[Marxism] Uranium and Genocide in Indian Country
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Sep 17 09:57:26 MDT 2009
Counterpunch, September 17, 2009
Uranium and Genocide in Indian Country
Cry Me a River
By BRENDA NORRELL
When Paul Zimmerman writes in his new book about the Rio Puerco and the
Four Corners, he calls out the names of the cancers and gives voice to
the poisoned places and streams. Zimmerman is not just writing empty words.
Zimmerman writes of the national sacrifice area that the mainstream
media and the spin doctors would have everyone forget, where the corners
of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet, in his new book, A
Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons
and Fraudulent Science.
“A report in 1972 by the National Academy of Science suggested that the
Four Corners area be designated a ‘national sacrifice area,” he writes.
Then, too, he writes of the Rio Puerco, the wash that flowed near my
home when I lived in Houck, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation in the 1980s.
The radioactive water flowed from the Churck Rock, N.M., tailings spill
on down to Sanders, where non-Indians were also dying of cancer, and it
flowed by New Lands, Nahata Dziil Chapter, where Navajos were relocated
from their homes on Black Mesa. They moved there from communities like
Dinnebeto. Some elderly Navajos died there in New Lands, not just from
the new cancers, but from broken hearts.
Zimmerman points out there was plenty of evidence of cancers from Cold
War uranium mining and radioactive tailings left behind, but few studies
were commissioned to document it. In the early 1980s, I asked the Indian
Health Service about the rates of death around the uranium mines and
power plants. No studies were ever conducted, according to the IHS press
officer. I was shocked. Fresh out of graduate school with a master’s
degree in health for developing nations, I really could not believe it.
This week, Zimmerman released a chapter of his new book to aid the
struggles of Indigenous Peoples, after reading about the Havasupai
Gathering to Halt Uranium Mining in the Grand Canyon.
As I read his chapter, I am flooded with memories, memories of people
dying, radioactive rocks and the deception and censorship that continues
on the Navajo Nation.
In the 1990s, USA Today asked me to report on the uranium tailings and
deaths at Red Valley and Cove near Shiprock, N.M. In every home I
visited, at least one Navajo had cancer and their family members had
died of cancer. In some homes, every family member had cancer. In one
home, an eighty-year-old Navajo woman looked at the huge rocks that her
home was made of. She said some men came with a Geiger counter and told
her the rocks were extremely radioactive. Then, on another day, I walked
beside the radioactive rocks strewn in Gilbert Badoni's backyard near
The dust we breathed at Red Valley and Cove was radioactive. When the
Dine’ (Navajo) in the south and Dene in the north mined uranium without
protective clothing, the US and Canada knew they were sending Native
American miners to their deaths.
“Declassified documents from the atomic weapons and energy program in
the United States confirm that official secret talks on the health
hazards of uranium mining were discussed both in Washington and Ottawa.
In 1932, even before the Manhattan Project, the Department of Mines in
Canada published studies of the mine at Port Radium, warning of the
hazard of radon inhalation and ‘the dangers from inhalation of
radioactive dust.’ Blood studies of miners confirmed that breathing air
with even small amounts of radon was detrimental to health,” Zimmerman
When I moved to the Navajo Nation in 1979, I was a nutrition educator
with the Navajo Hopi WIC Program. I had no intention of becoming a news
reporter or an activist. Later in the 1980s, as a news reporter, I
reported on Peabody Coal and its claim that it was not damaging the land
or aquifer on Black Mesa.
Louise Benally, resisting relocation at Big Mountain said, “These big
corporations lie you know.”
No, I didn’t know that then. But I know that now.
Earl Tulley, Navajo from Blue Gap, said something that changed my life.
Tulley told me about the multi-national corporations, how they seize the
land and resources of Indigenous Peoples, not just on the Navajo Nation,
but around the world.
But it wasn’t until I covered federal court in Prescott, Arizona, as a
stringer for Associated Press, that I learned of how it all continues.
Covering the Earth First! trial in the 90s, I realized that federal
judges and federal prosecutors are on the same team. The FBI can
manipulate and manufacture evidence, even drive people to a so-called
crime if the guys don’t have a ride.
During the federal trial of former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald, it
became obvious: If you are an American Indian, you can forget about
justice. Later, during the trials of American Indian activists it was
clear: Federal prosecutors can just write a script and send people to
There are parts of the American justice system concealed from most
people: Distorted facts and planted evidence. News reporters seldom
learn of the witnesses who receive federal plea agreements and lie on
the witness stand. Few people except news reporters, ever sit through
these long, and tediously dull at times, federal trials which can go on
A three month trial of American Indians, or environmentalists, will
smash any romantic myth about justice for all in the US court system.
