The Navajo People and Uranium Mining

May 15th, 2007 | By | Category: 18-4: Health and Healing, Media Reviews

NAVAJO PEOPLE AND URANIUM COVEREdited by Doug Brugge, Timothy Benally, Esther Yazzie-Lewis
University of New Mexico Press (2006)
Albuquerque, NM

Review by Michael Thompson

In the history of Native dealings with the federal government and industry, the voices of Native people themselves are rarely heard. But this significant book is different. It grew out of the Navajo Uranium Miner Oral History and Photography Project developed in 1995, expanding a small set of the oral histories collected at that time.

Several narrative chapters offer additional historical perspectives on the various debilitating, and often fatal, consequences that resulted from Navajo uranium mining in the 1940s and ‘50s.

The simple, direct testimonies of former Navajo miners and their families eloquently speak to the human tragedy that resulted from this period. Today more than 1,000 abandoned uranium mines still scar the landscape of the Navajo Nation.

This collection reveals the failure of government and industry to adequately inform Navajo miners and their families about the known dangers of uranium exposure. It also examines the later failure of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (1990) to fairly and compassionately compensate and care for the victims of this disaster.

The diverse voices here share a common conclusion — that leetso, the yellow dirt, caused a tragedy of tremendous proportions in Navajo communities, and the effects linger to this day.

Michael Thompson (Muskogee Creek) is an English instructor and writer with published work in several journals. He resides in Farmington, NM.

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