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Democracy Unwelcome on Navajo and Hopi Nations?



This is a response to news releases sent out by Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley & the Hopi Tribal Council.
Read the news and releases below this statement.

(Friday, October 2nd, 2009) Window Rock, AZ — In a recent proclamation the President of the Navajo Nation, Joe Shirley Jr., sided with the Hopi Tribal Council in an attack on democratic rights of the Dine’ people to protect their environment and health of their communities.

Shirley stated that “Local and national environmental groups [are] unwelcome” on reservation lands.

I would expect this type of declaration from totalitarian government dictators, not those who are democratically elected leaders of Tribal Nations. Considering the history of colonization and BIA established puppet governments on Native American lands,Shirley’s statement is not surprising.

Joe Shirley proclaimed, “Unlike ever before, environmental activists and organizations are among the greatest threat to tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination, and our quest for independence.” He barely falls short of using the word “terrorists”.

Dissenters, critics, and issue oriented advocates should be a welcome and integral part of an informed and functioning democratic society.  Indeed, both Hopi and Dine communities are made up of many Native American environmentalists.  Shirley would have us believe that anyone who stands in the way of his office’s interests would be an opponent of his own concept of tribal sovereignty.

Attempting to silence the voice and limit the rights of Dine’ people to protect their life, land and liberty is not sovereignty, its in the direction of totalitarianism.

Why haven’t we heard such fierce and direct statements from these government leaders about the threat that drug dealers and domestic and sexual violence perpetuators pose or the overcrowded jails on the Rez which continually push violent criminals back out into the community?

Joe Shirley is stating that only certain types of environmental advocacy are welcome. Are those just types that he agrees with? What standard will be applied to know what groups and what actions are welcome?

When any population does not agree with the actions of their governments, those citizens have the right to protest. The civil rights struggles against the U.S. government are testimony to this.

Does sovereignty really mean being dependent on non-renewable energy that destroys Mother Earth, pollutes drinking water and air and compromises our holy covenant with nature? Does it mean being dependent on casinos and outside corporate interests?

Why not quantify other threats to sovereignty? Are gaming compacts also concessions of sovereignty? Or is the double standard acceptable as long as the money is green? Would increased advocacy against gaming and gambling addictions be the next “threat to sovereignty”?

Joe Shirley defines sovereignty as “economic independence” that is solved with projects like Desert Rock but his example of leadership is to bully those who don’t agree with his energy politics.

It is no surprise that Joe Shirley defends coal mining and turns his cheek to the suffering of tens of thousands of Dine’ families who have been severely impacted by forced relocation and Peabody Energy’s mining activities.

How is what Peabody has done to our environment and communities in and around Black Mesa defensible against the “threat” of outside environmentalists? Relocation, water table depletion, contamination of livestock water sources, and much more?

In fact, many of our people have lived and continue to live in economic poverty before and during Peabody Coal’s contribution to the “independence” of our Nation. Right now on Black Mesa, many of my relatives still live with no running water or electricity, where is Joe Shirley’s sovereignty for them?

Would Joe Shirley and the HTC rather have Snowbowl, Desert Rock, Peabody, Monsanto, and other corporations or private businesses act with absolutely no mechanisms for community accountability as well?

Snowbowl and the City of Flagstaff say that wastewater snowmaking on the holy San Francisco Peaks is necessary for their economy and jobs. Are they then justified in their actions?

The direct relationship between people and their environment is a cultural value. When you break down that relationship you break down the culture and the traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation. Will our cultural sovereignty be compromised for the benefit of outside corporations? Is the Navajo Nations relationship to outside corporations more of a defining factor of sovereignty than environment, culture and traditions?

It must be understood that if not for environmental advocacy groups and concerned citizens, that more of the Navajo Nations water ways would be contaminated with uranium, more sacred places would be destroyed, more of our people would be forced from their homelands.

It would be absurd to think that Mr. Shirley and the HTC are acting on the will of the people or in the best interest of those who must have clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, unpolluted land to plant seeds, and holy places that are not desecrated.

