arizona, the state governments never approved scalp bounties, but some county officials revived and increased the old Apache scalp bounties that had been used by the former Mexican states. A report from the New York Times in 1885 (the most recent source I know of that documents scalp bounties) offers the following passage that shows the mentality of those who justified the practice:

From time immemorial all border countries have offered bounties for bear and wolf scalps and other animals that destroyed the pioneer’s stock or molested his family. Why, therefore, asks the Arizona settler, should not the authorities place a reward upon the head of the terrible Apache, who murders the white man’s family and steals his stock like the wolves?

Some colonial governments in the British North American colonies enacted  scalp bounties early in the 1700s, in the context of war between  Britain and France. They wanted to create an incentive for frontier  settlers to kill Indians who were allied with the French enemy. In  practice, though, colonial Indian killers were careless about the distinction  between “friendly” and “hostile” Indians. As the white population  expanded, so did demand for land, and this was the material motive  behind most killing of Indians, whether sanctioned by authority or not…. ]  Read the full article | Quora

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I’m a Foreign Journalist and I Was Stopped From Covering Standing Rock

Ed Ou, a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker, is currently working as a producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation covering indigenous communities in North America and is a TED Senior Fellow

[I didn’t even begin to worry until later, when I was told to hand over my phones. The officer said: “Now we just need to look into your cell phone to be sure there’s no photos of you posing next to some dead body somewhere.”

I told the officer that as a journalist, I have a responsibility to not share information that could compromise my sources. This is the same ethical obligation that doctors have to their patients and lawyers have to their clients. The officer demanded my passwords and threatened that if I didn’t provide them, I could be refused entry into the country.

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Journalist Ed Ou

The American government says it can use the fact that you are at a border to take everything about your life, comb through it and store it forever. Police officers need a search warrant. Border officers have more latitude. That latitude has limits, but the officers seemed oblivious to those limits. One of them bragged, “Everything you bring through here is mine to go through and take.”

It felt like deja vu. I’ve heard that line before. It was in Crimea after Russian special forces invaded a Ukrainian military base where I was filming. They rounded up all the journalists and seized our memory cards—“for security.” We protested. They told us the same thing. “You’re in our country now, we can do whatever we want.”

I ultimately refused to turn over my passwords. They confiscated my phones anyway, read pages of my journals and photocopied my notes. I felt like I had betrayed my own consciousness. They asked which “extremists” I have been in contact with and how many people I have seen die. Later, I could see that the phones had been tampered with.

After six hours, I was told I was being denied entry. When I asked why, I was told the reasons were “classified.” I wondered if the real reasons had anything to do with the fact that I was going to cover Standing Rock.

On my way out of the interrogation room, the supervisor had one more thing to add. “You’re probably going to write about this. Well, we’re not scared of you. You can say what you want. It won’t change anything.”

We’ll see.

Editor’s Note: The following is a comment from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, Customs and Border Protection does not discuss individual travelers; however, all international travelers arriving to the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection.

This inspection may include electronic devices such as computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players and any other electronic or digital device.

Keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the U.S. In Fiscal Year 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed more than 383 million U.S. arrivals and conducted 4,764 inspections of electronic media, including 4,444 cell phone inspections. This equates to .0012 percent of travelers undergoing an inspection of electronic media. Fiscal Year 2016 numbers are not available just yet.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection realizes the importance of international travel to the U.S. economy and we strive to process arriving travelers as efficiently and securely as possible while ensuring compliance with laws and regulations governing the international arrival process.]

Read the full story:

I’m a Journalist and I Was Stopped From Covering Standing Rock