Petuuche Gilbert’s statement at EPA meeting in Gallup: NO MORE URANIUM MINING!!

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

By one of Earth Peoples Co-Founders, Petuuche Gilbert.


Protect Mt. Taylor -No more uranium mining on sacred land (left:Petuuche Gilbert (right) Leona Morgan)

Protect Mt. Taylor -No UraniumMining on Sacred Land ! (left:Petuuche Gilbert (right) Leona Morgan)

I am Petuuche Gilbert, Laguna and Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment (LACSE) which is one of five core groups in the MultiCultural Alliance for a Safe Environment ( MASE). MASE is a consortium of indigenous and environmental justice communities that have been adversely impacted by historic uranium mining and milling in the Grants Uranium Belt. This uranium affected area extends from the Rio Puerco of the east to the Rio Puerco of the west, an approximate area of 50 miles wide and 150 miles long. It includes Laguna, Acoma, Grants/Milan, Thoreau, Crownpoint and Churchrock, and other communities. It is served by both Region 6 and 9 of the Environmental Protection Agency.
This region has been affected by 50 years of uranium mining which has left a legacy of harmful environmental impacts. Within this area there were once operating 97 uranium mines and 5 uranium mills. Combined with uranium mining on the Navajo Nation uranium mining in the region has degraded the environment and left a legacy of over a thousand abandoned uranium mines.
Uranium mining and milling has devastated this area we’re talking about today. Thirty-three years ago, an unlined earthen dam at the United Nuclear Corporation mill tailings facility near Churchrock New Mexico, collapsed and released 1,100 tons of radioactive tailings and 94 million gallons of toxic wastewater to the Puerco River. All the legacy mine sites are sources for radioactive hazardous releases to the air, soil and water.
Environmental impacts remain today and communities are still living in a radioactive impacted zone. Let me give two anecdotal stories which occurred near Crownpoint. Several years ago the New Mexico Environment Department held a hearing in the vicinity of Crownpoint. When they were there a wind storm was happening and some of the state staff personnel don air masks. These people were only there for a day while the community people live their daily for all of their lives. At one time a child was seen playing outside near one of the uranium impacted sites. Someone with a Geiger counter was curious and took a radioactive measurement of the child and registered a reading. One last story of people living in a dangerous environment is the picture of a sheep. The sheep is somehow biologically affected and its skin has turned yellow. This picture is always an attention getter at events where we talk about the effects of uranium mining. My main emphasis by telling these stories is that people are living daily in a radioactive contaminated area. The ground, water, and air, are all being affected.
Still, and yet, in this area after decades of uranium mining and its people suffering post traumatic stress syndrome as a result the federal and state governments have not done long-term regional health impact studies. Only recently has there been giving a priority in studying the impacts of uranium upon land and people. The Navajo tribe is doing a birth cohort study with the University of New Mexico. The Environmental Protection Agency and the state of New Mexico along with many stakeholders have a Five Year Plan in place to address health and impacts upon land and water within this region. One of the MASE core groups, Post 71, has done a survey of workers and in the uranium industry in this region and has completed it and has found and documented numerous illness of uranium survival stories. The uranium industry has affected the lives of many, many people in this region and yet there has been little or no scientific studies to see its real impact.
An environmental injustice is occurring before us and people here are living and feeling it. The federal and state agencies must pay attention to the uranium affected environment.
The Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment makes several recommendations:
1. There must be a call to acknowledge the rights of Mother Earth to be free of deep drilling and the withdrawal of massive amounts of water required by uranium mining and milling. Groundwater must not be polluted by in-situ mining.

2. Promote the public welfare by protecting the human right to a safe, clean water supply. Urge states to repeal the dewatering act which allows for wasting of precious groundwater and to repeal the archaic mining law of the 1872 Mining Act which allows for a disregard of public welfare.

3. Urge states to prevent new uranium mining and milling until all legacy uranium sites have been reclaimed.

4. Nuclear energy is not a viable form of sustainable development. Begin the phase-out of nuclear reactors and replace them with clean, sustainable energy sources. Nuclear power produces waste problems at the front end and back end of the nuclear fuel cycle.

