The Effects of Nuclear Waste and Industrial Development on Indigenous People

Issues Facing Indigenous People
Racism Forced assimilation Cultural genocide Forced removal of individuals from their tribes and families (much of the time it’s children who are removed) Poverty/lack of resources-financial and other Environmental racism

Environmental Racism
The intentional or unintentional siting of hazardous waste sites, landfills, incinerators, and polluting industries in or near communities of color.

In many Native communities there is a struggle to meet basic needs. "There is nothing moral about tempting a starving man with money." – Keith Lewis from the Serpent River First Nation in Ontario He said this in reflection of his impoverished community’s 50 years of working in and living near uranium mines & mills, and the health and environmental catastrophe that has resulted.

All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life

Nuclear Waste: Dumping on the Indians Chapter Five

Nuclear Waste: Dumping on the Indians
“Much of the World’s nuclear industry has been sited on or near Native lands” (p. 97) “During the early and mid-1990s, the federal government and the nuclear industry offered seemingly lucrative deals to Native communities willing to accept nuclear waste dumps on their lands” (p. 100) A few tribes and tribal organizations took the bait. Now “…industry has increasingly targeted Native lands…” (p. 100). In a survey done on the proposed waste disposal facilities on Native lands, it was found that over 70 different tribes were approached for the placing of toxic waste dumps on their reservations (Angel, 1991).

Cases of Industrial Pollution on Native Lands
In 1991 the Kaibab-Paiute Tribe rejected a hazardous waste incinerator proposed by Waste Tech. On seven different occasions the Pine Ridge Indians were approached by multiple companies looking to build solid waste incinerators, landfills, sewage sludge disposals, scrap tire “recycling”, and multiple other solid and hazardous waste dumps, they declined (Angel, 1991). Other commercial industries such as milling and mining are also huge issues. 70% of the world’s uranium comes from Native communities

Cases of Industrial Pollution on Native Lands
On the Navajo reservation alone there are 1,000 abandoned uranium mines (LaDuke, 1996). “The Navajos…were warned about the dangers of uranium…” (p. 97). Both the Spokane and Yakima reservations have been contaminated by the Hanford Nuclear site and by mine waste from byproducts of nuclear experiments conducted by the military (LaDuke, 1996). In Western Shoshone territory in Nevada the U.S. and Great Britain exploded 1,054 nuclear devices both above and below ground (LaDuke, 1996) The Penobscot people of Maine live along the Penobscot River where 30 to 50 million gallons of dioxins are dumped into the river each day, which are produced by the paper mill industry (Grossman, 2008). There are numerous other cases.

The Distance from Indian Reservations to Industrial Facilities (Cain & Kelly).
Distance from Tribes to Facilities (miles) 5 10 25 50 100 All (federally recognized) tribal lands Number of Sum Total of Reservations Effected Reservation Population 16 28 71 144 245 567 182,720 228,401 315,123 415,953 535,441 781, 859 % of Total Population on Reservations 23.3% 29.2% 40.3% 53.2% 68.5% 100%

“It is estimated that over 72,000 different chemicals are used regularly. Two thousand five hundred new chemicals are introduced annually-and of these, only 15 are partially tested for their safety” and none of these chemicals has been tested for intergenerational effects (p. 21).

Exposure to These Toxic Chemicals Often Result in:
Numerous types of cancer Birth defects Decrements in: Brain functioning Mental and psychomotor development. Performance on academic achievement tests Word comprehension and overall reading comprehension IQ Intellectual and behavioral function Alterations in thyroid function (which disturbs the “differentiation of normal human neural progenitor cells”) Memory, retrieval of knowledge, and comprehension of knowledge. And many other health problems

Environmental racism although a new concept, is not a new issue. Health problems resulting from chemicals such as PCBs, dioxins, POPs, and radiation, etc. are having increasingly negative effects on the growth and development of native youth, the future of all Native nations. The implications of this are serious, if the mind and body are negatively effected by these substances Native youth’s cognitive development will lag and they will perform poorly on school tasks and in life tasks in general.

Angel, B. (1991). The toxic threat to Indian lands. A Greenpeace Report. Retrieved October 22, 2008, from http:// Cain, C. & Kelly, S. (n.d.) Mercury releases and tribal lands, what’s in your backyard? Using GIS to study mercury emissions. Retrieved October 22, 2008, from Grossman, R. (Producer/Director). (2008). Homeland: Four portraits of Native action: the Penobscot River [video recording]. Katahdin production in association with Orchard Pictures.

LaDuke, W. (1999). All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge, Ma: South End Press. Jacobson, J.L. & Jacobson, S.W. (1996). Intellectual impairment in children exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls in utero. The New England Journal of Medicine, 335, 783789. Lee, D., Jacobs, D. & Porta, M. (2007). Association of serum concentrations of persistent organic pollutants with the prevalence of learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. Journal Epidemiol Community Health, 61, 591596. Newman, J., Aucompaugh, A., Schell, L., Denham, M., Decaprio, A., Gallo, M., Ravenscroft, J., J., Kao, C., Hanover, M., David, D., Jacobs, A., Tarbell, A., Worswick, P., (2006). PCBs and cognitive functioning of Mohawk adolescents. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 28, 439-445.

Ribas-Fito, N., Cardo, E., Sala, M., Muga, E., Mazon, C., Verdu, A., Kogevinas, M., et al. (2003). Breastfeeding, exposure to organochlorine compounds, and neurodevelopment in infants. Official Journal of American Pediatrics, 111, 580585. Schell, L., Gallo, M., Denham, M., Ravenscroft, J., DeCaprio, A. & Carpenter, D. (2008). Relationship of thyroid hormone levels to levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, lead, p,p´-DDE, and other toxicants in Akwesasne Mohawk Youth. Environmental Health Perspectives, 116, 806-813.

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