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Western Shoshone integral in stopping Divine Strake detonation

Analysis

MERCURY, Nev. - Government doublespeak is nothing new in Indian country; virtually from the days of first contact, Natives have been deflecting verbal and political subterfuge, broken treaties and both covert and blatant threats to Mother Earth. In a contemporary, ongoing battle and multi-state, multi-agency and multi-cultural effort to halt what the U.S. government called ''a scientific experiment designed to significantly advance the nation's ability to defeat underground facilities that produce and store weapons of mass destruction,'' the Western Shoshone Nation was at the heart of the feds' decision to back off from the proposed Divine Strake test detonation.

In a Feb. 22 statement, Defense Threat Reduction Agency Director James Tegnelia said, ''I have become convinced that it's time to look at alternative methods that obviate the need for this type of large-scale test. This decision was not based on any technical information that indicates the test would produce harm to workers, the general public, or the environment.''

Conversely, Western Shoshone elder and activist Carrie Dann last year asserted that the indigenous peoples of North America ''decry all weapons of mass destruction as they are first tested upon us, and we oppose the use of these weapons against all other peoples or nations.''

The 700-ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil test - touted as non-nuclear by the DTRA - at the Nevada Test Site is a vivid illustration of how the American government consistently attempts to impose its will on its citizens. And in a long-term display of unity and solidarity that included members of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, senators and representatives from Nevada and Utah, and ''downwinders'' and their survivors, the people have spoken, creating enough pressure that forced the government to finally cancel the explosion that would have created a mushroom-shaped cloud in the desert.

For Janice Gardipe, a Western Shoshone/Northern Paiute grandmother of eight who's lived in her ancestral territory her entire life, it was a force far greater than these toxic elements that she now credits for the cancellation.

''What I really believe is that prayers to Creator stopped it,'' Gardipe said. ''In Washington, at the Pentagon, [protesters] talked about putting a halt on it, to our senators. That's all political. But I think it's natural law, and Creator, that stopped it. They had a ceremony last summer at that site. They haven't stopped praying, and through Creator it stopped. A lot of people thought that was amazing. You just don't go against the government.''

After being part of the solution that succeeded in persuading the U.S. government to more than once postpone Divine Strake, Gardipe spoke of the inspiration to join the fight - to the end.

''I was inspired by my ancestors that have passed on - my dad, his family, all of my ancestors before me - and my grandchildren. I think of them, and Mary and Carrie Dann. All of them really motivated me to get going. I just think of our future generations. We have to protect our land for them. In the past, all of our ancestors have prayed for us, and in return we pray for future generations to come.''

Last year, when Gardipe refused to simply sit back and let Divine Strake occur on Newe Sogobia - Western Shoshone homelands - and joined other activists in stopping it, she dreamed of the day that the underdog would triumph. It happened on Feb. 22.

''I was so excited,'' recalled Gardipe. ''I got an e-mail from [WSDP and Citizen Alert activist] Lee Dazey. She's been really instrumental in this, and has been an activist for many years. I was just really happy, so joyful. I was hollering all by myself. The people really had their voices heard.''

Yet Gardipe said she is naturally wary that this is truly the end of Divine Strake and other deadly detonations designed to upset the Earth's delicate balance, expressing her skepticism that it really is over.

''You know it's not,'' she noted. ''With our government, they'll have other ways. Down the road, something else will come up.''

In typical fashion, the DTRA's press release seemed to leave the gate open for the next round of assault on Native lands and its people, rationalizing in a classic, bureaucratic tone how much America needs to defend itself from external dangers.

''DTRA will attempt to develop alternative scientific means for obtaining the important data that this experiment would have provided,'' Tegnelia asserted. ''Such methods to assess capabilities to defeat underground facilities do not currently exist. The agency will develop advanced analysis techniques and conduct confirmatory experiments at a much smaller scale to assist in developing new capabilities to defeat underground facilities.''

Moreover, Tegnelia's press release also implied that U.S. citizens are at the core for more experiments that the government itself is demanding: ''There is a national consensus on the need to improve conventional capabilities to defeat underground targets that pose a threat to the United States. DTRA remains committed to help develop non-nuclear means to defeat underground targets. I am optimistic that we will succeed.''

For now, though, the natural law to which Gardipe referred continues to prevail. When Divine Strake or a similar test once again rises to the surface - prompting yet another battle in a war based not so much on terror, but on terrorizing internal threats designed to disable both the people and their voice - she said she'll be right back on the front lines, rallying the power of the people.

''Oh, definitely,'' Gardipe promised.