5. Develop nuclear free zone petitions and declarations for a nuclear free world.

6. States and governments must regulate extractive industries and hold mining corporations accountable for their actions.

7. Contamination from uranium mining and milling are harmful impacts to air, land and water, it has no jurisdiction. This kind of destruction is pervasive and must be addressed by states and the federal government. Regions 6 and 9 must work cooperatively in planning to restore our affected environment to a safe, clean environment for our communities.

8. The federal and state governments must study the removal of radioactive mill tailings away from communities and taken to a permanent repository.

9. The Environmental Protection Agency must implement a Native American public health uranium impact study for this region.

10. EPA should set up a meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NM Environment Department, and Navajo EPA and federal congressional delegation so that lawmakers can understand what regulations are blocking full cleanup of these communities to pre-mining and milling conditions.

Earth Peoples co-founder José Carlos Morales term at UN Independent Experts on the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples expired

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) was established by the Human Rights Council, the UN’s main human rights body, in 2007 under Resolution 6/36 as a subsidiary body of the Human Rights Council.

We are very proud that José Carlos Morales, one of Earth Peoples co-founders, served since the beginning of EMRIP for the period 2008 – 2013 as one of five independent experts. His term expired this month, after five years of devotion and hard work to strengthen the indigenous cause for indigenous peoples worldwide.

José Carlos Morales (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

José Carlos Morales (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

José Carlos Morales, from the indigenous people Brunka Indians (also known as the Boruca or the Brunca) was also the first indigenous Latin American to be honored to be the president of the World Council of Indigenous People, as well as earning the title as the Focal Point of the Decade for Indigenous People in the United Nations. Morales also presided as president of the Regional Council of Indigenous People, making him a true source of pride for his people, the Brunka Tribe from Costa Rica.

He also proudly represented the World Enclave of Indigenous People for three whole years before becoming involved with the United Nations, where he was one of the active indigenous leaders during the United Nations Declaration on the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights negotiation process.

He is certainly known an “old timer” in the world’s global indigenous movement, together with many others that have devoted their live, time and money to push for indigenous rights at the local, national and international level, such as Andrea Carmen (IITC), Kenneth Deer and Petuuche Gilbert from IWA, Mililani Trask, Hector Huertas, Tanya Frichner (AILA), Saudata Aboubacrine,  Arthur Manuel (INET),  (Wilton Littechild (IRIOD) among many others.

Wilton Littechild’s and Annie Lasimbang’s term as EMRIP independent experts’ expire next year, in 2014.

The Expert Mechanism is made up of five independent experts on the rights of indigenous peoples. The experts are appointed by the Human Rights Council which is to give due regard to experts of indigenous origin as well as to gender balance and geographic representation.

More information about the members of the Expert Mechanism can be found here:
members of the Expert Mechanism.

Also watch the video about the Expert Mechanism, which has been produced to raise awareness about the Expert Mechanism.

Work done so far, and published on EMRIPs website:

Expert Mechanism Advice
In association with each of its studies, and the associated theme, the Expert Mechanism drafts advice to contribute to international jurisprudence being developed on the issue under study.

Advice No 4 (2012) on Indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making, with a focus on extractive industries
IAdvice No 3 (2012) on Indigenous peoples’ languages and cultures
Advice No 2 (2011) on Indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making
Advice No. 1 (2009) on the Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education


How to get accreditation for the sessions of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

Click here for information and forms on HOW TO PARTICIPATE

According to paragraph 9 of resolution 6/36, the meeting of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples shall be open to the participation of observers through an open and transparent accreditation procedure in accordance with the rules of the Human Rights Council.

What we like about Geneva, and the United Nations Human Rights folks up there is that they understand the needs of representatives of indigenous peoples organizations and representatives of NGOs not in consultative status with ECOSOC, and you are allowed to register; (You do NOT need status to the UN).


Those required to complete the online registration process to attend the next session of the Expert Mechanism are invited to complete the three steps accreditation procedure by:

Preparing a letter requesting accreditation, according to the description below, which can be uploaded to the online registration form.
Complete the online registration form, Spanish and French (include the letter requesting accreditation and the registration information).
Print, fill and bring to the session the Conference Registration Form (no need to be sent to the Secretariat).