The bias and politics embedded within the justice system, and the back
door deals of Congressmen with the corporations who bankroll them,
seldom make the evening news.
Arizona Sen. John McCain and company brought about the so-called Navajo
Hopi land dispute, which was actually a sweetheart deal for Peabody Coal
mining on Black Mesa. When they emerged from the back door deals, they
swiftly went out to throw candy to Native Americans in the parades,
claiming they were the best friends of Indian country. Money is the
reason the Navajo Nation Council went along with coal mining on Black
Mesa. The revenues from coal mines, power plants and oil and gas wells
pay the salaries and expense accounts of the Navajo councilmen and
While I was on Mount Graham in Arizona at the Sacred Run, I learned of
another part of the story. I learned about Skull and Bones, the Yale
secret society. Former San Carlos Apache Councilman Raleigh Thompson
told me of the meeting with Skull and Bones. Thompson was there.
Thompson told how the Skull and Bones members, including President
George HW Bush's brother Jonathan Bush and an attorney, tried to silence
the San Carlos Apache leaders. The San Carlos Apaches were seeking the
return of Geronimo’s skull, during meetings in New York in the 1980s.
Geronimo had asked to be buried in the mountains on San Carlos.
The more I read from the book Secrets of the Tomb, the more it became
obvious that the Skull and Bones members weren’t just seizing money.
Their desire was for power. They wanted world domination.
So, now years later, I see the Skull and Bones Society rear its head
again in the Desert Rock power plant deal on the Navajo Nation in the
Four Corners, protested by Navajos living on the land in the
longstanding protest Dooda Desert Rock. Follow the money at Sithe Global
and it leads back to Blackstone and a member of Skull and Bones.
Skull and Bones members controlled production of the first atomic bomb,
according to Alexandra Robbins, author of Secrets of the Tomb. Zimmerman
writes of this time, “The Manhattan Project is inaugurated, physicists
are secretly recruited, clandestine outposts spring up in the
wilderness, and a fevered race against time ensues to transform abstract
theories into a deliverable weapon.”
The proposed Desert Rock power plant would be in the Four Corners, the
same “national sacrifice area,” where the Cold War uranium mines, coal
mines, power plants and oil and gas wells are already polluting and
causing disease and death. The air, land and water are contaminated and
the region is desecrated. It is the Navajos sacred place of origin,
Dinetah, a fact voiced by Bahe Katenay, Navajo from Big Mountain, and
Navajos at Big Mountain, and the Mohawk grandmothers who write Mohawk
Nation News, make it clear: The government initiated tribal councils are
puppets of the US and Canadian governments.
Several years before Dan Evehema passed to the Spirit World, relaxing on
his couch after protesting in the rain backhoes and development on
Hopiland, at the age of 104, he shared truth, speaking through a translator.
Evehema said the Hopi Sinom never authorized or recognized the
establishment of the Hopi Tribal Council, a puppet of the US government.
In the early Twentieth Century, Hopi were imprisoned at Alcatraz for
refusing to cooperate with the US. In the latter part of the century,
when the threat of forced relocation of Navajos was great, traditional
Hopi, including Evehema and Thomas Banyacya, stood with and supported
Navajos at Big Mountain. Mainstream reporters don’t like to report these
facts, since it deflates their superficial coverage, based on corporate
As I was being censored out of the news business (at least the type that
results in a paycheck) Louise Benally of Big Mountain once again
revealed the truth of the times. When she compared the war in Iraq to
the Longest Walk of Navajos to Bosque Redondo, she spoke of the
oppression and deceptions of the US colonizers, comparing the torture
and starvation of this death walk to what the US was doing in Iraq.
Benally was censored.
It was more than just a censored story. It was a statement of the times
we live in: Hush words too profound to be written. The times had come
full circle. Indian people once oppressed by US colonizers were now
serving as US soldiers for US colonizers, killing other Indigenous
Peoples. Victims had become perpetrators.
During much of the Twentieth Century, Indian children in the US, Canada
and Australia were kidnapped. Stolen from their parents, these children
were placed in boarding schools. In Canada, the residential schools were
run by churches. In all three countries, young children were routinely
abused, sexually abused and even murdered.
