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.

The Oldest Member of the Standing Rock Reservation

She has lived through every foreign war the United States has participated in, the Great Depression and more than 15 Presidents. She has witnessed some of this country’s most historical pieces of legislation including the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.

Although born in the United States, it wasn’t until she was 16 that she was considered a citizen. And it wasn’t until she was 60 that she was able to legally witness the ceremonies and hear the language of her people. Full story | Indian Country Today

teresa

Photo credit Shane Balkowitsch

Reservation Blues | Sex Trafficking for Drugs

[POPLAR, Montana, May 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Life on the remote Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northern Montana has all the ingredients for sex trafficking – poverty, isolation, joblessness and violence, topped with an epidemic of crystal meth addiction.

Drug users are selling their babies, daughters and sisters for the potent stimulant that is ravaging Native American communities such as the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes living on the desolate plains of Fort Peck, say community leaders, experts and federal authorities.

“We’re in crisis mode,” said Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure. “We have mothers giving their children away for sexual favors for drugs. We have teenagers and young girls giving away sexual favors for drugs.”

No numbers record specific rates of local sex trafficking, which can often be buried in crimes of sexual assault, abuse, prostitution, abandonment or kidnapping. But it is a crime, poorly documented and fuelled by drug abuse, plaguing Indian reservations across the United States.

The rate of meth use among American Indians is the highest of any ethnicity in the country and more than twice as high as any other group, according to the National Congress of American Indians.

The number of drug cases on Indian lands nationwide rose seven-fold from 2009 to 2014, and crime rates on some reservations are five times higher than national averages, according to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration report…..

A harrowing number of victims are trafficked by their own family members.

“Traffickers are not just scary men who drive around in Cadillacs in their leather trench coats,” said Healey.

“A trafficker can be a parent or guardian. A trafficker can be an aunt or an uncle or it can be a boyfriend or another friend.”

The often close relationships between abuser and abused present a web of problems such as forcing victims to leave home for their protection, experts said.

Victims may fear the community and authorities won’t believe them and will instead defend the trafficker, said an Indian Health Service social worker who did not want to be identified.

“Nobody wants to go after a family member,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation…..]

Read the full story | Thompson Reuters Foundation Group

METH

Tribal elder Tommy Christian lives on Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation which is looking for ways to combat issues of drug abuse and sex trafficking, Poplar, Montana, April 28, 2016 | THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Ellen Wulfhorst

 

Chronicle of a Story Foretold | John McCain on Dine’ (Navajo) Land

[Protesting members of the Navajo Nation literally chase Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) off of their reservation. McCain was running from their frustrated questions, demanding answers for the Senator’s decision to trade away land containing a Navajo sacred site to a foreign mining company. In addition, they are enraged by the slow response to the recent Gold King Mine spill, which has contaminated local drinking water with arsenic, lead, and mercury.

After declining to address the issues, McCain flees to his SUV while being pursued by chanting and drumming Navajo protesters. It’s a humbling moment for an outspoken man whose Native American constituents have called for him to be removed from the Senate Committee for Indian Affairs. “This man has no regard for human life. In his state alone the Navajo Hopi Land Dispute continues, tribes are losing their water rights, and over half the Navajo Nation now lives off the reservation” reads the letter. It is far past time Arizona elected itself a government that will fight for the rights of minorities.]

Read the full article here

Not with a Bang, but with a Wimper

Youth suicides reach crisis on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation (SD)

[Since December, the Pine Ridge reservation, a vast, windswept land of stunning grasslands and dusty plateaus, has been the scene of an unfolding crisis: Nine people between the ages of 12 and 24 have committed suicide here.

Many more youths on the reservation have tried, but failed, to kill themselves in the past several months: At least 103 attempts by people ages 12 to 24 occurred from December to March, according to the federal Indian Health Service. Emergency medical workers on the reservation, which is the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, say they have been called to the scenes of suicide attempts sometimes several times a day.]

Read the full story | ALASKA DISPATCH NEWS

YOUTH

Photo by Naya Family Center

Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation | Donate Books, School Supplies, and Other Necessary Items

Since it is impossible to provide assistance to individual families on the reservation from a distance and do it equitably, the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation website focuses on specific needs of the schools and social service organizations such as shelters, children’s organizations, and clinics on the reservation. These organizations, always understaffed and under funded, struggle to serve thousands of children, women and men in dire need.

Please do not underestimate the importance of a small donation. Your contribution, sent directly to a reservation organization–even if only a single pair of socks for a child who has none–makes a huge impact when combined with many others.

The needs are many and change constantly. Your donations can be from school, sewing, crafts, sporting, baby, and office supplies, to toiletries, clothing, Christmas gifts, holiday items, bed, bath and kitchen linens, cold weather gear, crayons and more.

Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation | Website and Information

OGLALASIOUX

Save the Confluence | Navajo, Hopi, Zuni Tribes’ Plea

The Navajo (Dineh) group “Save the Confluence” are opposed to the development of the Grand Canyon Escalade project at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. This video explains why this area is sacred and should be preserved in its natural state.

A new $120 million resort and tramway project is being pushed forward by the Navajo Nation government despite the obvious risks to the environment not to mention the cultural and spiritual well-being of the Dineh, Hopi and Zuni Peoples.

The troubling “Grand Canyon Escalade” project would be situated at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, which is considered sacred by the Dineh, Hopi, Zuni and others.