If it were not for environmentalists, corporations would have ravaged our lands and people for their own benefit long ago. What better way to promote safeguards which uphold traditional values that guide us as stewards of our Mother Earth than to promote the democratic participation of the people who work to advocate on behalf of a healthy environment? Joe Shirley & the HTC have sent a message that only certain types of democracy are allowed within reservation boundaries. This action emboldens those who seek to destroy our Mother Earth for their own profit and pleases those who prefer totalitarianism.

Regardless of which organizations are being targeted and attacked, the message that Shirley and the HTC are sending are one that should be alarming to anyone who cares about their basic rights. What happens when we don’t agree with their decisions or policies? Do we end up on a list of those “unwelcome” as well?

My grandmother Roberta Blackgoat once said, “I know each tree, each plant that grows right there. And they know me. The children, grandchildren, great grandchildren need to be right there. We need them to get back to the land and live on our ancestors’ land.” She said that the “relocatees” die of “worriness,” “missing their traditional food and not knowing where to go to pray”.  Blackgoat said, “As long as I live, I’m not going to sign” and continued to demand “(Peabody) stop destroying the Mother Earth’s liver and blood; the coal and the water”.  

Until her passing she resisted relocation, still abandoned by the Navajo Nation government, “unwelcome” by the Hopi Tribal government, and as a testimony to the injustices of US law.

Would she still be unwelcome in her homeland Mr. Shirley—as an environmentalist, that is a woman who loved her Earth?

– Klee Benally


September 30, 2009
Arizona Republic
Hopis say conservationists unwelcome on tribal land

Dennis Wagner – Sept. 29, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

The Hopi Nation’s Tribal Council sent a message Monday to the Sierra Club and a handful of other environmental groups: Stay off the reservation.

Tina May, a council spokeswoman, said council members meeting in Kykotsmovi unanimously adopted a resolution declaring that the conservation groups are unwelcome on Hopi lands because they have damaged the tribe’s economy by pushing for closure of a coal-fired power plant near Page.

The resolution says environmentalists have “spread misinformation” about Hopi water and energy resources, attempting to “instill unfounded fears into the hearts and minds of Hopi public.”

The public castigation of conservation groups represents an unusual breach between a Native American tribe and environmental groups, which often work hand-in-hand on political causes, according to Ben Nuvamsa, a former tribal chairman.

Hopis, Navajos and other tribes have worked for years with the Sierra Club and similar groups, for example, to shut down ski slopes on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff.

May said the resolution was meant as a symbolic expression by tribal leaders, and environmentalists will not be arrested if they enter Hopi country.

Nuvamsa said: “This group here has done so much to damage our tribal reputation and to violate our civil rights. As tribal members, we are all environmentalists because we’re supposed to take care of Mother Earth.”

Andy Bessler, a Sierra Club official in Flagstaff, expressed dismay at the resolution.

He noted that another group, Hopis Organized for Political Initiative, supports conservationist efforts to close the power plant.

This spring, a coalition involving the Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, and several Native American groups called on the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Navajo Generating Station’s role in smoggy skies over the Grand Canyon. They claimed the power plant is a source of “excessive pollution” and should be forced to reduce emissions.

The power plant and Hopi coal mines that fuel it support hundreds of families, providing more than 70 percent of the Indian nation’s governmental revenues, said Scott Canty, tribal counsel.

In 2005, environmentalists succeeded in closing the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev. The Hopis claim that shutdown cost the tribe more than $6.5 million per year, and closure of Navajo Generating Station would wipe out another $11 million.

Nada Talayumptewa, chairwoman of the council’s energy team, said in a news release: “We need to make public that we don’t want the environmental groups coming in and causing trouble for the Hopi Tribe. It’s time we take a stand.”

Nuvamsa, who resigned last year during bitter political infighting among elected leaders, said tribal council actions are illegitimate because executive positions remain unfilled.

