Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020

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Today, on Indigenous People’s Day 2020, we join our friends and speakers from indigenous rights and environmental groups from throughout the US in condemning nuclear colonialism. From uranium mining, milling, and processing, to atomic power and nuclear weapons, to radioactive waste – the resulting environmental injustices have disproportionately impacted Native Americans & other indigenous peoples.


Sarah Fields, Uranium Watch and Sierra Club Nuclear-Free CampaignLas Vegas, NV — Indigenous rights and environmental advocates from throughout the US condemned nuclear colonialism on what is recognized as “Columbus Day” Tuesday, October 11, 2016. Native Community Action Council held a press conference in front of the Thomas and Mac Moot Court at the Boyd Law School on the campus of UNLV for participants in the Native American Forum on Nuclear Issues at UNLV.

Since 1951 the US and UK have conducted nuclear testing within Western Shoshone homelands causing a wide variety of adverse health consequences known to be plausible from exposure to radiation in fallout. The proposed Yucca Mountain high level nuclear waste repository, if licensed, will add significant risk factors to the lives of the Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute people. According to Ian Zabarte, Secretary of the Native Community Action Petuuche Gilbert, Indigenous World Association, Laguna and Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment & MultiCultural Alliance for a Safe EnvironmentCouncil (NCAC), “Due to lifestyle differences, Native American exposure to radiation in fallout is significantly higher that the nearby non-Native Americans. This is our primary contention at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing of Yucca Mountain.”

Yucca Mountain, in the heart of the Western Shoshone Nation, is also a sacred site for Shoshone and Pauite peoples.

Because of U.S. nuclear testing in Nevada, the Western Shoshone Nation is already the most bombed nation on earth. They suffer from widespread cancer, leukemia, and other diseases as a result of fallout from more than 1,000 atomic explosions on their territory.

“When the US has over 15,000 abandoned uranium mines, it makes no sense to continue making more radioactive waste when we have nowhere to put it,” says Leona Morgan (Diné/Navajo), of Diné No Nukes. “Instead of spending billions of dollars on weapons modernization and subsidizing aging nuclear reactors, we need to start using those funds to clean up contaminated areas. It starts by leaving uranium in the ground.”

Leona Morgan, Diné No Nukes“Colonization isn’t just the theft and assimilation of our lands and people, today we’re fighting against nuclear colonialism which is the theft of our future,” states Morgan.

According to the US Geological Survey, Nevada also has 315 abandoned uranium mines located throughout the state.

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) who has been at the forefront of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline states, “Traveling here to the forum from the frontline of the Oceti Sakowin Sacred Stone camp in North Dakota, I see a link between nuclear and CO2 colonialism. Our Native Nations are on the frontlines fighting a colonial energy system that does not recognize treaties and Indigenous rights, our spiritual cosmologies and the protection of water of life. The link here is a world digging up uranium. In the northern plains, there’s uranium in coal with dust particles that are radioactive. There’s even radioactivity within hydro-fracking waste. Water is being contaminated and it’s flowing into the Missouri River. Spirituality is very important as an organizing tool for us, within an industrialized world that has no understanding of the indigenous natural laws that guide our traditional indigenous societies. It’s a systems change challenge we are dealing with, that will require all people, all cultures to work together,” says Goldtooth, who just came to the forum from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s standoff in Cannonball, North Dakota where 27 people were arrested today for standing against the proposed pipeline. [See Beyond Nuclear’s Human Rights website section for updates on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe resistance, including what you can do.]

Tom Goldtooth, IEN“Uranium is a very dirty and very dangerous fuel, nuclear has never been green. We want uranium to be left in the ground. The whole nuclear fuel cycle needs to be shut down,” states Petuuche Gilbert (Acoma), president of Indigenous World Association, Laguna and Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment & MultiCultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, “We’re still surviving the legacy of Columbus as it so prevalent in US laws and policies. We’re still countering the principle of doctrine of discovery. We’re still being dispossessed of our land rights by the nuclear industry: from uranium mining to storage of nuclear waste, this is ongoing colonialism. There are laws in place to protect Native American rights, but they are undermined because of antiquated laws like the 1872 mining act which discriminate against Native people,” states Gilbert.

Uranium mining is also threatening the Grand Canyon where Canyon Mine is currently drilling for uranium 6 miles from the South Rim of the canyon. The mine also is adjacent to Red Butte which is a site held sacred by the Havasupai Nation.

Spiritual leader of Western Shoshone Nation and internationally renowned anti-nuke advocate Corbin Harney once said, “By ourselves we are not so strong, but together, as one people, nothing can stop us. Our Mother Earth is relying on us. Please join us with your thoughts, prayers and actions.” Harney passed on from cancer in 2007.

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