On the Longest Walk in 2008, while broadcasting across America, we saw
the marsh at Haskell in Kansas. Here, there are unmarked graves of the
children who never came home. At Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania,
we read the tombstones in the rows of tiny graves, the names of the
children who never came home.
In the US, Canada and Australia, children were forbidden to speak their
Native tongue, which carried their songs and ceremonies. Indian children
were beaten, locked in cellars, tortured and raped. Many died of
pneumonia, malnutrition and broken hearts. Some were shot trying to escape.
At Muscowequan Catholic residential school in Lestock, Saskatchewan,
Canada, a young girl was raped by a priest. When she gave birth, the
baby was thrown into the furnace and burned alive in front of child
survivor Irene Favel (http://www.hiddenfromhistory.org/ .)
In the US, the young boys who survived were militarized, made into US
soldiers. Zimmerman writes that Australia, like Canada and US, carried
out a holocaust of Aboriginal peoples. “What occurred in Australia is a
mirror image of the holocaust visited on Native Americans. When the
British claimed sovereignty over Australia, they commenced a 200 year
campaign of dispossession, oppression, subjugation and genocide of
Indigenous Peoples around the world targeted by uranium mining,
including the Dene in the north, linked to Dine’ (Navajo) in the south
by the common root of the Athabascan language. From the Dine’ and Dene
and around the earth to Australia, there was a recipe for death for
Indigenous Peoples by the power mongers.
The US policy of seizing the land and destroying the air, water and soil
is clear in Nevada and Utah. While Western Shoshone fight the nuclear
dump on their territory at Yucca Mountain in what is known as Nevada,
Goshutes at Skull Valley in Utah are neighbors with US biological and
chemical weapons testing.
Zimmerman writes, “Dugway Proving Ground has tested VX nerve gas,
leading in 1968 to the ‘accidental’ killing of 6,400 sheep grazing in
Skull Valley, whose toxic carcasses were then buried on the reservation
without the tribe’s knowledge, let alone approval. The US Army stores
half its chemical weapon stockpile nearby, and is burning it in an
incinerator prone to leaks; jets from Hill Air Force Base drop bombs on
Wendover Bombing Range, and fighter crashes and misfired missiles have
struck nearby. Tribal members’ health is undoubtedly adversely impacted
by this alphabet soup of toxins.”
Zimmerman makes it clear that the genocide of Indigenous Peoples was not
an accident. Indigenous People were targeted with death by uranium
mining and nuclear dumping. Indian people were targeted with destruction
that would carry on for generations, both in their genetic matter and in
their soil, air and water.
One ingredient in the recipe for death is division: Divide and control
the people and the land. This is what is happening at the southern and
northern borders on Indian lands. Just as the US continues the war in
Iraq and Afghanistan for war profiteers and politics, the racism-fueled
US border hysteria results in billions for border wall builders,
security companies and private prisons.
It comes as no surprise that the Israeli defense contractor responsible
for the Apartheid Wall in Palestine, Elbit Systems, was subcontracted by
Boeing Co. to work on the spy towers on the US/Mexico border.
Militarized borders mean dollars, oppression and power.
The US Border Patrol agents harass Indian people at the US borders, even
murder people of color on the border at point blank range. More often
than not, the murdering border agents walk away free from the courts.
Meanwhile, the US under the guise of homeland security, seizes a long
strip of land -- the US/Mexico corridor from California to Texas
--including that of the Lipan Apache in Texas. As Indigenous Peoples in
the south are pushed off their lands, corn fields seized by
corporations, they walk north to survive, many dying in the Southwest
Another ingredient in US genocide in Indian country is internal
political division and turmoil: Distract the people with political
turmoil, to make it easier to steal their water and land rights. If that
doesn’t work, put them in prison. In Central and South America, the
mining companies have added another step: Assassinate them.
The US made sure that Latin countries were able to carry out torture and
assassinations by training leaders and military personnel at the School
of the Americas. Even Chiquita Bananas admitted in court that they hired
assassins to kill anyone who opposed the company, including Indigenous
Peoples and farmers, in Colombia.
So, when Zimmerman writes of uranium and the sacrifices of Indigenous
Peoples, those are not just empty words. They are words that mark the
graves, words that name the cancers, words that mark the rivers and
words that give rise to names.
To give voice to a name is to break the silence.
Thank you Paul Zimmerman for sharing this chapter with all of us.
Brenda Norrell is a freelance writer and Americas Program border
analyst, www.americaspolicy.org. Her blog can be found at
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