5/5/2012 Vancouver Sun: U.S. should mitigate "sense of loss" among aboriginal community through return of native lands: UN expert
5/5/2012 Vancouver Sun: U.S. should mitigate “sense of loss” among aboriginal community through return of native lands: UN expert by Agence France-Presse Young dancers share a moment during the 29th Annual Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, April 28, 2012. Some 3,000 singers and dancers perform over the three-day Gathering of Nations, which began on Thursday in Albuquerque. Celebrating its 29th year, organizers say it’s the largest meeting of Native American and indigenous people in the world. The UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has called on the United States to mitigate the “sense of loss” among the Native American community by restoring some tribal lands. WASHINGTON — The UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has called on the United States to mitigate the “sense of loss” among the Native American community by restoring some tribal lands.
The expert, James Anaya, made the comments after a 12-day tour of the United States, during which he met with tribal leaders in the capital as well as in the states of Arizona, Alaska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington.
“The sense of loss, alienation and indignity is pervasive throughout Indian country,” Anaya said in a statement released Friday.
“It is evident that there have still not been adequate measures of reconciliation to overcome the persistent legacies of the history of oppression, and that there is still much healing that needs to be done.”
He pointed to the loss of tribal lands as a particularly sore point, naming the Black Hills of South Dakota and the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona as places where indigenous peoples feel they have “too little control.”
“Securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples’ socio-economic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity,” Anaya said.
“Continued efforts to resolve, clarify, and strengthen the protection of indigenous lands, resources, and sacred sites should be made,” he said.
“The widespread loss of indigenous peoples’ lands and resources is well-documented. The negative effects of this loss are compounded by past and ongoing activities that diminish or threaten the remaining lands and resources upon which indigenous peoples depend.”
Anaya went on the tour to see how well the United States is carrying out the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the administration of President Barack Obama endorsed in December 2010.
He noted that while he visited tribal leaders both on reservations and in urban areas, and met with Obama administration officials, he was unable to meet with members of the U.S. Congress.
Anaya is to draft a report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council, probably in September, and which will be made public.
“More robust measures are needed to address the serious issues affecting Native American, Alaska Native and Hawaiian peoples in the United States — issues that are rooted in a dark and complex history,” he said.
Anaya said such measures should be taken “in consultation and in real partnership with indigenous peoples, with a goal towards strengthening their own self-determination and decision-making over their affairs at all levels.”
Last month, the U.S. Justice Department announced that the government had agreed to pay more than $1 billion to 40 Native American tribes to settle lawsuits over federal use of their lands and assets.
The United States is home to some two million Native Americans, who trail national averages in income and health.
© Copyright (c) AFP
5/4/2012 Washington Post: UN fact finder on indigenous rights to recommend land restoration for some Native Americans
5/4/2012 Washington Post: UN fact finder on indigenous rights to recommend land restoration for some Native Americans by Associated Press: WASHINGTON — A United Nations fact finder surveying the lives of Native Americans and Alaska Natives said Friday he’ll recommend in an upcoming report that some of the tribes’ lands be restored, including the Black Hills of South Dakota. James Anaya, a U.N. special rapporteur, has been meeting with tribal leaders, the administration and Senate members over 12 days to assess U.S. implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He plans several suggestions in his report, which he said he likely will deliver to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in September.
Anaya said land restoration would help bring about reconciliation. He named the Black Hills as an example. He said restoring to indigenous people what they have a legitimate claim to can be done in a way that is not divisive “so that the Black Hills, for example, isn’t just a reminder of the subordination and domination of indigenous peoples in that country.”
The Black Hills, home to Mount Rushmore, are public land but are considered sacred by the Sioux tribes. The Sioux have refused to accept money awarded in a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision and have sought return of the land. The Black Hills and other lands were set aside for the Sioux in an 1868 treaty. But Congress passed a law in 1877 taking the land.
President Barack Obama endorsed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010, reversing a previous U.S. vote against it. It is intended to protect the rights of 370 million native peoples worldwide. Anaya is the first U.N. special rapporteur on rights of the indigenous to visit the U.S.
