World Uranium Hearings:  Indigenous Peoples Speak Out About Nuclear Colonialism

by Joanna Macy

First appeared in Nuclear Guardianship Forum, #2, Spring 1993.

      In an unprecedented global "speak out" last September, representatives of indigenous peoples around the world gathered in Salzburg, Austria to report on the suffering and devastation inflicted on them by our nuclear adventures. Seventy-five in all, including Inuit and Cree from Canada, Adivasis from India, Cherokee, Hopi, Shoshone, and Sioux from the U.S., Tibetans, Mongolians, Kazakhs, Marshall Islanders, Namibians, Australian aboriginals, and many others, gathered at the World Uranium Hearing. They testified before an international Board of Listeners, in which I participated for the Nuclear Guardianship Project. I was also asked to describe the guardianship concept.

      The stories told by the indigenous delegates constituted an appalling indictment of nuclear colonialism. For it is their homelands, their bodies, and their ancient cultures that are most immediately victimized by nuclear power and nuclear weapons. On their lands, which they hold sacred, 70% of the world's uranium is mined, most of the testing takes place, and radioactive waste is dumped. These crimes are compounded, in virtually every case, by secrecy and deception and intimidation on the part of industry and government. So the speak out was all the more remarkable and stirring, as is generally the case, when the truth is told.

      The event was organized by Claus Biegert, a visionary German film maker, who now spearheads efforts to bring the results of the Hearing to a global audience. In the making are a film and a book of the colorful and moving testimony brought before the Hearing, a mapping project, and a Trust Fund to support educational, health and legal aid to the affected indigenous peoples.

      At the conclusion of the six day hearing, the Declaration of Salzburg was drafted and read, and the indigenous delegates took it home with them. After it has been discussed and amended in their home communities, it will be ratified in of 1993.

The following are typical examples of how indigenous peoples suffer under the new, nuclear, colonialism.

A call to the world from its native people has been issued by several North-western American Indian tribes and the Lacandon Mayas of the Mexican rain forest. "It is time to stop the progress of ecocide and ethnocide. And it is time to realize that the common destiny depends on the wise, fair and rational use of those things provided by the Creator, not just for us, but for the seven generations to come."

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