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Summit declaration demands worldwide ban on uranium

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Individuals, tribes and organizations from indigenous nations and from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, the United States and Vanuatu are calling for a ban on uranium mining, processing, enrichment, fuel use, and weapons testing and deployment, and nuclear waste dumping on indigenous lands.

A declaration drafted and approved by participants at the Indigenous World Uranium Summit that concluded in Window Rock on Dec. 3 states that a worldwide ban is justified on the basis of the extensive record of “disproportional impacts” of the nuclear fuel chain on the health, natural resources and cultures of indigenous peoples. The declaration calls attention to “intensifying nuclear threats to Mother Earth and all life” and asserts that nuclear power – the primary use for uranium – is not a solution to global warming.

“Our Mother Earth needs protection from the destructive forms of uranium if we are to survive,” said Manny Pino, a member of Acoma Pueblo and professor of sociology at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. “Every day we are at risk from radioactive materials that threaten our future generations. Indigenous people all over the world are saying these threats must end, and they are taking united actions to achieve that goal.”

The summit’s more than 300 participants from nine countries and 14 U.S. states said they are particularly concerned that nuclear proliferation ignores basic human rights and natural laws.

“Indigenous people have sacrificed enough,” said Norman Brown, of the Dineh Bidziil Coalition. “From this day forward, we will take actions to restore respect and legal rights for tribal peoples worldwide. This may take us generations, but we have established the framework to do so with the convening of this historic meeting.”

Lynnea Smith, a staffer for Eastern Navajo Dine’ Against Uranium Mining, which has waged a 12-year battle to stop proposed new uranium mining in the Navajo communities of Church Rock and Crownpoint in northwestern New Mexico, said, “The summit was held on the Navajo Nation to highlight the fact that uranium mining has had disastrous consequences for our land and people’s health, and to recognize the Navajo Nation’s historic law banning uranium mining and processing in Navajo Indian country in the hopes that such actions will empower other tribal communities and governments to follow suit.”

Enactment of the Dine’ Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 was a focal point of many panelists and presenters, including Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council Lawrence Morgan and Navajo Nation Council Delegate George Arthur, who sponsored the bill.

The summit’s four-day agenda included a tour of abandoned uranium mines near Dine’ homes in the Church Rock area, educational panels, film screenings, youth testimonials and plenary discussions. From those talks emerged the declaration, which was approved by unanimous consent of the participants. Findings and recommendations specific to the many examples of uranium development’s past impacts and potential future effects on Native peoples are being compiled and will be issued to the public in the coming weeks. Audio and video documentation of the panel discussions, testimonials and plenary sessions is also being generated, and will be available on Web sites of the sponsoring organizations.

At the 2006 Nuclear-Free Future Awards ceremony, held at the Navajo Education Center on Dec. 1, Special Recognition Awards were presented to Phil Harrison Jr., a longtime advocate for compensation for Navajo uranium workers and recently elected Navajo Nation Council delegate; and SRIC, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based group that has provided technical assistance and scientific information on the effects of uranium development and nuclear waste disposal for 35 years.

Other award recipients were:

* Sun Xiaodi, a former Chinese uranium miner who was jailed in 2005 for exposing unsafe conditions in mines in Gansu Province and who was “disappeared” again earlier this year in retaliation for publicly disclosing those conditions; his award was accepted by Feng Congde with Human Rights in China in New York City.

* Gordon Edwards, a Canadian mathematician and co-founder of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, for his work documenting and explaining the impacts of uranium development in Canada.

* Wolfgang Scheffler and Heike Hoedt, German scientists and activists who invented low-cost solar reflectors for cooking use in many impoverished tribal communities in Africa and Asia.

* Ed Grothus, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear weapons scientist who quit the lab in 1969 to advocate against nuclear proliferation and for peaceful resolution of international conflicts.

Organizational sponsors of the summit were Dineh Bidziil Coalition, ENDAUM, the Laguna-Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment, Nuclear-Free Future Award, Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development, Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Office in Flagstaff and Southwest Information Research Center.

Agency sponsors were the Office of the President of the Navajo Nation; Office of the Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council; the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Department, Division of Health, Division of Social Services and Department of Resource Enforcement/Navajo Rangers; and the Haaku Water Office at Acoma Pueblo.

Small-business sponsors were ExerPlay Inc., of Cedar Crest, N.M.; LaMontanita Co-Op in Albuquerque; Oasis Mediterranean Restaurant in Gallup, N.M.; Rokzoo Screen Printers, of Cottonwood; and Tribal Sovereignty T-Shirts, of Wheatfields. Food preparation was by the Morgan family of Houck Chapter, Navajo Nation; and Pee Wee’s Katering Kitchen, of Gallup, N.M.

Financial support was provided by Lannan Foundation, the Max and Anna Levinson Foundation, Onaway Trust, Oxfam America, Solidago Foundation and Tides Foundation.

<b>Declaration of the Indigenous World Uranium Summit</b>

We, the Peoples gathered at the Indigenous World Uranium Summit, at this critical time of intensifying nuclear threats to Mother Earth and all life, demand a worldwide ban on uranium mining, processing, enrichment, fuel use, and weapons testing and deployment, and nuclear waste dumping on Native Lands.

Past, present and future generations of Indigenous Peoples have been disproportionately affected by the international nuclear weapons and power industry. The nuclear fuel chain poisons our people, land, air and waters and threatens our very existence and our future generations. Nuclear power is not a solution to global
warming. Uranium mining, nuclear energy development and international agreements (e.g., the recent U.S.-India nuclear cooperation treaty) that foster the nuclear fuel chain violate our basic human rights and fundamental natural laws of Mother Earth, endangering our traditional cultures and spiritual well-being.

We reaffirm the Declaration of the World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg, Austria, in 1992, that “uranium and other radioactive minerals must remain in their natural location.” Further, we stand in solidarity with the Navajo Nation for enacting the Dine’ Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005, which bans uranium mining and processing and is based on the Fundamental Laws of the Diné. And we dedicate ourselves to a nuclear-free future.

Indigenous Peoples are connected spiritually and culturally to our Mother, the Earth. Accordingly, we endorse and encourage development of renewable energy sources that sustain – not destroy – Indigenous lands and the Earth’s ecosystems.

In tribute to our ancestors, we continue centuries of resistance against colonialism. We recognize the work, courage, dedication and sacrifice of those individuals from Indigenous Nations and from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, the United States and Vanuatu, who participated in the Summit. We further recognize the invaluable work of those who were honored at the Nuclear-Free Future Awards ceremony on Dec. 1, 2006. And we will continue to support activists worldwide in their nonviolent efforts to stop uranium development.

We are determined to share the knowledge we have gained at this Summit with the world. In the weeks and months ahead, we will summarize and disseminate the testimonies, traditional Indigenous knowledge, and medical and scientific evidence that justify a worldwide ban on uranium development. We will enunciate specific plans of action at the tribal, local, national and international levels to support Native resistance to the nuclear fuel chain. And we will pursue legal and political redress for all past, current and future impacts of the nuclear fuel chain on Indigenous Peoples and their resources.