He met with several members of the executive branch and had the chance to brief members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He lamented he was unable to get individual meetings with members of Congress, noting that he usually meets with members of legislative bodies of countries he is visiting.
Anaya said he heard universal cries from the Native Americans and Alaska Natives for the federal government to protect their tribal sovereignty and for more ability to control their own affairs.
He added provisions in the Violence Against Women Act, recently approved in the Senate, give tribes the ability to prosecute people who commit violent crimes against Native American or Alaska Native women, even if they are not native peoples. That provision has been opposed by some Republicans in Congress. The House is expected to move on the act as soon as next week, with Republicans possibly drafting and pushing their own version.
Anaya said he met with tribes in Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington State, South Dakota and Oklahoma both on reservations and in urban areas.
“In all my consultations with indigenous peoples in the places I visited it was impressed upon me that the sense of loss, alienation and indignity is pervasive throughout Indian Country,” Anaya said.
“It is evident that there have still not been adequate measures of reconciliation to overcome the persistent legacies of the history of oppression and that there is still much healing that needs to be done,” he said.
Online: USNR James Anaya: http://www.unsr.jamesanaya.org
5/5/2012 Common Dreams UN: US Must Return Stolen Land to Native Americans UN wraps up 'contentious study' of Native American communities
5/5/2012 Published on Saturday, May 5, 2012 by Common Dreams United Nations: US Must Return Stolen Land to Native Americans UN wraps up ‘contentious study’ of Native American communities – Common Dreams staff In an investigation monitoring ongoing discrimination against Native Americans, the United Nations has requested that the US government return some of the stolen land back to Native Americans, as a necessary move towards combating systemic racial discrimination. James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, “said that in nearly two weeks of visiting Indian reservations, indigenous communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and Native Americans now living in cities, he encountered people who suffered a history of dispossession of their lands and resources, the breakdown of their societies and ‘numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination,'” the Guardian reports.
“You can see they’re in a somewhat precarious situation in terms of their basic existence and the stability of their communities given that precarious land tenure situation. It’s not like they have large fisheries as a resource base to sustain them. In basic economic terms it’s a very difficult situation. You have upwards of 70% unemployment on the reservation and all kinds of social ills accompanying that. Very tough conditions,” Anaya stated.
“I’m talking about restoring to indigenous peoples what obviously they’re entitled to and they have a legitimate claim to in a way that is not divisive but restorative. That’s the idea behind reconciliation.”
5/4/2012 Statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, upon conclusion of his visit to the United States
5/4/2012 Statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, upon conclusion of his visit to the United States: Statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya,
upon conclusion of his visit to the United States 4 May 2012: Washington, D.C.– “In my capacity as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, I am concluding my official visit to the United States of America, which I have been carrying out over the past twelve days. During my mission, I have held consultations with indigenous peoples, tribes, and nations in Washington, D.C.; Arizona; Alaska; Oregon; Washington State; South Dakota; and Oklahoma, both in Indian Country and in urban areas. I also had a series of meetings with representatives of the executive branch of the federal government and with state government officials. I regret that my efforts to meet with members of the U.S. Congress were unsuccessful, especially given the prominent role of Congress in defining the status and rights of indigenous peoples within the United States.
I would like to thank the U.S. Department of State and other parts of the government administration for the cooperation they have provided for the mission. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to representatives of indigenous nations and peoples whose assistance in planning and carrying out of this visit has been indispensible. I am honored to have been welcomed into their communities and am humbled by the hospitality I received. I am grateful that they shared their still vibrant cultures and stories, and also their concerns with me.
My mission has been carried out against the backdrop of the United States’ endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in December 2010. Over the past twelve days, I have collected a significant amount of information from indigenous peoples and Government representatives across the country, with a view to assessing how the standards of the Declaration are reflected in United States law, policy and programs at both the state and federal levels, and to identify needed reforms as well as good practices.