Under the Hopi Nation’s constitution, he and others asserted, “There is no Tribal Council.”

Canty said the council has legitimate authority under Hopi law, and opinions to the contrary are irrelevant. He said tribal members who support environmental groups are “shills” who have been mislead.

Canty said closure of the power plant and mine would be devastating for all Hopis: “The tribe would essentially be penniless.”

Sept. 30, 2009
Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., stands with Hopi Tribe
in opposition to environmental groups’ interference in sovereignty
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., said Wednesday that he strongly supports the Hopi Tribe’s resolution to declare local and national environmental groups unwelcome on Hopi land.

“I stand with the Hopi Nation,” President Shirley said. “Unlike ever before, environmental activists and organizations are among the greatest threat to tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination, and our quest for independence.”

“By their actions, environmentalists would have tribes remain dependent on the federal government, and that is not our choice. I want the leaders of all Native American nations to know this is our position, and I would ask for their support of our solidarity with the Hopi Nation in the protection of their sovereignty and self-determination, as well as ours.”

On Monday, the Hopi Tribal Council unanimously approved a resolution that stated environmentalists have worked to deprive the tribe of markets for its coal resources and the revenue it brings to sustain governmental services, provide jobs for Hopis, and secure the survival of Hopi culture and tradition.As a result, the Hopi Council stated that the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Grand Canyon Trust and organizations affiliated with them are no longer welcome on Hopi land.

The Hopi Tribe’s resolution states that environmentalists “have manufactured and spread misinformation concerning the water and energy resources of the Hopi Tribe in an effort to instill unfounded fears into the hearts and minds of the Hopi public.”

The Council stated that these organizations have acted without regard for the tribe’s right to determine how best to develop and manage its natural resources on its land, nor have they shown concern for the future welfare of the tribe and its people.

The Council cited the closure of the Mohave Generating Station, which used coal exclusively from the Black Mesa Mine, as one example of an action by environmental groups that resulted in the loss of $6.5 million to $8.5 million in tribal revenues per year.

President Shirley said he and the Navajo Nation strongly support the positive goals of many environmental organizations, noting the Navajo Nation passed the Natural Resources Protection Act in 2005, the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency was recognized last June by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 for its 30-year partnership in protecting the Navajo environment and its leadership in the development of tribal environmental programs, and that in July he signed legislation into law to create the Navajo Green Commission.

However, he said some Navajo environmentalists and the non-Navajo environmental groups that support them work to the detriment of the Navajo people and Navajo Nation.

“Environmentalists are good at identifying problems but poor at identifying feasible solutions,” President Shirley said. “Most often they don’t try to work with us but against us, giving aid and comfort to those opposed to the sovereign decision-making of tribes. They support tribes only when tribes are aligned with their agenda, such as our opposition to renewed uranium mining in the Grand Canyon and on Native land.”

“Environmentalist actions led to the demise of Navajo logging and the closure of our sawmill at Navajo, New Mexico but did nothing to replace the 600 jobs that were lost,” President Shirley said. “Environmentalist actions led to the closure of the Mohave Generating Station and the shutdown of the Black Mesa Mine but did nothing to replace the 400 paychecks that were lost or the tribal revenue that was not replaced.”

“Now, environmentalists are doing all they can to prevent the development of the Desert Rock Energy Project, which includes misleading the public by saying Navajos oppose it and failing to mention it is the cleanest coal plant the EPA has ever evaluated, or that its twin is being built right now in Duisburg, Germany, one of the greenest countries in Europe.”

“With overwhelming support, the Navajo Nation Council granted the Desert Rock project all of the permits it needs,” President Shirley said. “Navajos are eager to go to work there. One thousand jobs would be created to build it, and 400 permanent plant and mining jobs would be created to operate it. It would be a huge benefit to the Navajo people and Navajo Nation. But our greatest opposition comes from environmentalists and the outside groups that silently support them. Unfortunately, many of these people don’t know about Navajos, sovereignty or self-determination. They just want any use of coal stopped. However, coal is the Navajo Nation’s most plentiful resource, and our prosperity depends on it.”

