14| Uranium, the Pentagon and the Navajo People (excerpt)
Out of five hundred claims from Navajo uranium miners' widows, only fifty received any compensationa $75,000 check. Now there are two mines proposed to open up in the same vicinity of a test range for cruise missiles near Gallup, New Mexico.
In our Navajo creation story we have always learned that uraniumthe Navajo call it "cledge" from the underworld in our creation storieswas to be left in the ground. It is a yellow substance, we knew that from our legends. We were told from the gods in our songs and our creation stories that we had a choice, a choice between uranium and the yellow corn pollen that we pray with every morning and carry in our medicine bags. The yellow corn pollen possesses the positive elements of life in our belief.
We chose that way, which is the beauty way of life. Uranium was to remain in the ground. If it is released, as all other native indigenous cultures around the world believe, it would be a serpent. It will bring you evil, death, and destruction, and we are at that brink today. That is a little background on the spiritual natural laws that we have known and we join the people here today to create an alliance, a world-wide movement to educate the public, the international community.
On our reservation back in 1941 a mineral called carnotite was found. Those from the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, had discovered it. They in turn told the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission that carnotite was within the Carrizo Mountains, which are by Shiprock, New Mexico, on our reservation. Carnotite is an element that contains both vanadium and uranium. They mined and used the vanadium to create a hard steel alloy for battleships. They mined it from 1942 to 1945.
They also used the uranium. Eleven thousand tons of uranium were mined between 1942 and 1945. The Manhattan Projectwhich we all know now as the project to create the atomic bombwas then a secret project that made use of the uranium. From 1943 to 1945 the Manhattan Project Engineering District contracted with Union Mines Development Corporation to mine additional carnotite and use the vanadium for U.S. battleships.
From 1946 to 1968 thirteen million tons of uranium were mined. Fifteen hundred uranium miners were used on that work. Today more than half these miners have passed away from cancer and respiratory diseases.
The full text of this chapter is available in the book, Metal of Dishonor. Link here for order information.
METAL OF DISHONOR TABLE OF CONTENTS
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