Uranium mining’s impact on the Indigenous

Bree stands wearing her grandmother's ribbon skirt after Grand Entry at Haskell University's May 2023 Pow Wow.

By Breanna Crawford

Note: Breanna Crawford, a new member of the PeaceWorks KC Board of Directors, is an Indigenous Cherokee/Dakota (Sioux) enrolled in the Cherokee Nation. Her father’s family lives on the reservation in Sisseton, SD. She says you cannot drink water on the reservation because of the mercury in the water; you have to get bottled water.

The government has quietly stood by as Indigenous communities across the US live in and near radioactive and toxic waste dumps due to the insatiable demand for uranium. All the while the US government touts that clean green nuclear power will save the world from climate chaos. These deliberate policies have resulted in widespread environmental catastrophes and a massive public health crisis in those communities. It is time for the US government to be accountable for its harmful actions against Indigenous nations.

Navajo Nation

Fragile communities continue to live amid the poisoned wells and contaminated earth. The next generation of Navajo children will have no choice but to endure nuclear and uranium exposure. That is until the governing bodies responsible take account, and the landscape is restored to what it once was.

Sioux Nation

These communities are also heavily impacted by uranium mining and uranium aquifers. This mining makes heavy impact on those headwaters and where that contaminated water travels. The communities also suffer lack of thorough testing for uranium contamination.

Arapaho/Shoshone Nation

Wyoming has the largest uranium reserves in the United States and has historically provided nearly 80 percent of national production. This industry took off once the Cold War began. In Wyoming uranium was strip-mined and made into yellowcake at local production facilities. The reservations have had to deal with the consequences of these tailings.

Consequences

Uranium mining not only contaminates water, but it contaminates the air and earth. These Indigenous communities are affected personally as it destroys ecosystems that once thrived within the communities. Livestock is reduced due to nuclear/uranium exposure. Other consequences include the disruption of traditional ceremonies and practices of crucial spiritual significance. Indigenous nations’ physical and mental health suffers a great toll, which in turn has damaged the respective cultures.

It is imperative that we continue to raise awareness of nuclear colonialism and how it continues to impact Indigenous communities. Future generations rely on our advocacy.     

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