Another water-related disaster plagues first nation communities, this time in the Navajo Nation, Arizona.
In August 2015,The Gold king mine spilled more than three million gallons of toxic acid and heavy metals. The Toxic soup including lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, arsenic and dozens of other contaminants. The contaminated mine spilled into the Animus River at the river’s headwaters in Silverton, Colorado.
The water has devastated the environmental, agricultural, health and spiritual well-being of the Navajo Nation.
Allen and Bertha Etsitty are Navajo Nation residents and have been farming for generations.
“We learned to farm from them. The river is sacred for us, it was here ever since we were kids. The river is so important to us, and it provides the food we need.”
Two days after the Gold King Mine they flooded their field with the last fresh water and have been going to extreme lengths in order to keep their crops watered, the elderly couple had hauled more than 60,000 gallons of water.
“We only had our regular vehicles, which aren’t built for that kind of thing,” said Allen. “We went through brakes, drums, pads, transmissions, everything, trying to keep our fields watered and save what we could.”
There is another dimension that is often glossed over is the spiritual effect an environmental disaster has on first nations people. Mrs. Etsitty said “Our corn pollen is sacred to us for prayers and offerings,” and “It was a loss to our traditional medicine men. Everybody was looking for corn pollen this year, and we didn’t have any.”
Traditional crops like traditional Navajo corns, squash, watermelons, cantaloupe, Navajo winter melons were not planted in volume because of the stigma people have about the water. Mrs. Etsitty said “People used to come from all over the rez to buy our corn.But now we can’t grow everything we normally would because people might not buy it, so we just planted what we could.”
Navajo Lawyers have filed aginst the owners of the defunct mines and trying to get federal help by designating the area superfund site. This was achieved earlier this month.
We have to base ourselves in reality. What can the federal government do? I actually do know what they will do. Nothing. They will give a small amount to clean the up the river, which will not even be close to what’s needed and give Navajo citizen the Bureaucratic run around until they give up and take whatever is gave to them.
This is an age old story with the first nations. They take the land they originally had and give them a small “reserve” of space.
This was only until Gold, Buffalo, Oil or just that settler’s wanted the natives already meager land. It plays out to this day whether if it’s pipelines or Uranium, the State continues to take and poison these people because they have already done so for so long most people with not bat an eyelash.
The only way this kind of degradation of a people will stop when we all care equally for each other and hold those responsible, no matter how long this has been going on.
(Article by Jafari Tishomingo)
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