Sunday, April 8, 2007

South Dakota Radioactive Wastelands: A Case Study in Genocide

Coming from a reservation in South Dakota, with a bare minimal understanding of environmental regulation and nuclear science, and foolishly thinking that there is a honest, unbiased, non-ethnocentric perspective, shared by many people, in protecting the future generations from our "avarice" and wanton wastefulness today; what a rude awakening! Not only was I wrong about the Internet as being a great place to seek more public support for our challenges against the 88 toxic abandoned uranium mines in the Custer National Forest (, the in situ leach uranium mining by PowerTech Uranium ( and other uranium mining companies, and the Black Hills National Forest abandoned uranium mines; I was totally incorrect in believing that the environmental and Native American groups would help us, the Defenders of the Black Hills (, in our challenge against their genocide against our tribes. Maybe I am not educated enough to know the difference between what is right and wrong, or maybe I just don't have the words to explain our challenge properly.

From what I am studying about this abandoned and in situ leach uranium mining issues, I feel that our community (Rock Creek, SD) and others Native communities on the Navajo Reservation are being used as guinea pigs to study the health effects of low-dose ionizing radiation. This depresses me.

But again, hope dawned, giving me solace that at least one person on the Internet would help us in our challenge who established the following website, the Silkwood Project and featured many of our stories in Heyoka Magazine. Educating people about the dangers of uranium poisoning has proven to be an extreme challenge but not one that will prove to be impossible, for instance, on MySpace I established a group for the Defenders of the Black Hills since there are millions of members that also have the environmental consciousness; this too increases awareness of our genocide. And after a short time, we also attracted the assistance of the Western Mining Action Network, Southwest Research and Information Center and Indigenous Environmental Network who provided us with valuable technical advice and supported our Uranium Summit which was held in Rapid City in March 2007.

Many nights I have felt sorrow, knowing that most people in my community of Rock Creek, SD (Bullhead, SD) on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation face the possibility of getting cancer and other uranium-induced illnesses. What saddens me is that it seems like the endangered species affected by uranium mining have more rights than we do even though we are becoming just as extinct. Then, as I think of the future, I can see only increasing doom because our regulatory agencies are not really considering anything else except their money.

I have included the following links to Microsoft Terraserver aerial photographs of the Lakota communities on the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock reservations being affected by the runoff from the abandoned uranium mines.

Standing Rock
1. Bullhead
2. Little Eagle
3. Wakpala

Cheyenne River
1. Iron Lightning
2. Thunder Butte
3. Green Grass
4. White Horse
5. Blackfoot

The Lakota are becoming extinct!

The truth is that most regulatory authorities established for environmental protection are pro-mining, not pro-earth, and even seem, at times, anti-people! More importantly after reading through many different environmental activists websites, I see that they are actually in league with the mining, energy and logging companies, holding the same view that if they follow certain mandated regulations purportedly enacted to protect the environment, the water and human health, then the ecological unbalancing should be allowed or permitted under certain specified conditions. But what bothers me most about evil synergy between the "environmentalists" and the "exploiters" is that they think that paying reclamation bonds, creating economic and employment opportunities, and mitigating sacred site issues gives them suitable justification to destroy our earth!

But to truly understand this self-destructiveness, we must understand that each of us also indirectly or directly contributes to this profane endeavor through our consumption of electricity, gasoline, heating, air conditioning, agriculture and livestock products and the other plethora of commercial products! The conundrum of the commons at its finest hour, debuting us as its woe-begotten audience, captivating us by its magical taste of invincibility while knowing we are also causing the desolation of our lebensraum-what a bad taste that must be and of course, perhaps many reconcile this eventuality with their own lust of power or powerlessness and sense of futility.

Then, from an economic and survivability standpoint, given the demand for a scarce natural resource, the supply must at least equal this demand for it to remain economically viable; if not, its demand rises to point of near fanatical rush to exploit this resource through whatever means necessary; this, to me, resembles a blood thirsty vampire seeking new prey. What is even more puzzling is: if a natural resource in its natural state is relatively harmless, then at that point where we alter it, making it highly toxic to the environment and to people, does this decrease its demand: I think not?

From my perspective, with respect to in situ leach (ISL)/in situ recovery (ISR) uranium mining, it seems in this instance that all concern goes out the window and in its place is this extreme thirst for profit from exploiting of these toxic uranium poisons: all in the name of being environmentally friendly and solving the GLOBAL WARMING craze. At $113 per pound with input/investment costs at around $1, greed is forcing people to forget that they also drink water and their children and children's children must also drink water; the question is then whether that water will be safe or pure enough for them to drink at all and whether that $112 profit mined today is worth the lives of their children. This occurs regardless of the proven facts that ISL/ISR uranium mining does in fact poison the groundwater as it did in Texas (see for example, "If Only We'd Known," and "Uranium Mining Polluting near the King Ranch").

Too many times have I heard people recommending various course of action, some realistic, some totally inappropriate for this challenge. Although our future looks bleak, there remains learning what other affected Native tribes in this country have did in situations such as ours to oppose these mining companies. Additionally there are other alternatives that I feel that these mining companies fail to see as being impossible for us to do; this underestimation will be their undoing. Furthermore, the state judicial proceedings that have occurred as a result of certain discrepancies in the ISL exploratory permit may have allowed them to begin drilling 155 more holes in our sacred Grandmother Earth, adding more insult to the already 4,000 other exploratory holes out in the Black Hills. Yet I am a firm believer that they will not succeed in establishing their ISL operation, seeing that they have forgotten one issue: that is that once the public becomes educated about the dangers and hazards of groundwater contamination from uranium activities such as has happened in the Custer National Forest, they will not allow more natural resources damages in this state.

There are only a few of us that are ardently opposing this sickness in our state, and even fewer realize that once they inject their poisons into our sacred Grandmother Earth, they will also kill those of us living on her surface, all of us, Tetuwan (Seven Council Fires) and white.