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Students from North Arizona researched and wrote about the effects of uranium mining, especially on indigenous people.

Navajo youth essay winner looks at uranium trail in Arizona

Picking up the fight — Beyond Nuclear International Diné student wins uranium essay contest, Beyond Nuclear, By Sandra J. Wright, 18 july 21,
Charisma Black, along with other students from northern Arizona, took on a challenge issued by the 4th World Foundation to research uranium mining effects on Black Mesa.

Each writer was also asked to propose actions to limit exposure to radiation.

Black was named the winner of the contest in April. On May 13, she accepted the $500 scholarship award along with a large hand-woven basket filled with traditional clothing and jewelry.

Tommy Rock, an alumnus of Northern Arizona University’s School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, presented the award to Black.

Black’s extended family is from the Pinon, Arizona, area of the Navajo Reservation. But her immediate family moved to Phoenix when she was young.

She returned to northern Arizona about two years ago, and is a graduating student of Flagstaff High School. Only 18 years old, Black has spent a lot of time thinking about uranium.

“My greatest concern was for family members,” Black said. “Uranium has shortened my time with some of them. We have to take care of them. I hope things can change for everyone, not just us Navajo and Hopi people.”

Her awareness of the uranium issue began when she was 10 years old……………

Black’s essay spoke to the environmental reality of living on Black Mesa.

“Uranium is a big issue because it contaminates the water source from underground aquifer of both Navajo and Hopi,” Black wrote. “Water that is accessed is being not only depleted at a dramatic rate, water is also undrinkable in areas that only have wells and windmills for drinking.

“This impacts their health, their livestock, their fields, etc.,” she said. “It is becoming unsafe, uninhabitable and unsustainable to live on the land in Black Mesa. New disease and sickness have come to Black Mesa.”

Black concluded that people “have to participate and learn better ways to keep our land, air and water clean for our peoples, animals and other species. We need to continue the advocacy and organizing to bring attention to the issue of uranium contamination on Black Mesa for sustainability, healthy communities and future generations.”………….

Somana Tootsie, the director of the 4th World Foundation, was on hand during the dinner held in Black’s honor.

Tootsie said that the contest was designed to get tribal youth in the region talking about the larger picture of environmental awareness and responsibility.


“This was an opportunity for young people to hold a conversation with their family members about the effects of uranium on their tribes and neighbors,” Tootsie said.

“We received amazing responses and great ideas on what to do to get more attention on the need for the removal or remediation of radioactive materials left exposed throughout northern Arizona,” she said. “We wanted to get them interested in science.”………….

Exposure not just Navajo

Exposure is not limited to the Navajo, Hopi and other tribes of the region. Radiation from the nuclear testing begun during World War II has created “downwinder” victims across the country to the east.

He finds hope that more people are working the devastating effects of the uranium industry.

“We have many grass-roots organizations addressing uranium,” Rock said. “The University of New Mexico has undertaking a study on uranium exposure. Amended by these studies, we have better access to health care from exposure.

The Navajo Nation Environmental Agency has been stepping up,” he said. “We have the Dine’ Uranium Remediation Advisory Committee, which I sit on.”

The uranium industry has definitely affected drinking water across northern Arizona, and people need to be informed of that fact, Rock said.

“We all must face the reality that we need access to potable water,” Rock said. “Not just for us, but for future generations. We need to be informed.

“We live off the land, and uranium has a great impact on our environment,” he said. “We have to educate tribes, chapter houses, communities, and tell them what we are learning, what we are doing.”………….. https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2021/07/18/picking-up-the-fight/

July 19, 2021 - Posted by | indigenous issues, Uranium, USA

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