Native Human Rights Defenders Honored in San Francisco

Date of publication: 
7 March 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — The International Indian Treaty Council honored Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone, and Manny Pino, Acoma Pueblo, with Human Rights Defenders Awards Saturday, March 7, in San Francisco.
“We have the original rights, not aboriginal rights, because we were the first here,” Dann said at San Francisco State University. Following a daylong seminar on human rights and sacred places, Dann spoke on the oppression of the colonizers and the necessity of rising to protect Native sacred places.
Speaking during the “Indigenous Peoples Struggles to Defend Sacred Places,” seminar, Dann said Indigenous Peoples all over the world are suffering because of the so-called civilized worlds. “What does it mean to be civilized?”
“Does it mean you have the right to rape and murder?”
Dann and Julie Bill of the Western Shoshone Defense Project spoke of the efforts to halt Barrick Gold from destroying the area of sacred Mount Tenabo in Western Shoshone Territory, in what is known as Nevada. >From New Guinea to Africa, Barrick Gold is accused of murdering and raping villagers while seizing land for gold mines. Barrick Gold is responsible for coring out mountains and poisoning water with cyanide in Indigenous territories around the world.
Pino, known for his efforts to expose the injustices of uranium mining in the Southwest United States and the assaults on sacred places, said it was an honor to be here with Carrie Dann.
Pino spoke on the need for learning the Native languages and the continuance of the ceremonies.
“It’s never too late, hang out with your grandma, hang out with your grandpa,” Pino said.
“The most important advice we can get is listening to them.”
Pino presented a slide presentation on the horrors of uranium mining for Pueblo and Navajo people.
The radioactive contamination was carried by the winds into the foods of the people, in the fields and the foods that were drying. This radioactive dust coated the vegetation of the sheep and contaminated the people.
Photographs of the Jackpile Mine in New Mexico revealed the devastation to the land of Laguna Pueblo and Acoma Pueblo.
The horror of this 30-year legacy of mining remains now in the form of widespread cancers and Down Syndrome. At the time of the mine, the tribal government was unaware of the impact.
On the Navajo Nation alone, there are 1,300 unreclaimed uranium mines. The radioactive tailings in the Monument Valley area are one fact that no one tells the tourists, Pino said.
“Of course, it is the grassroots people who live in these areas.”
Navajos used radioactive materials to build their hogans. Many are sick and dying today.
Pino said the Bush administration claimed that nuclear power was the key for the future, but there was no solution of where to put nuclear waste. At the same time, radioactive waste is blowing in the Southwest.
Pino said it is important to be vigilant with the Obama administration to ensure a nuclear free future.