In the following weeks, I will be reviewing the extensive information I have received during the visit in order to develop a report to evaluate the situation of indigenous peoples in the United States and to make a series of recommendations. This report will be made public, and will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, most likely at its plenary session in September. I hope that that this report will be of use to Native American, Alaska Native and Hawaiian peoples, as well as to the Government of the United States, to help find solutions to ongoing challenges that indigenous peoples in the country face, and to advance their rights in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Over the past twelve days, I have heard stories that make evident the profound hurt that indigenous peoples continue to feel because of the history of oppression they have faced. This history—as is widely known but often forgotten—includes the dispossession of the vast majority of their lands and resources, the removal of children from their families and communities, the breakdown of their traditional structures, the loss of their languages, the breaking of treaties, and numerous instances of outrights brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination.
It is clear that this history does not just blemish the past, but translates into present day disadvantage for indigenous peoples in the country. The intergenerational trauma suffered by indigenous societies is deeply felt and manifested in deep social ills that afflict indigenous Americans in ways not experienced by others.
I have heard countless accounts of the ongoing problems that indigenous peoples face as a result of historical injustices, problems of deeply troubling economic, health, education, and development disparities. In all my consultations with indigenous peoples in the places I visited it was impressed upon me that the sense of loss, alienation and indignity is pervasive throughout Indian country. It is evident that there have still not been adequate measures of reconciliation to overcome the persistent legacies of the history of oppression, and that there is still much healing that needs to be done.
I believe that an important step in the still needed process of reconciliation is the statement of support of the Government of the United States for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the United States should be commended for joining the rest of the countries of the world in its support for this instrument. The Declaration affirms fundamental human rights in relation to the particular historical and contemporary circumstances of indigenous peoples. It echoes fundamental values, embraced by the American constitutional tradition, of self-determination, equality, local decision-making and secure property, and respect for cultural identity. The United States must also ensure that international relations and laws governing corporate activities affecting indigenous peoples in other countries are consistent with, and promote, the application of the Declaration.
I have also heard about initiatives the Federal Government has taken in recent years to improve the conditions of indigenous peoples, which can be seen as advances towards the implementation of some provisions of the Declaration. These include initiatives to develop consultation policies and open spaces of dialogue with tribes; to settle outstanding claims; to increase funding for federal programs; and to improve education, economic development, and law and order in Indian Country. These initiatives build on some already important recognition of, and in some cases exemplary laws, policies, and programs that promote the rights of indigenous peoples in the country. I will continue to study these and other initiatives and will be reflecting positive developments in further detail in my report.
However, from the information that I have gathered, it is evident that more robust measures are needed to address the serious issues affecting Native American, Alaska Native and Hawaiian peoples in the United States, issues that are rooted in a dark and complex history whose legacies are not easy to overcome. Continued and concerted measures are needed to develop new initiatives and reform existing ones, in consultation and in real partnership with indigenous peoples, to conform to the Declaration, with a goal towards strengthening indigenous peoples’ own self-determination and decision-making over their affairs at all levels. The Declaration provides a new grounding for understanding the status and rights of indigenous peoples, upon which the legal doctrines of conquest and discovery must be discarded as a basis for decision-making by judicial and other authorities.
I have seen that many tribes across the country have capable institutions of self-governance and tribal courts, self-administered social and economic development programs, which have demonstrated significant successes and, with an understanding and knowledge of tribal realities, function at the same time to promote and consolidate indigenous cultures and values. During my visit, I heard almost universal calls from indigenous nations and tribes across the country that the Government respect tribal sovereignty, that indigenous peoples’ ability to control their own affairs be strengthened, and that the many existing barriers to the effective exercise of self-determination be removed. It should be noted that the Violence Against Women Act, which is currently pending reauthorization before Congress, contains important provisions recognizing the jurisdiction of tribes to prosecute perpetrators of violence against Indian women and to hold them accountable for their crimes, which is a good step towards addressing this distressing problem. Also, adequate funding should be provided to ensure the welfare of indigenous Americans in accordance with historical obligations, especially in areas of health, housing, and education.
I cannot conclude without providing some brief comments on issues I have heard related to the lands and resources of indigenous peoples across America. The widespread loss of indigenous peoples’ lands and resources is well-documented. The negative effects of this loss are compounded by past and ongoing activities that diminish or threaten the remaining lands and resources upon which indigenous peoples depend. Across America, past uncontrolled and irresponsible extractive activities, including uranium mining in the Southwest, have resulted in the contamination of indigenous peoples’ water sources and other resources, and in numerous documented negative health effects among Native Americans.
