So, a lot of the misinformed often ask us: why is wearing a headdress a big deal? For myself, it’s personal – my people, my traditions, my well-being – were sacrificed at the expense of white colonists. We were corralled into “reservations” where they wouldn’t have to worry about us. To this day, we’re still persecuted. Forgotten. Used. Abused. Yvonne Latty is looking to bring a voice to a particular problem that illustrates these aforementioned systemic problems and struggles through a 30 minute documentary, “Sacred Poison,” which she describes below.
Nearly 4 million tons of uranium ore were mined from Navajo land during the Cold War as part of the U.S. effort to develop a nuclear bomb. As a direct consequence, cancer rates on the reservation – once the lowest in the nation – have soared.
They have been drinking and bathing in contaminated water for years, but it’s only recently that they were warned of the health effects. Still, many have no means to protect themselves, no other source of water.
Apart from the various cancers, children in particular have been plagued by a condition called “Navajo Neuropathy,” a rare disease that attacks the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms include shriveling of the hands and feet, muscular weakness, stunted growth, infection and corneal ulcers. Forty percent of children affected die before they reach their 20s. The disease has been linked directly to radiation exposure and has devastated entire families.
Mining has always brought the promise of jobs. Fifty-six percent of Navajo people live below the poverty level and the per capita income was reported to be $5,599. Forty four percent of the Navajo are unemployed. The housing conditions are abysmal, with many people living in tin shacks, ancient Hogans or trailers, all without electricity or running water. Any additional income would be a boon to the reservation and its people, but at what cost?
There are signs that mining companies want to start mining again in what is known as the “Saudi Arabia” of uranium. For now, it is banned on the reservation—but a mining company was of one the sponsors of the recent presidential inauguration and newly elective Navajo president, Ben Shelley, will not rule out the return of mining.
With the country’s renewed interest in nuclear energy, this American story is our story. Please watch the 3-minute scene and help make this documentary a reality.
Please visit the Kickstarter page for Sacred Poison to view the trailer and consider donating towards the project. There are only 3 days left for Yvonne to reach her goal!
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