“The independence of the Navajo Nation is dependent on our financial independence, and our financial independence rests largely with the development of Desert Rock,” President Shirley said. “Almost on a daily basis, our people die as a result of poverty which manifests as social problems like alcoholism, drunk driving, drug abuse, child neglect, child abuse, domestic violence, divorce, teen pregnancy, gangs, and lethal violence. Poverty on Navajoland is rampant and one does not have far to look to see it. The solution is employment so our people can put a better roof over their heads, food on the table, shoes on little feet, improve the quality of their lives, and so our families can know the pride that comes from providing for their families now, not sometime in the distant future.”

# # #

George Hardeen, Communications Director
Office of the President & Vice President
The Navajo Nation
DESK 928 871 7917
CELL 928 309 8532


Do “We keep us safe”? Notes on Action Security & Some Resources




“We keep us safe!” is an abolitionist assertion that the state or some paternalistic organization will not protect us from colonial, fascist, white supremacist, queerphobic attacks, so we must organize and defend ourselves and those we are in community with. 

We cannot leave this slogan to be an empty gesture or posture. It must be conveyed with the necessary training and organizing to address the hyperpoliticized and conflictual environments that we organize in. 

While we cannot anticipate and prevent all fascist assaults, if we pronounce that “we keep us safe,” we can and must do what we can to organize and be prepared. Liberal and “radical” non-profit managers constantly decrying the “inactions of cops” does not keep us safe, it only invokes further police violence. Additionally, calling on colonial politicians to respond to fascist violence as a “hate crime,” is really a call to further the carceral state and its institutional violences (courts, prisons, more policing, etc).

On September 28th, 2023 Jacob Johns, an Indigenous persn was shot by Ryan Martinez, a colonial invader and MAGA fascist at an action called to confront the re-establishment of a monument to the genocidal colonizer Juan de Oñate in so-called Española, New Mexico. This shooting occurred under the same watch of an organization that hosted a previous anti-Oñate monument action in 2020 where Scott Williams was shot and severely injured.

From Heather Heyer, Joseph Rosenbaum, and Anthony Huber to many more who have been injured or killed while resisting authoritarian nationalism (aka fascism), these deadly attacks are occurring within a context of historic, ongoing, and escalating colonial violence. 

Since 2020, groups based in occupied New Mexico organizing anti-monument actions have been directly challenged for putting people at serious risk. Calls that have been made for more organized security have been denounced by inexperienced organizers in these groups.

These issues and considerations are not new, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and AIM initiated armed patrols and armed resistance in the face of state, white supremacist, and colonial terror. Amorphous entities such as Antifa and Bash Back have continually mobilized street warfare in defensive and proactive ways. These groups have long recognized that we cannot merely rely on “safety in numbers,” (though numbers do help) our enemies are more organized than that, so why aren’t we?

We cannot pronounce liberation without simultaneously preparing and mobilizing defense. 

As everyone should be doing mutual aid, everyone should be prepared for mutual defense. We cannot depend on any organizers or organizations to simply do this for us. If “We keep us safe,” we better fucking mean it.

As Goldfinch Gun Club stated, “Community defense has to be about solidarity and uplift mutual aid, not just arming vulnerable peoples. By the time someone starts shooting, everyone has already lost. The best defense is a better world. It’s possible. We have to believe that.”

Support Jacob Johns, his family and community by contributing to the gofundme:

Some recommendations: 

1. Organize and attend street medic trainings. Check these resources: 

A Demonstrator’s Guide to Responding to Gunshot Wounds

An Activist’s Guide to Basic First Aid 

2. Organize armed self defense. Check these resources:

Three Way Fight: Revolutionary Anti-Fascism and Armed-Self-Defense

Organizing Armed Defense in “America”

Gun Clubs: (Note: their founder and a lead organizer of Red Neck Revolt/JBGC is a known abuser).

