The supply of uranium that fueled the Cold War came largely from the Four Corners area of the Colorado Plateau. Some of the richest deposits were found on the Navajo Reservation, where about one-fourth of the miners and millers were Native Americans. For nearly three decades in the face of growing evidence that uranium mining was dangerous, state and federal agencies neglected to warn the miners or to impose safety measures in the mines.
One of several recent publications that reveal the extent to which Americans were poisoned by radiation after World War II, this work describes mining on the Navajo reservation from the late 1940s and early 1950s and then pursues its consequences into the 1990s. Eichstaedt follows the miners'' quest for truth and compensation for widespread radiation contamination. Routinely exposed to radiation far in excess of safe levels and never informed, the miners began dying from mining-related illness within a few years of working in the mines. After long and frustrating battles, Congress finally passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act in 1990. Eichstaedt offers a well-documented, emotional account of the plight of the Navajos that complements Stewart Udall''s The Myths of August (LJ 5/15/94) and Carole Gallagher''s American Ground Zero (LJ 4/15/93). Recom-mended.
Randy Dykhuis, OHIONET, Columbus, Ohio
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This examination by a longtime reporter for the Santa Fe
New Mexican of the devastating consequences that the nation''s love affair with the atom had for Native Americans in the Southwest provides further support for the grim story that Stewart Udall tells in
The Myths of August (BKL Je 1 94). (Eichstaedt acknowledges Udall, a major player in Navajo uranium miners'' long battle for compensation, as a source of both documents and "moral and spiritual guidance.")
If You Poison Us effectively combines scientific, political, business, and tribal history, sketching "how uranium mining began on Indian lands . . . and how its deadly legacy still lingers. . . . " Although the suits that Udall and others brought on behalf of Native Americans ultimately failed, Congress in recent years has begun to take action. (Notably, legislation to date addresses
compensation for uranium miners but not for those exposed to huge doses of radiation in uranium mills, and
cleanup of uranium mills but not the hundreds of uranium mines scattered across Southwestern Native American land.) A cogent, powerful report on an unnecessary tragedy.
The supply of uranium that fueled the Cold War came largely from the Four Corners area of the Colorado Plateau. Some of the richest deposits were found on the Navajo Reservation, where about one-fourth of the miners and millers were Native Americans. For nearly three decades in the face of growing evidence that uranium mining was dangerous, state and federal agencies avoided responsibility for warning the miners or imposing safety measures in the mines. Hundreds of Native american miners and mill workers have died, and many more quietly await death from lung cancer and related diseases. In 1990, after nearly twenty years of persistents by the miners, in particular the Navajos, Congress acknowledged the price paid by these men and their families. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was passed to provide financial compensation to sick miners or the bereaved families of the dead miners. But the government''s requirements for documentation, designed for a white man''s world, ensured that only a small number of Native Americans would qualify. If You Poison Us: Uranium and Native Americans is the detailed story of this dark passage. --
Midwest Book Review
is an author and veteran journalist who has reported from locations worldwide, including Afghanistan, Albania, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, eastern Europe, and the Caucasus. He attended the University of the Americas in Mexico City and lived and worked as a journalist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for more than 20 years. His most recent book is
, a thriller about a journalist who sacrifices everything as he tracks the U.S.-Mexico borderlands for the killers of his father, and uncovers a cabal of corrupt DEA operatives controlled by a man poised to win the White House. His books include The Dangerous Divide: Peril and Promise Along the US-Mexico Border, chosen as Best in Current Affairs by the 2015 International Latino Book Awards. His other books are:
Above the Din of War, Consuming the Congo; First Kill Your Family;
. He lives in Denver, Colorado.