Indigenous Peoples: Background
The area in the United States with the greatest amount of uranium related activity is the Western United States, specifically the states of Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Texas. These states have the largest amounts of uranium reserves thus making them centres for milling and mining. Of all uranium reserves within the U.S., 75% are located on Native American reserves. Almost all mining is done on these lands, which are owned and operated by private companies . Because of the concentration of uranium activity on native lands, any uranium exploits carried out by the government and corporations will have a direct impact on Native populations. Their position within the United States as a significant minority group without a voice leads them and their land to be often exploited.
Uranium mining, milling, and nuclear testing and dumping have serious and adverse effects on the health and environment of the surrounding peoples and land. Decisions on the development of new and existing uranium projects are often done against the will of the native populations. For example, nuclear testing is currently operating on the land of the Shoshone tribe in Nevada, which was allocated to them in the Treaty of Ruby Valley in 1863 and declared their sovereignty over the area . The U.S. government has also designated Yucca Mountain, which is also territory of the Shoshone Nation, to be the site of the first ever nuclear waste repository. The Native American populations affected by nuclear projects and uranium mining are vast. Any peoples living in the surrounding areas of mines, mills, and test sites experience the serious consequences of such exploits.
The uranium and nuclear industry is the most current example of abuse against Native Americans in the United States. The history of violence and discrimination against indigenous peoples is long and ugly. Native Americans over the course of the USA’s 400 year history have been abused in every possible way. Abuse in this day and age comes most often in the form of environmental racism, an example of which is mining. The land designated as Indian reserves is rich in minerals and other resources, and companies who pursue these profits either disregard the Natives entirely or treat them as expendable. Environmental racism directly violates the ability of Native Americans to live as they wish, threatens their health, and takes away their ability to survive off the land. The current issue at hand involving the Uranium and Nuclear industries is the most recent form of racism and discrimination aimed towards Native Americans.
Friends of the Earth