Nuclear Waste on Ancestral Lands

root - Posted on 19 November 2009

Indigenous Holy Lands Nuked by the US Government

by Bruce Allison and Thorton Kimes

I arrived at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco on Folsom and 1st Streets, at 3p.m. College students, Mexican citizens, folks from Green Action, United Native Americans, and this poverty scholar were there to focus attention on a problem (which is putting it politely) that has generated plenty of heat in this country and is now making more south of the Arizona border nuclear waste and where to put it.

Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility is full, and long story short the U.S. government made an agreement with the Mexican government to have American nuclear waste stored under Mexican soil. Shipped through Arizona to the northern Mexican state of Sonora, the waste is sent 100 miles south of Arizona (200 miles from Yuma) to the ancestral lands of the Tohono O'odham People, which were turned into a reservation split between the U.S. and Mexico.

The Tohono O'odham voted against accepting the nuclear waste twice, but the Mexican government liked the money it was going to get for saying Yes a bit too much, so the No votes were ignored. The waste is being stored near a spring, the source of a lake, according to a member of Green Action, the people don't bathe with or drink the water�-not because of the nuclear waste but because they�ve always regarded it as holy. Very holy.

The Director of Green Action said, "The protest was in several cities, including Phoenix, AZ, where the Mexican Consulate was locked because so many people were outside because of this issue."

This poverty scholar was at the front of the march, holding a banner for United Native Americans with my friend Juana. It felt strange for me, a man so white I make a snowman look black, but I also felt honored. We marched down Folsom Street, colonizing one lane of traffic. It was a bit nerve-wracking to be holding the banner with cars approaching.

We turned down one of SOMA's (South of Market Street neighborhood) many alleys, called Hawthorne Street, in front of the EPA, Homeland Security guarding the place, and had a rally there too. A woman from PODER spoke, saying that the Tohono O'odham have lived on their lands since before Europeans arrived on the continent.

This poverty scholar spoke when the mic was passed around. I apologized for my people�-as one who does not believe in the carpenter from Nazareth, saying that the dumping of nuclear waste near the holy waters is like peeing on the pews in a church.

We promised to return to pester the Mexican consulate and the EPA if this matter is not resolved and the desires of the Tohono O'odham are not respected.


Sign-up for POOR email!