In Alaska and the Pacific Northwest especially, I heard about how Native peoples continue to depend upon hunting and gathering wildlife, and fishing marine resources, and how the maintenance of these subsistence activities is essential for both their physical and their cultural survival, especially in isolated areas. However, indigenous peoples informed me that they face ever-greater threats to their subsistence activities due to a growing surge of competing interests, and in some cases incompatible extractive activities, over these lands and resources. In Alaska, indigenous peoples complain about a complex and overly restrictive state regulatory apparatus that impedes their access to subsistence resources.
I also heard many stories about the significance of places that are sacred to indigenous peoples, places like the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona and the Black Hills in South Dakota, which hold profound religious and cultural significance to tribes. During my visit, indigenous peoples reported to me that they have too little control over what happens in these places, and that activities carried out around them at times affront their values and beliefs.
It is important to note, in this regard, that securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples’ socio-economic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity. Continued efforts to resolve, clarify, and strengthen the protection of indigenous lands, resources, and sacred sites should be made.
I look forward to developing more detailed observations and recommendations beyond these initial comments in my report to the Human Rights Council. As I noted, my observations and recommendations will be aimed at identifying good practices and needed reforms in line with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I hope that this process will contribute to ensuring that the first Americans can continue to thrive and maintain their distinct ways of life as they have done for generations despite significant challenges, preserving this fundamental part of American history and enriching American society for the benefit of all.”
5/4/2012 Yahoo News: U.S. must heal native peoples’ wounds, return landsUNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States must do more to heal the wounds of indigenous peoples caused by more than a century of oppression, including restoring control over lands Native Americans consider to be sacred, a U.N. human rights investigator said on Friday.
James Anaya, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, just completed a 12-day visit to the United States where he met with representatives of indigenous peoples in the District of Columbia, Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington State, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. He also met with U.S. government officials.
“I have heard stories that make evident the profound hurt that indigenous peoples continue to feel because of the history of oppression they have faced,” Anaya said in a statement issued by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva.
That oppression, he said, has included the seizure of lands and resources, the removal of children from their families and communities, the loss of languages, violation of treaties, and brutality, all grounded in racial discrimination.
Anaya welcomed the U.S. decision to endorse the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 and other steps the government has taken, but said more was needed. His findings will be included in a final report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council. While not binding, the recommendations carry moral weight that can influence governments.
“It is clear that this history does not just blemish the past, but translates into present day disadvantage for indigenous peoples in the country,” Anaya said.
“There have still not been adequate measures of reconciliation to overcome the persistent legacies of the history of oppression, and that there is still much healing that needs to be done,” he said.
In Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, where some Native Americans depend on hunting and fishing, Anaya said tribes face “ever-greater threats … due to a growing surge of competing interests, and in some cases incompatible extractive activities, over these lands and resources.”
“In Alaska, indigenous peoples complain about a complex and overly restrictive state regulatory apparatus that impedes their access to subsistence resources (fish and wildlife),” he said.
Mining for natural resources in parts of the country has also caused serious problems for indigenous peoples.
“Past uncontrolled and irresponsible extractive activities, including uranium mining in the Southwest, have resulted in the contamination of indigenous peoples’ water sources and other resources, and in numerous documented negative health effects among Native Americans,” he said.
He said indigenous peoples feel they have too little control over geographic regions considered sacred to them, like the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona and the Black Hills in South Dakota. Anaya suggested such lands should be returned to Native peoples.
“Securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples’ socioeconomic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity,” Anaya said.
“Continued efforts to resolve, clarify, and strengthen the protection of indigenous lands, resources, and sacred sites should be made,” he added.
Mount Rushmore, a popular tourist attraction, is located in the Black Hills, which the Sioux tribe consider to be sacred and have territorial claims to based on an 1868 treaty. Shortly after that treaty was signed, gold was discovered in the region. U.S. Congress eventually passed a law taking over the land.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that the seizure of the land was illegal and ordered the government to pay compensation. But the Sioux rejected the money and has continued to demand the return of the now public lands.
