A creation myth of the Diné tells of two types of yellow dust: What was impressed on the first people was that the yellow pollen of the maize plant is there to secure their lives . In contrast, the other yellow dust represents a threat to their lives, they were warned , and they should never never remove it from the Earth. Otherwise a great misfortue would befall them.
The misfortune arose. The uranium, which is traded worldwide, even has a name that is reminiscent of the Indian history about the beginning of time. It is called Yellow Cake. More than three thousand Diné, as the Navajo call themselves, worked without protection in the uranium mines in the 1950s. Covered with radioactive dust, they came out of the pits and went home to their families - and contaminated them without knowing it. The people are still dying in Dinétah, the land of Navajo. The danger is still actively present with considerably more than 500 abandoned mines still contaminating the region today.
When we, as indigenous people of Turtle Island (we call North America the Turtle Island), oppose the mining of uranium, we do it side by side with all the indigenous peoples of the world, who are fighting this same fight. It is not only about our survival, but also about the survival of all living things. We are all related. The industrial society is waging a war against the earth. We consider ourselves children of the earth, so that this war is also a war against us.
The original inhabitants of Australia have a similar warning: Whoever disturbs the sleep of the rainbow snake unleashes forces of evil that we humans can not tame. The uranium veins, in the words of the Aborigines in the northwest of the continent, embody the sleeping snake. It does not take much common sense to realize that the nuclear path is a path into the abyss. But in a system based on plunder and of sacrificing reason to profit, we indigenous peoples have no chance. But if we do not survive, the era of the industrial world will also be limited. Our end is your downfall.
Uranium is not just there waiting to be used. This image is propogated by the media and textbooks suggesting raw materials are almost waiting for the chance to sustain Western civilization and the infrastructure of the modern world. Uranium mining is not the only threat. The extraction of oil from tar sands also cuts the ground from under our feet and leaves dead, uninhabitable landscapes in its wake. But where the resources come from and the devastation their extraction has left behind is kept out of sight of the users. What kind of civilization is it in which we are prevented from knowing the truth? In our Native American cultures, we teach children that we humans are responsible for the consequences of our actions. But we can only assume responsibility if we know the consequences of our actions. This industrial society is afraid of the reality.
The brightest minds of the nuclear establishment have racked their brains over the question of what to do with their nuclear waste? One solution seemed very attractive: Covertly dispose of it on the Indian reservation! So we Indians are living with the beginning and the end of the nuclear chain. Any nation committed to atomic energy must realize that it makes itself thereby complicit. Uranium kills us.
I would like to draw on another prophecy, this time from my people, the Anishinabe, also called Ojibway. This story speaks of a time when we will be at a fork and have to choose between two paths. One way is heavily worn and scorched, the other barely used and green. We are at this point now. The future is green, also for us indigenous peoples. In order to avoid an increase in its CO2 emissions, the US needs to produce 185,000 megawatts of clean energy in the next decade. We can play our part in this. Where we live, the wind often blows, and the sun also shines. The reservations offer a potential of 200,000 megawatts. We First Americans have the opportunity to build an alternative in one of the most wasteful and destructive countries in the world. But we have to be alert and watchful because the nuclear industry wants to make us believe that it is a climate savior. We all have to get together and go the green path, not the scorched, the well-worn one.
We´ll meet on the Green Path. Leave the uranium in the Ground!
Winona LaDuke lives on the Anishinabe Reserve White Earth in the north of the US state of Minnesota. In1977 she spoke as a high school graduate to the UNO in Geneva and revealed for the first time that most of North America´s uranium is mined on Indian land.