Unemployment? Way more than the national average.
Hunger? Almost a way of life.
Such is the life of those that live on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Our family has made several trips there, each time my anger increases at our government. Each time my phone calls, letters and emails go unanswered or a "form" letter or email is returned.
My purpose of this thread is to educate. While we argue about health care and the national deficit, people in our own country are dying at an alarming rate, some from not having heat in the winter, some from alcoholism, some from diabetes or heart disease. And yeah, that happens all across this country. But how many people across the country are poisoned by uranium?
They are at Pine Ridge.
(South Dakota) — Radiation warning signs were posted on Wednesday, July 18, 2007 in the small town of Red Shirt, South Dakota which lies on the northwest corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Several of these signs
were placed warning people of the high nuclear radiation levels found in the Cheyenne River.
Several weeks ago Everitt Poor Thunder, a spiritual and community leader in Red Shirt, asked Defenders of the Black Hills, an environmental organization, whether the Cheyenne River water could be used to irrigate a community garden. A local well could not be used as it was found to be radioactive and warning signs surround that structure. The water well taps into the Inyan Kara aquifer that also contains the Lakota and Fall River formations, making up an extremely large aquifer of water supplies for many regions.
Residents of Red Shirt occupy a village site that is thousands of years old to the Oglala Tetuwan (Sioux) people. Many have lived here all of their lives, growing gardens with water taken from the Cheyenne River and fishing for catfish, bass, and turtles. In the summer months, the river is used for swimming and other recreational pursuits.
Previous efforts remove the radiation in the water at Red Shirt have been unsuccessful. Drinking water is piped in, or residents must drive 25 miles to the little town of Hermosa to buy water. The Cheyenne River has dried up approximately one mile from Red Shirt and tests of the river bottom soil by Defenders of the Black Hills are pending. Initial tests using a Geiger counter revealed more than double the amount of normal background elevations for radiation.
South Dakota news reports recently referred to a DENR report and stated that uranium is naturally occurring in that area which is said to account for the radiation levels in the water.
"If that was the case, there would not have been villages there for thousands of years. There would have been no fish or any aquatic life previously in this river. We sampled the river with nets for aquatic life and found only 2 crayfish and about 10 minnows in more than 100 yards of the river. In essence, it’s a dead river. There are two endangered species that use this River: the Sturgeon chubb, a small fish, and the Bald Eagle," explained Charmaine White Face, founder and Coordinator of Defenders of the Black Hills.
In 1868 the US government signed a treaty with the great Sioux Nation that gave them a reservation that encompassed over 60 million acres. That reservation included the Black Hills, which was considered sacred to the native population. However, shortly after signing the treaty, gold was discovered in the Black Hills and the government opened 7.7 million acres to homesteaders and private interests. We all know how greed can change things. Thus was lost the sacred lands, the natural resources and the ability to fend for themselves.
The land that was left is called the Badlands Â– for a reason. Then another mineral was found that the government laid claim to Â– one that has poisoned the people and the water supply, caused serious health problems Â– uranium.
A water sample taken from the Cheyenne River was sent to a laboratory and the results revealed levels of alpha radiation above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Maximum Contaminant Level. Alpha radiation causes harm when ingested hence the warning signs were placed to warn people of the dangers in the Cheyenne River.
A local environmental group called Defenders of the Black Hills has been working for years to get the State of South Dakota to clean up the old uranium mines in the area without much success. It was Defenders Coordinator Charmaine White Face who was approached by Red Shirt Village regarding the river, because the town was interested in using the river water to irrigate a community garden. A local well that had been used in the past for this purpose was found to be radioactive.
Since we are now living in the Age of Hope and Change, I sincerely hope that the people of South Dakota start taking some action on the radioactive nature of the land and waterways in their state. It may seem oh, so unimportant, because the people most directly affected live on an Indian Reservation, but guess what, the river doesnÂ’t sit still, it flows. And the radiation in the old mines doesnÂ’t sit still, it spreads through the earth. And the radiation doesnÂ’t know the difference between an Indian Reservation and a white manÂ’s village. Hope that scares a few people.
You can read the report on the Cheyenne River here: http://www.defendblackhills.org/docu…yenneriver.pdf