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The Native Community Action Council Nuclear Risk Management For Native Communities: Nuclear Testing and its Impact on the Western Shoshone and Southern.

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Presentation on theme: "The Native Community Action Council Nuclear Risk Management For Native Communities: Nuclear Testing and its Impact on the Western Shoshone and Southern."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Native Community Action Council Nuclear Risk Management For Native Communities: Nuclear Testing and its Impact on the Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute Peoples

2 “We all share the hope that through education we can teach the children to make wise decisions that will ensure safety of all people and their lands for generations to come.”


4 HOW THE SHOSHONE CAME TO BE He started to swim across the water, all the while asking, “This is sure heavy, I wonder what’s inside.” But he kept on a going. When he had gone a little farther his curiosity got the best of him and he opened the basket. A whirlwind surrounded him. He put the top back on quickly, looking up he saw standing in groups around him beautiful Indians. After naming all of them, he set out to finish what he was asked to do. Reaching the middle of the continent he opened the basket, letting the remainder of the Indians out. These Indians were not as beautiful as the others, but he told them, “You may not be beautiful, but you are my children and you’ll be tough and stubborn and be known as the Shoshones.”

5 SOUTHERN PAIUTE HOLY LAND The old woman sealed the basket, and gave it to Coyote to tow back to land. As a water spider, he did so. As Coyote, he found the basket growing heavy, and full of curiosity, opened it before reaching Nuvagantu. Louse’s eggs had hatched in the basket, and human beings scattered in all directions over the land. By the time Coyote returned to Nuvagantu, only weaklings, cripples and excrement remained in the basket. On Charleston Peak, Wolf used his greater power to create the Chemehuevis and their kindred, the ingredients accounting for their skin color. So Nuvagantu, or Charleston Peak, is, sacred to the Southern Paiutes.

6 Lesson 1: Introduction and Overview Objective Questions: Why is it important to understand what happened with the Nevada nuclear test site? Why is it important to understand how Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute communities were affected from nuclear testing?

7 What happened? From 1952 to 1992, the US conducted 928 above and below-ground nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site, now renamed the Nevada National Security Site, 24 jointly with the United Kingdom. 220 of them depositing radioactive fallout over large areas (Church et. al.; Thompson, 1996). The tests primarily released radioactive ioding131, cesium-137, strontium-90, plutonium, tritium and other noble gases, which traveled in plumes. The majority of these plumes traveled north and east over Native American reservations located at Duckwater, Ely, Moapa, in Nevada and Goshute, Santa Clara, Cedar City, and Kaibab in Utah.

8 Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute Lands in relation to the Nevada National Security Site

9 How will this help? There have been no studies of the direct effects of radioactive fallout on Native American communities until the Nuclear Risk Management for Native Communities project. If you know about the history of testing and understand how it impacted the lives of your families, you will be more able to make good decisions that will insure your health and safety. If you want to know about your history and you’re concerned about living in a healthy environment, it is important to learn about nuclear weapons testing.

10 Lesson 2: History and Overview of the Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute Peoples Objective Questions: Who are the Western Shoshone people and what is their history? Who are the Southern Paiute people and what is their history?

11 Who are the Native American people? For thousands of generations the Newe and Nuwuvi, more commonly known as the Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute, have lived in the Great Basin of North America. Their identity, purpose, and strength is based upon their relationship to their homelands. The Newe homeland is from the Panamint and Death Valley area to the Snake River through most of the central Great Basin, where they joined other related Newe groups to the north and east forming the Western Shoshone Nation. The Nuwuvi, including the related Chemehevu, held and equally large area, beginning on the lower Colorado River in southern California, and extending through southern Nevada, Northern Arizona, and southern Utah.

12 Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute lands

13 How did the people live? The Newe and Nuwuvi also had similar communal hunting techniques (rabbit/antelope drives, hunting parties for large game) and gathering practices (pine nut harvests). They hunted the same animals: deer, antelope, mountain sheep, jackrabbit, cottontail rabbit, ground squirrels, groundhogs, other small rodents, sage hen, ducks, quail and other birds and fish. Plants that were gathered and shared in common include yomba (wild carrots), wild onion, choke cherries, currant berries, juniper berries, service berries, Indian spinach, raspberries, wild rhubarb, elderberries, and pine nuts (a main food resource of sustenance). Other useful plants located in the southern regions include the mesquite bean, mescale, and screw bean.

