16. America's Killing Ground
Multinational Monitor, PO Box 19405, Washington, DC 20036, Date: September 1992,
Title: "America's Killing Ground" Author: Julie Gozan; SF Weekly, 425
Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94107, Date: 9/23/92, Title: "How the Feds
Push Nuclear Waste Onto Indian Land," Author: Juan A. Avila Hernandez
Censored Researcher: Pete Anderson
SYNOPSIS: Corporate waste brokers and the U.S. federal government
believe they have discovered a solution to the nation's rapidly growing
garbage disposal problem -- dump industrial and household waste, and
perhaps even nuclear waste, on Native American lands. Because of their
sovereign status, Native American reservations are not subject to state,
county, municipal and many federal waste-facility operating standards,
a potential boon for waste companies.
The corporate salespeople attempt to entice tribal leaders by
presenting their disposal plants as unique opportunities for "economic development"
and increased employment on impoverished Native American reservations. But they
fail to mention the serious health threats posed by the hazardous wastes.
1990, toxic waste disposal companies have contacted more than 50 U.S. indigenous
groups, offering millions of dollars in exchange for the right to dump U.S. trash
on Native American grounds. Meanwhile, the federal government, which has "trustee"
responsibility to protect Native American lands is also promoting the disposal
of waste, including nuclear waste, on the reservations.
At a conference
of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in San Francisco, David Leroy,
head of the federal Office of the Nuclear Waste Negotiator, tried to persuade
Indian leaders to store hundreds of canisters of highly radioactive waste on their
reservations; he promised each tribe $100,000, no strings attached, just to consider
One of the government's largest nuclear waste proposals calls
for the Department of Energy to spend $32.5 billion on the Yucca Mountain Nuclear
Waste repository planned for the Western Shoshone reservation in Nevada. DOE hopes
to convert Yucca Mountain into a receptacle for 70,000 metric tons of high level
nuclear waste. But, as noted in the "Plutonium Is Forever" nomination,
it is increasingly doubtful this will happen.
Native Americans are not simply turning their lands over to the waste
promoters without a fight. But one critic, columnist Elmer Savilla,
who criticized David Leroy's speech at the NCAI conference as a condescending
sales pitch, warns that the "tribes' lack of political power and
urgent need for development leave American Indian communities vulnerable
and at risk." He adds, "Mr. Deep Pockets carries a bag full
of goodies, including school assistance, health care programs and employment
programs. Could this be called bribery?"
The media should be informing the public that
non-native U.S. citizens can support Native American's rights to self determination
and a clean environment by demanding that their tax dollars not be used to peddle
nuclear and other toxic waste to Native Americans.
In the meantime, as the
Multinational Monitor points out, each incinerator, landfill or toxic storage
facility built on a reservation poisons thousands of Native Americans and their
COMMENTS: Author Julie Gozan charges that "there has been
no coverage of corporate waste dumping on Native American land in the
mass media in 1992.
"As the practice of dumping toxic and hazardous waste on Native
American land comes to light, public awareness will be fostered about
the issues of environmental racism in the United States, hopefully fighting
the 'not in my backyard' attitude that allows waste storage facilities
to be built on reservations and in African-American and Latino neighborhoods
disproportionate to white and upper-income neighborhoods.
"As corporations are held increasingly accountable to consumers,
companies will be able to get away with fewer such dangerous waste schemes
in the United States, to the health benefit of the entire U. S. public.
Support will increase for source reduction and recycling as a means
of eliminating the 'garbage problem.'
"As federal accountability to
indigenous people in the United States and awareness of the continued exploitation
of Native Americans grows within the U.S. public, hopefully there will be greater
support for indigenous economic and community development plans and for grassroots
organizations, such as CARE, that are campaigning against dumping on Native American
"The primary beneficiaries of this subject being 'censored' are
the waste management companies such as Waste Tech and O&G that are looking
to profit by getting around federal regulation of waste dumping. The federal agencies
with complicity in the waste deals also benefit because their officials are able
to rely on an `easy' solution to the country's waste problem-at the expense of
Native American health and lives."
Juan A. Avila Hernandez, a journalist with the Center for Investigative
Reporters, whose article was published by SF Weekly and distributed
by Alternet, agrees that the issue is being ignored by the major news
media: "The subject of my article -- the way the federal government
has funded tribal organizations to help site nuclear waste on Indian
reservations -- has received little attention in the national media.
While local newspapers write stories almost every time a nuclear waste
site or landfill proposal is announced by a nearby tribe, rarely do
reporters place the subject in proper context. The story, 'How the Feds
Push Nuclear Waste onto Indian Land,' examines the paper and money trails
that show the federal government has used millions of dollars in grants
and contracts to target tribes, using national Indian organizations
that have become increasingly dependent on federal dollars for their
"Both the general public and the Native American community would
benefit from wider exposure of the federal plan to use Indian reservations
as temporary nuclear waste sites and the way the plan is being administered.
Like all Americans, Native Americans are concerned for the future of
their families and communities. Few reservation residents are aware,
however, that their lands are being considered to solve the national
problem of nuclear waste storage -- in some cases, tribal leaders have
already agreed to accept large grants to consider storing waste before
other tribal members even hear of the proposal. Such decisions have
caused splits among Indian families and tribes, with at least some tribal
dissenters experiencing harassment, assaults and even death threats.
Communities near reservations also would benefit from better exposure
of this issue.
"The limited coverage of this subject
most benefits the federal government and the nuclear industry. Nuclear waste has
long been the Achilles' heel of the nuclear industry and its supporters in Congress.
According to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the federal government has
the responsibility of storing spent fuel from nuclear reactors. Yet there is no
process that guarantees the safe storage of nuclear waste, and in recent years,
no community in the U.S. will agree to take it. Successfully placing a temporary
nuclear site on an Indian reservation would give both the nuclear industry and
its Congressional supporters much-needed time to lobby for the approval of more
While the mainstream media have shown no interest
in Hernandez's extraordinary charges of official government bribery, his article
has been distributed to members of the Native American Journalist Association;
also, Native American environmentalist groups have informally distributed the
story to many reservations in the country.