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Date: Fri, 24 Jun 1994 09:10:52 EST
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Subject: Native Americans & Environmental Racism (Bibliography) / MCLR-L list
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From: Irwin Weintraub (

On the Reservations: No Haste, No Waste

By Marjane Ambler, MCLR-L list (Midwest Consortium for Latino Research), November 1991

Excert from Marjane Ambler, Fighting environmental racism, in Planning, 57 (11): 26-29.

The dumping of wastes on Indian reservations has been determined in the past by state and federal regulations which did not take into account the wishes of the tribes. In the late 1980s Congress gave Native Americans the authority to adopt their own standards and regulations and to make contracts with the EPA controlling waste dumping on Indian lands. Many tribes around the country are now involved in controlling environmental decisions on the reservations. Tribes such as the Umatilla in Oregon, the Sioux in South Dakota, the Kaibab-Paiute in Arizona, the Kaw in Oklahoma, and the Choctaw in Mississippi have rejected proposals to place solid and hazardous waste landfills on the reservations. Their ability to regulate the use of reservation lands has enabled them to work with county planning boards and state and federal agencies to influence environmental decisions which benefit the tribes.

Beasley, Conger, Jr. Of Pollution and Poverty. Part 3: Deadly Threat on Native Lands. Buzzworm: The Environmental Journal 2 (5): 39-45, September/October 1990.

The Navajo Reservation, which spans the New Mexico-Arizona border, was polluted in 1979 when an accident at the United Nuclear Corporation’s Church Rock Mill near Gallup, New Mexico released 94 million gallons of radioactive waste into the Puerco River. The river winds through the reservation and the communities of Manuelito and Lupton. Since the river is still polluted, the 10,000 Navajos who live along the Puerco River must use shallow wells and springs to draw water for their livestock and personal needs. The spill, which was not publicized in the press and was not taken seriously by the tribe due to lack of information about its dangers, caused a dramatic rise in animal deformities and cancer-related deaths in the communities along the river.

The Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque initiated a program in 1986 called the Puerco River Education Project (PREP) to enable affected communities to develop their own water resources with sovereign authority over all Indian waters. The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) has helped local activists develop strategies for empowerment. SWOP also assisted Hispanics in northwest Albuquerque in protests against a particle board company which ultimately invested US$2 million to reduce air and noise contaminants. Through voter registration and candidate accountability forums, SWOP has made it possible for local grassroots groups to confront the polluters and demand compliance with environmental laws.

Booth, Annie L. and Harvey M. Jacobs. 1990. Ties That Bind: Native American Beliefs as a Foundation for Environmental Consciousness. Environmental Ethics 12 (1): 27-43.

Ruben, Barbara. Grave Reservations: Waste Company Proposals Targeting Native American Lands are Meeting with A Growing Pattern of Resistance. Environmental Action 23 (1): 12-15, July/August 1991.

Native Americans around the country are organizing to resist the siting of hazardous waste sites on reservations. Over 42 of the 360 tribes in the United States have been approached by waste disposal companies and 30 have rejected the proposals.

The Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota is organizing resistance to the building of a 5,700 acre landfill underneath the reservation and surrounding lands. The Kaw Tribe in northern Oklahoma rejected a $100 million hazardous waste disposal plant on a 5,000-acre tract owned by five tribes, to have included a combined landfill, tire recycling facility, and toxic waste injection well. A Native American activist in the area founded the Campaign for Sovereignty to preserve the independence and autonomy of the tribes and to regulate the decision making process. The Oglala Lakota Sioux in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, refused to allow a garbage sludge and incinerator ash dump on the reservation. The Los Coyotes Reservation in the mountains east of San Diego revoked permission for the building of a landfill. The Paiutes in Kaibab, Arizona, rejected plans to build an incinerator with a capacity to burn up to 100,000 tons of hazardous waste. The Choctaw Tribal Council in Choctaw, Mississippi, rejected a hazardous waste site after a joint protest of Native Americans and non-Indians.

A 1990 conference on the environmental threat to tribal lands was held in South Dakota. The conference offered workshops on grassroots organizing and methods of dealing with waste and developing environmentally sound economic alternatives. The Toxics on Indian Land Network in Ontario, Canada, is organizing activists from the United States and Canada to focus on issues of environmental justice for Native Americans.