14 How did the people live? Cont’d. In the springtime the Newe moved down to the valleys to gather newly grown plants, roots and berries. They gathered willows that grew in abundance along the creek banks. In the fall, the Newe moved to the mountains. There they built shelters made from sturdy tree poles tightly bound together and formed into cone shaped dwellings. They also gathered pine nuts and firewood for winter fires, selecting only the dead trees to burn because live pine trees provided the pine nut used for food. They took only as much as needed of the food sources and shelter materials, living with all that was around them.

15 How did the people live? Cont’d. The Nuwuvi people would winter in the lower elevations and spend hot summer months in the mountains. Extended family communities lived together near springs and streams. The ceremonies followed the seasons to honor all creation and give thanks and ask blessing on the land, animals, plants, water and sun. Dances in ceremonies are the circle dance, the bear dance and the rabbit dance. The sing or “cry” ceremony is for the passing of a member of the tribe. Indian doctors or healers were very important and respected for the “medicine” power they carried. They were never directly approached directly, but were visited through the helper first for their protection.

16 Mercury, Nevada

17 Lesson 3:Background History of the Nevada Test Site (Nevada National Security Site) Objective Questions: What is the history of nuclear testing in the US and the world—how did nuclear testing develop? How many nuclear tests were done at the Nevada Test Site and during what years? Where is the Nevada Test Site located within the Great Basin in relation to Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute lands and tribal communities? To where did the radioactivity in the fallout from testing travel?

18 Nevada National Security Site Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range Tonopah Test Range

19 Yucca Flat

20 Deep Geologic Disposal of High Level Nuclear Waste Nuclear Waste Policy of 1982 as amended in 1987. Disposal of 77 metric tons of heavy metal (high Level nuclear waste). 115 reactors at 74 sites in 31 states. Prior to passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act Amendment of 1987, 21 sites were considered. These were winnowed down to 9 down to 3 that included Hanford Washington, Deaf Smith County Texas, and Yucca Mountain. Three tribes, the Umatilla, Yakima and the Nez Percz at the Hanford site were formally designated as “affected Indian Tribes.” 1987 amendments designated Yucca Mountain as the only site to be characterized for further study.

21 Yucca Mountain

22 The Serpent

23 What is the Status of Yucca Mountain? The Nuclear Waste Policy Act od 1982 as amended is the law and still in effect. According to law, no further work can be done until the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission issues a construction authorization license. The licensing proceedings are continuing at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Yucca Mountain is not dead. All US Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing documents are at: Yucca Mountain will continue until the law is repealed or amended to halt Yucca Mountain.

24 The White House Memorandum for the Secretary of Energy

25 Lesson 4: Radiation Basics Objective Questions: What are atoms, radionuclides, alpha and beta particles, gamma radiation and x-rays? What are the different types of radiation? What is nuclear radiation?

26 The Atom

27 Alpha Particle

28 Beta Particle

29 Gamma Ray

30 Radiation Exposure Exposures to ionizing radiation that result from human activities such as nuclear testing often receive significant popular attention. Most of the exposure typically received by the public is produced by cosmic rays, terrestrial radiation, and internally deposited natural radionuclides (Samet 1997). Radon alone, one source of background radiation that enters indoor environments from the soil and irradiates the lung through inhalation, accounts for over fifty percent of the world’s total estimated effective dose of radiation. Smokers, for example, are exposed to roughly twice as much radiation as nonsmokers due to radionuclides in tobacco smoke. Natural radiation can be harmful. We increase our exposure through intensified dependence on mineral processing, airplane flights, phosphate and potassium fertilizers and fossil fuels like coal, we also increase our exposure and related health risks. Approximately fifteen percent of the public’s total ionizing radiation exposure is artificial and much of this comes from routine diagnostic or therapeutic medical procedures (Ron 2003).

31 National Academy of Sciences BIER VII The National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiations (BEIR) last published a review in 2005. For the first time ever the US stated that, the linear no threshold model of radiation carcinogenesis (cancer) is the most appropriate model for estimating risks. The BIER VII report concludes that the net effect of various complexities in the biological response is unknown. The committee does explicitly reject the idea that low doses of radiation might be beneficial (hormesis).

32 Lesson 5:Experience of the Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute communities with the Nevada Test Site Objective Questions: How were people exposed? What were the experiences of the Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute people with the nuclear tests like?

