Hale calls attention to National Day of Remembrance for Nuclear Weapons Program Workers
NEW ORLEANS - Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), while attending the National Conference of State Legislators Nuclear Legislative Working Group meeting in New Orleans, called attention to those Navajo workers who lost their lives while working in uranium mines.
“Today, October 30, 2013, is set aside as the National Day of Remembrance for Nuclear Weapons Program Workers,” Hale said. “Please join me in remembering and honoring those who worked in nuclear weapons development and, of course, their families.”
Hale is part of the Legislative Working Group that meets with the U.S. Department of Energy to discuss issues of managing nuclear waste and the impact waste has on communities, including those on the Navajo Nation. He said he is disturbed that mines and waste sites on Indian nations are not treated as a priority and do not receive funding for cleanup.
“I believe it is critically important to be part of this group of state legislators as they review the policies, budgets, and actions of the federal government,” he said. “It gives me the opportunity, as a Navajo and as a leader, to ask the pointed questions about reclamation and protection for Navajo people and communities. Cleanup on Indian nations has not received adequate funding from the DOE, nor has it been treated with the same level of urgency as cleanup within communities impacted by enrichment and processing of uranium for weapons development. My question to the leadership is: ‘Why not?’
“We must not forget that the weapons development would not have been possible if not for the miners, who mined the uranium ores and died as a result. In the early years, most of the mining took place in the Four Corners area – mostly on the Navajo Nation in the southeastern part of Utah, northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona.”
Hale further stated that these miners who later died due to cancer caused by exposure to radiation had no protection from the government.
“They were loyal workers doing what was asked of them. They did not abandon their jobs, but when the mining was done, the mines were abandoned and the affected communities were left to fend for themselves. Many of the mines and the resulting tailing piles on the Navajo Nation remain abandoned and uncovered. The federal government has failed to adequately and fully remediate the legacy of the Cold War era, especially on the Navajo Nation.
“I urge all to remember the miners and their families at this time. They sacrificed their lives because there was very little oversight by the Atomic Energy Commission at a time when there were no federal regulations for the miners’ protection and safety.”
Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012). He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.