November 18, 2015

Thoughts from Four Corners

By Paula D. Barteau
September 24 2015

Malcom explains the circumstances of the Peabody Coal Mine to our group
So much happened today.
We're in Dinetah, on Larry Emerson's farm. He agreed to let us stay here. I think he had, maybe has reservations, but I am thankful he did.
Sometimes you need to be pushed outside of yourself. The thing about ignorance is you're always inside of it and sometimes you forget that, you forget that you are the product of a specific culture that separates you from others who aren't.
Larry spoke to us today at dinner, about how life works in cycles. Evil comes out of forgetting that, that your future will become someone else's past when you're gone. When you forget that you come from the world before you.
Before coming here we read Dahr Jamail's Toxic Legacy: Uranium Mining in New Mexico and I have had a quote from Larry King, a Dine miner, stuck in my head all day:
"We knew when a safety inspection was coming because all the tunnels not being used were barricaded, workers were told to use respirators and other safety gear and do things that weren't done on a daily basis...Then after the inspection, a couple of days later it was back to normal, no safety and no respirators."
The people who live here have been dehumanized. The institutions of racism here have physical forms: Cell phone towers sticking out of the birthplace of Changing Woman, fracking towers puncturing earth where men and women are buried and still visited by their relatives, hundreds of fracking towers and their accompanying containers of flammable gas clustered on the outskirts of a town that has no hospital, no infrastructure for disaster relief. One such tower, located near an elementary school, caught fire once. The school was evacuated by passersby, not by fireman or health officials.
 Water is sacred here, and the water has been poisoned. Many local farmers are currently prevented from working by the Animus river spill, sheep have died within hours of drinking the water near the Peabody Coal Mine, research into the long term effects of the uranium in the municipal drinking water are only recently receiving funding. People have died of cancer in houses they built out of Uranium tailings they didn't realize were dangerous due to the mining companies' extraordinary indifference to the lives of their employees.

The mouth of the Peabody coal mine
The resilience here is as astounding. I feel overwhelmed and unsure how to contribute to the betterment of the situations here, but I promise I'll do my best and to continue to ask how we can live lives that are not dependent on destruction.

The life here cannot be paved over

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