33 Radioactive Fallout Nuclear Weapons Testing

34 Cumulative Radioactive Fallout ORERP Results: Dose at Duckwater Town Exposure (1951-58)=1.0 rad Cumulative Doses 1951-1963 Thyroid: 22,371 mrad (22.4 rad)* Whole Body: 1,156 mrad (1.2 rad)* Skin: 175,400 mrad (175.4 rad)* *Cumulative over 11 atmospheric tests. (Source: David L. Wheeler, ORERP) ORERP Results: Dose at Moapa Town Exposure (1951-58)= 0.8 rad Cumulative Doses 1951-1963 Thyroid: 18,819 mrad (18.8 rad)* Whole Body: 971 mrad (1.0 rad): Skin: 73,080 mrad (73.1 rad): *Cumulative over 14 atmospheric tests. :Cumulative over 7 atmospheric tests. (Source David L. Wheeler, ORERP) ORERP Results: Dose at Ely Town Exposure (1951-1958)=1.2 rad Cumulative Doses 1951-1963 Thyroid: 18,494 mrad (18.5 rad)* Whole Body: 768 mrad (0.8 rad)* Skin: 65,436 mrad (65.5 rad)* *Cumulative over 36 atmospheric tests. (Source: David L. Wheeler, ORERP) ORERP Results: Dose at Elko Cumulative Doses 1951-1963 Thyroid: 10,746 mrad (10.8 rad)* Whole Body: 328 mrad (0.3 rad): Skin: 22,068 mrad (22.1 rad) a *Cumulative over 38 atmospheric tests. :Cumulative over 22 atmospheric tests. a Cumulative over 29 atmospheric tests. (Source: David L. Wheeler, ORERP)

35 National Cancer Institute 1997 Radioactive Iodine-131 in Fallout from US Nuclear Weapons Testing

36 Human Radiation Experiments: Dog Tags

37 Lesson 6: Health Effects Objective Questions: How does radiation affect the human body? What parts of the human body are affected by radiation? What is cancer and how does radiation cause different types of cancer? What is genetic mutation and how does radiation cause mutation? What are immediate effects of radiation and long-term effects.

38 Human Organs Affected

39 Examples of pathways Exposure include: 1)The external exposure pathway – radioactive materials were released in tests, traveled through the air, were deposited in the environment, and irradiated people near the deposited material; 2)The milk pathway – radioactive iodine and strontium were released, traveled through the air, were deposited on a pasture, eaten by cows, and contaminated the milk that was ingested by people; 3)The hunting pathway – radioactive materials released, traveled through the air, deposited on vegetation, eaten by game animals, and entered the human body when the meat was eaten.

40 Radioactive Iodine (Iodine-131): Iodine-131 emits a beta radiation, a kind of particle radiation. When people are exposed to a fallout cloud with radioactive iodine, beta particles can penetrate several layers of skin but are most dangerous if they are inhaled or ingested. The iodine-131 will seek out the thyroid where it does its greatest harm to the body, potentially causing thyroid diseases and thyroid cancers. Iodine-131 has a half-life of eight days; after several months it is no longer detectable in the environment. A particularly important pathway prioritized by the Off- site Radiation Exposure Review Profile researchers was milk, because the milk from contaminated cows would carry iodine-131 to consumers.

41 Cesium-137 and Strontium-90: Cesium-137 is most importantly a gamma emitter (it also emits beta particles) that means it exposes the body through gamma waves (external radiation) that pass through the whole body. Cesium is not accumulated in a specific organ and can do uniform damage to the whole body. Strontium-90 is most importantly an emitter of beta radiation; it concentrates in bones and can lead to leukemia and cancers of the bone in particular, cesium-137 and stronium-90 have half-lives of 28 and 30 years, respectively. Nearly half of the cesium and strontium released during nuclear testing is still in the environment. Because of strontium and cesium exposures, researchers were concerned with when people were outdoors, how they were exposed to radioactive fallout clouds, and if they had any shielding from the gamma rays and beta particles.

42 Plutonium: Plutonium is an alpha emitter (another form of particle radiation which is more damaging than betas, but also more localized); it is most dangerous when inhaled and ingested causing internal radiation exposures. Plutonium will seek bone and the lungs and cause cancers in those areas. Plutonium-239 (the most prominent plutonium radionuclide) has a half-life of 24,000 years. Virtually all of the plutonium released from weapons testing is still in the environment.

43 Lesson 7: How to Protect Your Health Objective Question: What should you know about your family’s health history related to the Nevada Test Site? How do you access health care if you and your family have been exposed to radiation from the Nevada Test Site?

44 The three most important factors to protect your health are: 1) time; 2) distance; and, 3)shielding

45 Native Community Action Council P.O. Box 140, Baker, NV 89311 This handbook was supported by funding through a Cooperative Agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substance Disease Registry, Public Health Service, US Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta GA and the staff and researchers of the Marsh Institute—Community Based Hazards Management Program at Clark University, Worcester, MA. March 2005 (Final edited by Ian Zabarte June 2011)

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