3. Develop and maintain clear security protocols and presence (if not visible at least organized). 

A note: By security we don’t mean leftist police, we mean skilled warriors who are identified to respond and protect, not police actions. Beware of cis-heteropatriarcal and other oppressive behaviors, substance use, & abusers, etc.
Being prepared can be an escalation in and of itself, it also can be a powerful deterrent. Do what makes sense for your operating environment.

Defend Pride

Forming an Antifa group

Check out all these great resources on Security Culture:

These ‘zines particularly address cop tactics but have great info for overall security:

Defend the Territory

Warrior Crowd Control & Riot Manual

Other resources:

Dangerous Spaces: Violent Resistance, Self-Defense, and Insurrectional Struggle Against Gender

Repress This

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A quick & dirty review of the movie Oppenheimer




We watched this movie after arguing with social media pro-nuke apologists who accused us of being ill-informed as not having viewed Christopher Nolan’s biopic, so excuse the mess… (and if you haven’t already, read our initial post here for the context).

Oppenheimer is a glorification of the “complicated genius” and ambitions of white men making terrible decisions that imperil the world. 

Many have remarked that the film is not a glorification, yet Christopher Nolan himself says, “Like it or not, J Robert Oppenheimer is the most important person who ever lived.”
Some of you may have even had a burst of laughter during the scene where Truman asked Oppenheimer what he thought the fate of Los Alamos should be and “Oppie” retorted, “Give the land back to the Indians.” But alas, the poisoned scarred landscape today is host to a 10-day “Oppenheimer Festival.” To underscore the disconnect of legacies, a small commemoration near the Churchrock spill site was also held on the anniversary of the Trinity detonation, a few hundred miles away. Yes, what glorification?

The movie is basically a Western à la John Wayne. It very well could have been called, “The Trial of the Sheriff of Los Alamos.”
Oppenheimer rides his horse with a black hat on and pulls a poster down from a fence post. He then strides into a debate on the “Impact of the gadget on civilization.” To respond to the question of how scientists can justify using the Atom Bomb on human beings, Oppenheimer speaks, “We’re theorists yes, we imagine a future and our imaginings horrify us. They won’t fear it until they understand it and they won’t understand it until they’ve used it. When the world learns the terrible secret of Los Alamos our work here will ensure a peace mankind has never seen. A peace based on international cooperation.”

Nolan establishes the only narrative that matters is his attempt at historical redemption, he paints Oppenheimer as a victim. While perhaps not as depoliticized as Nolan alluded to in interviews (as the politics of American loyalty and the Red Scare drive the drama), the consequences of nuclear weapons and energy is barely considered (arguably barely at all considering the issue). This is a political omission of the most insidious sort and the film is even worse for it.

The movie cares more about constructing and clearing Oppenheimer as a victim of McCarthyism than the impacts of the atomic bomb and its deadly legacy of nuclear colonialism. As it’s stated, there’s a “Price to be paid for genius.” Everything else is dramatic notation. Nolan gives Oppenheimer the public hearing he feels like he was denied to ultimately prove he was an American patriot. In the end, the question “Would the world forgive you if you let them crucify you?” matters above all other concerns. The movie poses the argument as “science versus militarism” while the world and Indigenous Peoples continue to suffer the permanent consequences of nuclear weapons and energy in silence. A deadly silence more deafening than Nolan’s cinematic portrayal of the Trinity test. But hey, there’s even a minute of cheering after the test.

Nolan has us listening to the radio while two cities are destroyed and hundreds of thousands of lives are taken. Nolan keeps the camera on his lead actor’s face while the horrors of his bomb are shown on slides. Oppenheimer simply looks away. What more about this film do we need to know? 

15,000 abandoned uranium mines poisoning our bodies, lands, and water. 1,000 bombs detonated on Western Shoshone lands… the list goes on (we only stop here because we’ve stated much more in our original post). All omitted and sentenced to suffer in catastrophic silence. Films like Oppenheimer are only possible because people keep looking away from the deadly reality of nuclear weapons and energy.

