US nuclear tests ‘make no difference to genocide’ of indigenous tribes


Artwork: Liu Rui/GT

“As Shoshone, we always had horses. My grandfather always said to me, ‘stop kicking up dust.’ Now I understand it was because of the radioactive fallout.”

The Native American Shoshone tribe has long been considered “the most bombed nation on earth” because their sacred land was turned into a test site for US nuclear weapons. Today, the devastating effects of American ambition in the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union during the Cold War continue to take their toll on generations of Native American tribes.

In a recent interview with Russia Today, Ian Zabarte, leader of the Western Shoshone Native American tribe revealed that there were 928 tests carried out on the land of the Shoshone tribe from 1951 to 1992, producing nuclear fallout of approximately 620 kilotons. , about 48 times the amount of the Hiroshima bombing in 1945. According to the tribe’s record, the testing program killed thousands of local residents and left many with nuclear-related cancers and d other illnesses. The only official document reporting health and safety information regarding nuclear testing comes from the US Department of Energy (DOE), which still remains classified.

The tragic fate began with the Treaty of Ruby Valley in 1863, when Western Shoshone people agreed to cede certain rights to the US government as a sign of maintaining peace and friendship. Under the treaty, the Shoshone, who had lived on the land for at least 10,000 years, would continue to own it but would allow the US government to establish military posts and ore mines there in exchange for economic gain.

However, for the US government, the earth was seen as a prime site for nuclear testing, which also served its purpose of “racial cleansing” perfectly. In 1951, in violation of the treaty, the US government established the Nevada Test Site on Shoshone territory. Since then, the once peaceful land has been plagued by nuclear bombing tests for decades. The US government intended to “commit genocide because these things were developed without our consent”, and “there are series of tests with specific objectives to expose humans to radiation”, said Ian Zabarte. To this day, the US government still turns a blind eye to the adverse health consequences of the testing program, with affected tribal residents receiving no official compensation.

Besides Shoshone, the Navajo Nation is also a victim of the toxic repercussions of the American nuclear vacuum. Beginning in the 1950s, thousands of Navajos worked in local uranium mines, but were poorly paid, ill-informed, and unprotected from the dangers of uranium dust inhalation and chronic radiation exposure. According to the Vox News investigation, while lacking a full analysis of adverse health effects, various studies have linked mining areas in the Navajo Nation to higher rates of cancer, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. and birth defects.

In 1979, a tailings disposal pond breached its dam, spilling nearly 100 million gallons of nuclear waste into the Puerco River and onto the Navajo Nation. A National Public Radio report shows the Navajo community is still reeling from the largest release of radioactive material in US history. The incident resulted in the contamination of the entire river as well as groundwater. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) eventually declared the area a Superfund site, a polluted location requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contamination. Unfortunately, the EPA’s only remedy so far is to move local Navajo residents from the pond to a nearby town. “Indigenous peoples are being used, removed and uprooted at the will of the US government,” a local resident implored, “to me, that makes no difference to genocide.”

The nuclear holocaust of the Shoshone and Navajo tribes has become an undeniable reality of systemic human rights abuses by the US government against Native Americans. According to Dunbar Ortiz, an American historian and advocate for the rights and justice of Native American groups, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide has applied to U.S.-Indigenous relations since 1988, when the U.S. Senate has ratified and any of the five acts (which could be defined as “genocide”) listed in the Convention can be applied to crimes of the United States against Native Americans.

It is time for the United States to right its past wrongs against Native Americans so that the dead can rest in peace and the survivors can enjoy basic human rights.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Global Times, China Daily, etc. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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