Thursday, February 22, 2007


Sacred Sites at Hanford in Danger of Contamination

The River People. Smohalla. Seven Drums. Most Americans know something about the spirituality of the Plains' Indians. Most of it may be wrong, but TV, movies, and books for years have told about sweat lodges and sun-dances and sacred pipes. It's too bad that people think that is the main spirituality of Native Peoples. Along the Columbia River, and in the basin of that vast lifeline, there is another spirituuality, quite different from that found on the prairies.

It was Smohalla who first spoke the lines many people have heard and attributed to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce: "Shall I plow my mother's breast?" For the River People, the soil is the breast of their mother, Mother Earth. Too bad more people don't believe that way.

Tainted Hanford site still sacred

By Phil Ferolito

Yakima Herald-Republic


HANFORD NUCLEAR RESERVATION — An icy wind cuts across Rattlesnake
Mountain as Dana Miller combs its snow-covered ridge for any recent disturbances or
unnatural activity.

Miller and a few other workers with the Yakama Nation frequently visit the area to see if there have been any new trespassers to the peak that rises more than 3,000 feet just west of the Hanford nuclear reservation and roughly eight miles north of Benton City, Benton County.

The mountain once served as a place to pray, hunt and gather food, and is regarded as sacred by Northwest Indians.

Smoholla, a Wanapum spiritual leader considered a prophet by many, often journeyed up the steep grade to communicate with the Creator and receive direction in life, says Russell Jim, with the Yakama Nation Environmental Restoration/Waste Management Program.

But in the mid-1950s, an anti-aircraft missile-defense system was erected on the mountain to protect the Hanford site. Remnants of a radio tower still stand on the ridge near a few other buildings.

Although the mountain has been dotted with structures and equipment, its cultural significance is still recognized by the Yakama Nation, says Jim, who for years has been working with the federal Department of Energy to address the tribe's cultural concerns in the area.

Like the mountain, all of the 560-square-mile Hanford nuclear reservation lies within an area where tribal members retain their traditional rights to hunt, fish, gather food and perform sacred ceremonies.

Since 1989, when Hanford converted its operations to full-scale cleanup, the Yakama Indians have taken an active role in monitoring and identifying sacred sites on the nuclear reservation.

Lawsuit pending

The tribe is concerned about the harm plutonium production may have had. For the past five years, it has been embroiled in a lawsuit against the federal government seeking an assessment of natural resources and unspecified damages.

Last year, both Washington and Oregon and three other Columbia River tribes — the Umatilla, Nez Perce and Warm Springs — joined the lawsuit. The two states want the federal government to cover the cost of assessing any damages.

On April 26, a U.S. District Court judge in Yakima will hear oral arguments on a motion by the federal government to dismiss the case. The Department of Energy maintains the cleanup must be finished before damage to natural resources can be assessed.

Tribal officials say a damage assessment must be conducted before any thorough cleanup can be done and that the tribe's cultural dependence on the area for hunting, fishing and food gathering — all inseparable links to their beliefs — must be considered.

Department of Energy spokeswoman Megan Bernett in Washington, D.C., said federal law is guiding the cleanup.

"We are currently conducting extensive sampling for contaminants in water, sediment, soil, and [the region's plant and animal life] so that cleanup decisions continue to have a solid scientific basis for the protection of human health and the environment," she said.

A report published in October by RIDOLFI, an environmental-restoration firm in Seattle, details how water was diverted from the Columbia River to cool nuclear reactors, treated with chemicals to prevent corrosion of reactor components and then dumped back into the river.

Hazardous chemicals from the site continue to make their way into the environment, the RIDOLFI report says, and there are billions of cubic yards of solid and diluted liquid waste containing radioactive and other toxic material there.

In an area about 35 miles north of Richland and adjacent to the Columbia River, roughly 11 square miles of groundwater is contaminated with chromium and radioactive elements. Although the groundwater isn't being used as drinking water, it pours into the Columbia River, which supplies communities downstream with drinking water, the report says.

In another area, significant concentrations of hazardous chemicals such as uranium and cyanide were found in groundwater, according to the report.

Cleanup continues

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy has been working to clean up the area, and has committed to removing roughly 99 percent of the waste being stored in underground tanks.

"They want to take 99 percent of the waste out of those tanks and call it good," says Phil Rigdon, deputy director of the tribe's department of natural resources. "I think it's those kinds of decisions that we need to have some involvement with."

"One of our greatest concerns is that everything is done on such a fast track, that sometimes they forget about the natural resources and don't do a good job of assessment," Rigdon says.

But it's not just tribal members who would benefit from such an assessment since others, including sportsmen and residents, rely on the area's resources, Rigdon says.

Jim, who isn't a party in the lawsuit, says a damage assessment would not only help with cleanup, but better protect workers by identifying what's exactly in the ground.

When a cleanup crew runs into any remains or artifacts while digging, the tribe is called to survey, document and inventory the site, he says.

There are numerous burial sites and remnants of ancient villages throughout the area.

"We're very concerned about what is there," he adds. "Are these people jumping down into something that they can't smell, see, that may be very dangerous?"

Jim has been working to put together guidelines outlining the tribe's physical and spiritual ties to the area's natural resources in hopes of launching a thorough cleanup.

"We are tied to everything," he says. "We're trying to cover everything, foods, medicines, fish, animals ... right down to the smallest microbe."

Turning his thought to the mountain again, Jim tells how its surrounding lower-than-normal elevation provides for moderate winters while its relatively tall peak allows foods to grow late into the summer.

Many elders whose ailing bodies limited their ability to travel often stayed there year-round, he says.

"It was also a place that served as the next step when you left this land to go to the next world," he says. "That was the belief of some, and it's very easy to understand when they speak of that in our [traditional] language.

"Very significant."


The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.

Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

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