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Architect of Annihilation: Oppenheimer’s Deadly Legacy of Nuclear Terror




Read our quick and dirty review of the movie here.

Klee Benally, Indigenous Action/Haul No!
Contributions by Leona Morgan, Diné No Nukes/Haul No!

Printable posters (PDFs): 11″x17″ color, 11″x17″ black & white

The genocidal colonial terror of nuclear energy and weapons is not entertainment. 

To glorify such deadly science and technology as a dramatic character study, is to spit in the face of hundreds of thousands of corpses and survivors scattered throughout the history of the so-called Atomic age.

Think of it this way, for every minute that passes during the film’s 3-hour run time, more than 1,100 citizens in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki died due to Oppenheimer’s weapon of mass destruction. This doesn’t account for those downwind of nuclear tests who were exposed to radioactive fallout (some are protesting screenings), it doesn’t account for those poisoned by uranium mines, it doesn’t account for those killed during nuclear power plant melt-downs, it doesn’t account for those in the Marshall Islands who are forever poisoned.

For every second you sit in the air conditioned theater with a warm buttery popcorn bucket in your lap, 18 people dead in the blink of an eye. Thanks to Oppenheimer.

Though you’ll certainly learn enough about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” thanks to director Christopher Nolan’s 70mm IMAX odyssey, let’s be clear about his deadly legacy and the overall military and scientific industrial complex behind it.

After the successful detonation of the very first atomic bomb, Oppenheimer infamously quoted the Hindu scripture Bhagavad-Gita, “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Barely a month later, the “U.S” dropped two atomic bombs devastating the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and more than 200,000 people were killed. Some of the shadows of those perished were burned into the streets. One survivor, Sachiko Matsuo, relayed their thoughts as they tried to make sense of what was happening when Nagasaki was struck, “I could see nothing below. My grandmother started to cry, ‘Everybody is dead. This is the end of the world.” A devastation that Nolan intentionally leaves out because, according to the director, the film is not told from the perspectives of those who were bombed, but by those who were responsible for it. Nolan casually explains, “[Oppenheimer] learned about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the radio, the same as the rest of the world.”

Months after the atomic detonation at the “Trinity” site in occupied Tewa lands of New Mexico, Oppenheimer resigned. He walked away expressing the conflict of having, “blood on his hands,” (though reportedly he later said the bombings were not “on his conscience”) while leaving a legacy of nuclear devastation and radioactive pollution permanently poisoning lands, waters, and bodies to this day. 

U.S. military and political machinery cannibalized the scientist and turned him into a villain of their imperialist cold-war anxiety. They reminded him and the other scientists behind the Manhattan Project, that they and their interests were always in control.

Oppenheimer never was a hero, he was an architect of annihilation. 

The race to develop the first atomic bomb (after Nazis had split the atom) never could be a strategy of peaceful deterrence, it was a strategy of domination and annihilation. 

Nazi Germany was committing genocide against Jewish people while the U.S. sat on the political sidelines. It wasn’t until they were directly threatened that the U.S. intervened. Though Nazi Germany was defeated on May 8th, 1945, the U.S. dropped two separate atomic bombs on the non-military targets of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, 1945.

To underscore Oppenheimer’s complicity, he suppressed a petition by 70 Manhattan Project scientists urging President Truman not to drop the bombs on moral grounds. The scientists also argued that since the war was nearing its end, Japan should be given the opportunity to surrender. 

Today there are approximately 12,500 nuclear warheads in nine countries with almost 90 percent of them held by the U.S. and Russia. It is estimated that 100 nuclear weapons is an “adequate… deterrence” threshold for the “mutually assured destruction” of the world.

Oppenheimer built the gun that is still held to the head of everyone who lives on this Earth today. Throughout the decades after the development of “The Bomb,” millions throughout the world have rallied for nuclear disarmament, yet politicians have never taken their fingers off the trigger. 