Anaya said he will make specific recommendations on these and other issues in a full report later this year.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
4/19/2012 Congress letters prompted by 3/31/2012 New York Times article : Uranium Mines Dot Navajo Land, Neglected and Still Perilous
3/31/2012 New York Times article: Uranium Mines Dot Navajo Land, Neglected and Still Perilous
“If this level of radioactivity were found in a middle-class suburb, the response would be immediate and aggressive,” said Doug Brugge, a public health professor at Tufts University medical school and an expert on uranium. “The site is remote, but there are obviously people spending time on it. Don’t they deserve some concern?”
Navajo advocates, scientists and politicians are asking the same question.
The discovery came in the midst of the largest federal effort to date to clean up uranium mines on the vast Indian reservation. A hearing in 2007 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform led to a multiagency effort to assess and clean up hundreds of structures on the reservation through a five-year plan that ends this year.
Yet while some mines have been “surgically scraped” of contamination and are impressive showpieces for the E.P.A., others, like the Cameron site, are still contaminated. Officials at the E.P.A. and the Department of Energy attribute the delay to the complexity of prioritizing mine sites. Some say it is also about politics and money.
“The government can’t afford it; that’s a big reason why it hasn’t stepped in and done more,” said Bob Darr, a public relations specialist for the environmental consulting firm S.M. Stoller, which does contracting work for the Department of Energy. “The contamination problem is vast.”
If the government can track down a responsible party, he said, it could require it to pay for remediation. But most of the mining companies that operated on the reservation have long since gone out of business, Mr. Darr said.
To date, the E.P.A., the Department of Energy and other agencies have evaluated 683 mine sites on the land and have selected 34 structures and 12 residential yards for remediation. The E.P.A. alone has spent $60 million on assessment and cleanup.
Cleaning up all the mines would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, said Clancy Tenley, a senior E.P.A. official who oversees the uranium legacy program for the agency in the Southwest.
Some say the effort has been marred by bureaucratic squabbles and a tendency to duck responsibility. “I’ll be the first to admit that the D.O.E. could work better with the E.P.A.,” said David Shafer, an environmental manager at the energy agency.
Determining whether uranium is a result of past mining or is naturally occurring is “a real debate” and can delay addressing the problem, Mr. Shafer said. He cited seepage of uranium contaminants into the San Juan River, which runs along the boundary of the reservation, as an example. “We need to look at things like this collectively and not just say it’s E.P.A.’s problem or D.O.E.’s problem,” he said.
E.P.A. officials said their first priority was to address sites near people’s homes. “In places where we see people living in close proximity to a mine and there are elevated readings, those are rising to the top of the list for urgent action,” Mr. Tenley said.
Agency officials said they planned a more thorough review of the Cameron site — which still has no warning signs posted — within the next six months.
Meanwhile, Navajos continue to be exposed to high levels of radioactivity in the form of uranium and its decay products, like radon and radium. Those materials are known to cause health problems, including bone, liver, breast and lung cancer.
Lucy Knorr, 68, of Tuba City, Ariz., grew up near the VCA No. 2 mine operated by the Kerr-McGee Corporation, now defunct. Her father, a former miner, died of lung cancer at age 55 in 1980, and her family received a payout of $100,000 under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, a law that was enacted after her mother hired a lawyer and testified before Congress.
The program has awarded $1.5 billion for 23,408 approved claims since it was enacted in 1990.
Ms. Knorr’s father was one of hundreds of Navajos who did not wear protective gear while working in the mine. “He’d wash at a basin outside” after leaving the mine, she said, “and the water would just turn yellow.”
The government has been successful in tracking down and holding some former mining companies accountable. The E.P.A. is requiring that General Electric spend $44 million to clean up its Northeast Church Rock Mine, near Gallup, N. M. Chevron is paying to clean up the Mariano Lake Mine, also in New Mexico.
When the government cannot locate a responsible party, which is most often the case, the E.P.A. and the Department of Energy work with the tribal authorities to reach cleanup decisions. In general, the E.P.A. handles mines, while the Energy Department is responsible for the mills where the ore was processed and enriched.
