Wednesday, September 28, 2005


The Nuclear-Free Future Award will help bring about the end of the Atomic Age. As an international prize it will work to strengthen those forces actively engaged in the struggle for a post-nuclear society. The wish for a planet freed of nuclear contamination must remain a wish -- the radioactive inheritance we have already gutted from the earth is doomed to accompany the next few thousand generations.
----From the Mission Statement of the Nuclear-Free Future Award

Last Saturday leaders of the Navajo Nation were in Oslo, Norway to accept the Nuclear-Free Future Award at the Nobel Institute. President Joe Shirley Jr. and Navajo Nation Council Delegate George Arthur who attended the award ceremony were honored for the tribe’s stance against the mining and processing of uranium, which is used to make nuclear weapons, on the reservation, and in particular the passage by the Navajo Nation Council of the DinĂ© Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 on April 19 in Window Rock, Ariz.

Chris Peters, director of the Seventh Generation Fund who introduced the President, said that with renewed interest in atomic energy, indigenous people of the world will be the most impacted. “Our communities share a disproportionate amount of risk,” he said.

Shirley, in his acceptance speech in Norway, which began with a Navajo greeting, told the story of uranium on the Navajo Nation and of how unprotected mining, processing and transportation of uranium ore damaged the health of the tribe. “Many of my people died,” he said, according to the release. “Many are dying today. Some are on their death beds. Why continue to mine that which kills?”

LoRenzo Bates, Navajo Nation Council delegate from Upper Fruitland, told the Daily Times the award makes the Navajo Nation’s stand on uranium known to the world. “It lets the word out that the Nation has taken a position that there will be absolutely no uranium mining within the boundaries of the Nation,” Bates said, adding any future attempts to mine or process uranium on the Nation will be refused in accordance with the law. “It sends the message that the Nation cannot be bought with money,” he stated.

Still today, the majority of wildcat uranium mines that pock the reservation remain unremediated, and tailings from the region's open-pit mines sew wind and rain with cancer. In 1979, the Church Rock disaster, the largest accidental release of radioactive material in U.S. history, sent eleven hundred tons of radioactive mill waste and ninety million gallons of contaminated liquid into the Rio Puerco River when a dam burst. The Navajo still cannot use this water.

Shirley said that the fight continues as other companies now seek ways to come back to Navajo land to mine uranium through in situ leaching. The new concern, he said, is that the next generation of uranium death will come through the contamination of the groundwater for a community of 15,000 in Crownpoint, N.M., if uranium extraction is allowed to proceed.

Other award recipients included Motarilavoa Hilda Lini of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu in the South Pacific; Preben Maegaard, director of the Nordic Folkecenter for Renewable Energy in Denmark; and Mathilda Halla, an Austrian anti-nuclear activist. Sources: Navajo Nation, Daily Times (Farmington, NM), Indianz, Nuclear Free Future Award

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