The Deadly Legacy of Nuclear Colonialism

Nuclear weapons production and energy would not be possible without uranium.

Global uranium mining boomed during and after World War II and continues to threaten communities throughout the world.

Today, more than 15,000 abandoned uranium mines are located within the so-called U.S., mostly in and around Indigenous communities, permanently poisoning sacred lands and waters with little to no political action being taken to clean up their deadly toxic legacy.

Indigenous communities have long been at the front lines of the struggle to stop the deadly legacy of the nuclear industry. Nuclear colonialism has resulted in radioactive pollution that has poisoned drinking water systems of entire communities like Red Shirt Village in South Dakota and Sanders in Arizona. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has closed more than 22 wells on the Navajo Nation where there are more than 523 abandoned uranium mines. In Ludlow, South Dakota an abandoned uranium mine sits within feet of an elementary school, poisoning the ground where children continue to play to this day.

Nuclear colonialism has ravaged our communities and left a deadly legacy of cancers, birth defects, and other serious health consequences, it is the slow genocide of Indigenous Peoples.

From 1944 to 1986 some 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from mines on Diné lands. Diné workers were told little of the potential health risks with many not given any protective gear. As demand for uranium decreased the mines closed, leaving over a thousand contaminated sites. To this day none have been completely cleaned up.

On July 16, 1979, just 34 years after Oppenheimer oversaw the July 16, 1945 Trinity test, the single largest accidental release of radioactivity occurred on Diné Bikéyah (The Navajo Nation) at the Church Rock uranium mill. More than 1,100 tons of solid radioactive mill waste and 94 million gallons of radioactive tailings poured into the Puerco River when an earthen dam broke. Today, water in the downstream community of Sanders, Arizona is poisoned with radioactive contamination from the spill.

Although uranium mining is now banned on the reservation due to advocacy from Diné anti-nuclear organizers, Navajo politicians have sought to allow new mining in areas already contaminated by the industry’s toxic legacy.  It is estimated that 25% of all the recoverable uranium remaining in the country is located on Diné Bikéyah.
Though there has never been a comprehensive human health study on the impacts of uranium mining in the area, a focused study has detected uranium in the urine of babies born to Diné women exposed to uranium.

Western Shoshone lands in so-called Nevada, which have never been ceded to the “U.S.” government, have long been under attack by the military and nuclear industries.

Between 1951 and 1992 more than 1,000 nuclear bombs have been detonated above and below the surface at an area called the Nevada Test Site on Western Shoshone lands which make it one of the most bombed nations on earth. Communities in areas around the test site faced severe exposure to radioactive fallout, which caused cancers, leukemia & other illnesses. Those who have suffered this radioactive pollution are collectively known as “Downwinders.”

Western Shoshone spiritual practitioner Corbin Harney, who passed on in 2007, helped initiate a grassroots effort to shutdown the test site and abolish nuclear weapons. He once said, “We’re not helping Mother Earth at all. The roots, the berries, the animals, are not here anymore, nothing’s here. It’s sad. We’re selling the air, the water, we’re already selling each other. Somewhere it’s going to come to an end.”

Between 1945 and 1958, sixty-seven atomic bombs were detonated in tests conducted in Ṃajeḷ (the Marshall Islands). Some Indigenous people of the islands have all together stopped reproducing due to the severity of cancer and birth defects they have faced due to radioactive pollution.

In 1987 the “U.S.” congress initiated a controversial project to transport and store almost all of the U.S.’s toxic waste at Yucca Mountain located about 100 miles northwest of so-called Las Vegas, Nevada. Yucca Mountain has been held holy to the Paiute and Western Shoshone Nations since time immemorial. In January 2010 the Obama administration approved a $54 billion dollar taxpayer loan in a guarantee program for new nuclear reactor construction, three times what Bush previously promised in 2005.

