Contaminated Water: Navajo Nation and Flint, MI

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By Jason Mullins:

There are several Native American populations with inadequate drinking water. Unlike the crises of Flint and Sebring these water crises have been happening to the Native American people for several years, some Native American areas for many decades.[1] These water issues that are happening in Native American land are not due to lead in the water but due to uranium. The federal government nine times out of ten knows that there is an issue in these areas but does nothing. Uranium is a radioactive element and can lead to kidney damage.[2] Uranium as well as lead is affecting the Native American populations all over the United States.

The Navajo Natives of Arizona, have been facing water contamination for a very long time now, over fifty years! The problems for the Navajo started in the 1950’s and continue today. Most of the Navajo’s water contamination is because of the industries that made atomic bombs are dumping in these lands, this is what leads to the overabundance of uranium. Other reasons for contamination include coal mining and coal firing power plants.

More recently water contamination is because of the EPA’s poisoning of the Animas and the San Juan Rivers.[3] As of March 2016, the Arizona Navajo have marched on Washington D.C. to try to make their experience and their water crisis known. There are currently no comprehensive laws requiring the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines and or coal mines and most of the time the government can walk away from past mistakes without any consequences.

The Navajo remain an afterthought to other water crises in the United States, the Navajo still to this day are being forced to give away their water rights and are being silenced at every turn.[4] The Navajo also have no rights in the court system. When it comes to water contamination, Native Americans and the legal system, nothing has changed for the Navajo people. They like the generations before them cannot benefit in court.  “75 percent of abandoned uranium mines are on federal and Tribal lands.”[5] Thus leaving only Native Americans to deal with the uranium water contamination situation.

The Navajo water crisis is just one of many Native American water crises, there are others spanning from the west coast all the way to the east coast. When will the Native peoples of America get the support they need to end their crisis like that of Flint Michigan? When will the federal government begin to take matters of the Natives American water supply more seriously? When will the media stop the bias of mainstream news and what they cover? For the water crisis to end in Indian country we as a nation need to stop our ancient racist bias and begin helping all the people of the United States no matter their race. The Navajo Water Crisis is no different than the Flint Michigan Water Crisis and should be treated as such. We are all, after all, Americans.

References

Norrel, Brenda. “Navajo water contamination more horrific than Flint Michigan’s.” The Narcosphere. N.p., 25 Jan. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/brenda-norrell/2016/01/navajo-water-contamination-more-horrific-flint-michigan/

Gardner, Justin. “Navajo Water Supply is More Horrific than Flint, But No One Cares Because they’re Native American.” The Free Thought Project. N.p., 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. http://thefreethoughtproject.com/navajo-water-supply-horrific-flint-cares-native-american/

CBS/AP. “Ohio town may be the next Flint with its water crisis.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 25 Jan. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/sebring-ohio-next-flint-water-crisis-lead-copper/

“Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, 29 Mar. 2017. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/

Perlman, USGS Howard. “Water Questions & Answers How much water does the average person use at home per day?” Per capita water use. Water questions and answers; USGS Water Science School. N.p., 2 Dec. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. https://water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-home-percapita.html

“Population.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. https://www.google.com/publicdata/exploreds=kf7tgg1uo9ude_&met_y=population&idim=place:2629000:2646000:2634000&hl=en&dl=en

“Water Crisis In Native American Communities.” The NTVS | Native American Clothing. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. https://www.thentvs.com/blog/native-american-water-crisis

“Community Water.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Oct. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. https://ephtracking.cdc.gov/showUraniumHealth.action

 

[1] “Water Crisis In Native American Communities.”

[2] “Community Water.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[3] Norrel, Brenda. “Navajo water contamination more horrific than Flint Michigan’s.”

[4] Norrel, Brenda. “Navajo water contamination more horrific than Flint Michigan’s.”

[5] Gardner, Justin. “Navajo Water Supply is More Horrific than Flint, But No One Cares Because they’re Native American.” The Free Thought Project. N.p., 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

About the author: Brian King

Brian D. King lives in Oklahoma and is a writer and blogger who studies and teaches English. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Brigham Young University, and he is currently working on his graduate degree in English in Oklahoma.

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