One of the Department of Energy’s biggest priorities is a billion-dollar uranium mine cleanup that is under way in Moab, Utah, and that received $108 million in federal stimulus money and the backing of nine congressmen.
Some Navajo officials point out that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hard-rock mining claims on one million acres of federal land around the Grand Canyon in January, saying it was needed to preserve the mile-deep canyon and the river that runs through it. The mining industry is challenging that decision in court.
But the Navajo Nation, considered a sovereign government entity, has not gotten similar treatment from the federal government for its land, some of its officials say. The nation has asked for $500 million for mine cleanup, but the money has not materialized, said Eugene Esplain, one of two officials with the Navajo E.P.A. responsible for patrolling an area the size of West Virginia.
Taylor McKinnon, a director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that worked to halt new mining claims near the Grand Canyon, said the Cameron site was the worst he had seen in the Southwest. He has even seen cow droppings near the mine, he said, an indication that cattle are grazing there. And “people are eating those livestock,” he said.
Ronald Tohannie, a project manager with the Navajo advocacy group Forgotten People, said the locally grown beef was tested at the slaughterhouse, but not for the presence of radioactive substances like uranium.
When E.P.A. officials in the California office overseeing the region were asked to accompany a reporter to the Cameron mine site, they countered with an offer to visit the Skyline Mine in Utah, on the northern boundary of the reservation in Monument Valley, where a big federal cleanup was completed last October.
The onetime mine, atop a 1,000-foot mesa, provides a sweeping panorama of the red valley below. Just one tiny dwelling is visible, the packed-earth hogan of Elsie Begay, a 71-year-old Navajo woman. Ms. Begay was featured in a series of articles in The Los Angeles Times in 2006 about serious illnesses that several of her family members developed after living in the area for many years.
The publicity “might have bumped the site up the priority list,” said Jason Musante, who oversaw the $7.5 million cleanup of the mine for the E.P.A.
In trailers and cinder-block dwellings on the Navajo reservation, there is deep cynicism and apprehension about the federal effort. “That’s what they want you to see: something that’s all nice and cleaned up,” said the Navajo manager of a hotel near the Skyline mine. He asked not to be identified, saying that he had already come under government scrutiny for collecting water samples from the San Juan River for uranium testing at a private lab.
For some Navajos, the uranium contamination is all of a piece with their fraught relationship with the federal government.
“They’re making excuses, and they’ve always made excuses,” Ms. Knorr said. “The government should have had a law in place that told these mining companies: you clean up your mess when you leave.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 27, 2012
An article on April 1 about concerns over radioactivity levels around former uranium mines on Navajo territory in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico referred imprecisely to Bob Darr, a public relations specialist who said that the federal government cannot afford to clean up all the mines. While he works for S.M. Stoller, a consulting firm that provides public affairs support to the Department of Energy under contract, he is not a spokesman for the department.
For years, unsuspecting Navajos inhaled radioactive dust and drank contaminated well water. Many of them became sick with cancer and other diseases.
The radioactivity at the former mine is said to measure one million counts per minute, translating to a human dose that scientists say can lead directly to malignant tumors and other serious health damage, according to Lee Greer, a biologist at La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif. Two days of exposure at the Cameron site would expose a person to more external radiation than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission considers safe for an entire year.
The E.P.A. filed a report on the rancher’s find early last year and pledged to continue its environmental review. But there are still no warning signs or fencing around the secluded and decaying site. Crushed beer cans and spent shell casings dot the ground, revealing that the old mine has become a sort of toxic playground.
CAMERON, Ariz. — In the summer of 2010, a Navajo cattle rancher named Larry Gordy stumbled upon an abandoned uranium mine in the middle of his grazing land and figured he had better call in the feds. Engineers from the Environmental Protection Agency arrived a few months later, Geiger counters in hand, and found radioactivity levels that buried the needles on their equipment. The abandoned mine here, about 60 miles east of the Grand Canyon, joins the list of hundreds of such sites identified across the 27,000 square miles of Navajo territory in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico that are the legacy of shoddy mining practices and federal neglect. From the 1940s through the 1980s, the mines supplied critical materials to the nation’s nuclear weapons program.