There are currently 93 operating nuclear reactors in the so-called U.S. that supply 20% of the country’s electricity. There are nearly 90,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear waste stored in concrete dams at nuclear power plants throughout the country with the waste increasing at a rate of 2,000 tons per year.

From the 1979 disasters of Three Mile Island and Churchrock to the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant melted down, the nuclear industry has been wrought with mass catastrophes with permanent global consequences.

In 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant catastrophically failed and began melting down after it was hit by an earthquake and tsunami. It’s been reported that the Fukushima plant has been leaking approximately 300 tons of radioactive water into the ocean every day. Today, the Japanese government is open about its plans to release remaining radioactive waters into the Pacific.

“Depleted Uranium” weapons deployed by the U.S. in imperialist wars (particularly Iraq and Afghanistan) have also poisoned eco-systems, including at proving grounds and firing ranges in Arizona, Maryland, Indiana and Vieques, Puerto Rico. Depleted uranium is a by-product of uranium enrichment process when it’s used for nuclear reactor fuel and in the making of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear energy production is now claimed as a “green solution” to the climate crisis, but nothing could be further from the truth of this deadly lie.

In April 2022, the Biden administration announced a $6 billion government bailout to “rescue” nuclear power plants at risk of closing. A colonial government representative stated, “U.S. nuclear power plants contribute more than half of our carbon-free electricity, and President Biden is committed to keeping these plants active to reach our clean energy goals.” They, along with Climate Justice activists cite nuclear energy as necessary to combat global warming, all while ignoring the devastating permanent impacts Indigenous Peoples have faced.

Due to this “greenwashing” of nuclear energy, we face a push for nuclear hydrogen, small modular nuclear reactors, and High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) driving a renewed threat of new uranium mining, transportation, & processing.

Though the Obama administration placed a moratorium on thousands of uranium mine leases around the Grand Canyon in 2012, pre-existing uranium claims were allowed. Environmental groups and Indigenous Nations are currently attempting to make the moratorium permanent and push for a new national monument, yet these will do little to nothing for the handful of pre-existing uranium mines that have been allowed to move forward.

Despite  these actions, underground blasting & above ground work has begun at Pinyon Plain/Canyon Mine, just miles from the Grand Canyon. Once Energy Fuels, the company operating the mine, starts hauling out radioactive ore, they plan to transport 30 tons per day through Northern Arizona to the company’s processing mill in White Mesa, 300 miles away. 

The White Mesa Mill is the only conventional uranium mill licensed to operate in the U.S. The mill was built on sacred ancestral lands of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe near Blanding, Utah. Energy Fuels disposes radioactive and toxic waste tailings in “impoundments” that take up about 275 acres next to the mill. Since there are limited radioactive waste facilities, White Mesa Mill has become an ad hoc dump for the world’s nuclear wastes that have no final repository.

In so-called New Mexico, a state addicted to nuclear monies for both nuclear weapons and energy facilities, there are two national nuclear labs and two national waste facilities. Along with legacy uranium mines and mills, there was Project Gasbuggy (an underground detonation), a “Broken Arrow” accident near Albuquerque, and countless tons of radioactive waste buried in unlined pits, Pueblo kivas, and watersheds. Currently, there are planned expansions and modifications at Los Alamos National Labs, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, and Urenco uranium enrichment facility. Most recently, the state has been threatened by two newly licensed consolidated interim storage facilities for “spent fuel” from nuclear power plants in New Mexico and Texas. The federal government continues to push nuclear projects with financial incentives.

Nuclear proliferation continues as the U.S. allows uranium miners and others who are eligible for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to die. Many continue to suffer and wait for compensation funds to be allocated or are not eligible due to the limitations of the act. 

The devastation of nuclear colonialism, which permanently destroys Indigenous communities throughout the world, is not entertainment. This is the terrifying legacy of nuclear energy and weapons that movies like Oppenheimer and duplicitous climate justice activists advocate. 

Indigenous Peoples live, suffer, and continue to resist its consequences every day.



Recommended links:

Red Water Pond Road
ABQ Museum

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