The Legacy of Oñate and the Continuity of Colonialism (North America)

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
One of Earth Peoples co-founders, Petuuche Gilbert from the Acoma people wrote this article a while ago, “the Legacy of Oñate and the Continuity of Colonialism”

The People of Acoma Still Fight to be Free

by PETUUCHE GILBERT, Acoma Pueblo.
Petuuche Gilbert (Photo © Sara Cintrón Schultz)

Petuuche Gilbert (Photo © Sara Cintrón Schultz)

How does a tribe survive an attempted annihilation? How does a nation of people survive a holocaust? Oñate burned and destroyed the village of Acoma. The place where the colonizer’s church, San Estevan del Rey, stands today is the site of the original village. It must have been a horrible massacre, with our people burned in their houses. It is written that mothers and fathers were killing their own children to prevent capture. How many of our people jumped off the mesa to avoid being killed by Spanish soldiers? It is written then that our people were taken as prisoners of war and marched up to Santo Domingo for punishment. As punishment and as a further act of premeditated terrorism the feet of our men were cut off, the survivors, men, women and children were enslaved. How many died soon afterwards is unknown and forgotten. So, how did Acoma survive? It is again written in Spanish records that ten years later there was another battle at Acoma. In spite of the atrocities committed upon us we endured and we are still a nation of Acoma people.

Spiritual and Physical Strength and Endurance.

Today my people do not remember the massacre and punishment. Very few people know of the battle. My mother talked of how people described the use of canons and how the rock walls were scarred black from explosions. No one knows about how two Acoma warriors hung themselves from a tree on the mesa top rather then submit to Spanish rule. It is written this is occurred and only the tree still remembers. No one at Acoma talks of the enslavement of our people as we were forced to build a huge, massive church. All the materials of sand, rock and wood, were carried on the backs of my people to the mesa top. Who knows how many Acomas died in the construction of their church. Today the people proudly say this is our church. We built it with our blood, sweat and tears. It is true what one of our guides said to tourists. “They made slaves out of us to build this church I guess that is why we are Catholics today”. Such is the power of the crown and the cross. Today the priest holds mass when tribal leaders allow him to do so. The Catholic Church should be so proud they have brainwashed so well that we are devout practitioners. We became Catholics so that we could survive another day. All the while we are still here, believing and practicing our language, culture and religion.
The Legacies of Colonial Institutions

At Acoma and in the homeland of indigenous peoples we carry on our backs the heavy chains of colonial institutions. The impacts of colonialism and terrorism are powerful. All of the remaining indigenous tribes call themselves pueblos and some even use Spanish names to identify themselves. Some resistors, like Acoma, identify themselves in their own names. All of the pueblos are Catholics and all have saints as their protectors. Most of them have feast days in honor of their patron saints. We have never really questioned ourselves why we do this. I know it is the impacts of fear and brainwashing. We became Catholics so that we could continue to live and practice our ways. Such is the power of the people to endure in spite of the brutality of the crown and the cross.

Another powerful institution intended to dispossess indigenous peoples of their homeland is the merced or mercedes. In English it is the Spanish land grant. On the Oñate statute being built in El Paso the conqueror conquistador is seen proudly waving La Toma in his hand. In April, 1598, Conquistador, Juan de Oñate, crossed the Rio Grande, near present day El Paso, Texas. He declared and claimed, “All lands, people, and resources north of the Rio Grande, possessions of the Royal Spanish Crown.” La Toma was the imperialistic method proclaimed by the conquerors to take indigenous land and intended to subject the indigenous people to a foreign rule. Essentially this action set the basis for pre-emptive war. If indigenous people did not submit to the rulers then just war could be declare upon them. The famous square league, about 17,000 acres, was recognized as the land set-aside by the Spanish for the indigenous tribes. The rest was, of course, was kept by the conquerors. The people of today have never understood how the conquerors could give out land that was not theirs in the first place. It was not free land for the taking. This continuation of imperialism was declared to be manifest destiny by the United States and the theft of land and subjection of people continued. Upon the implementation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in 1848, the United States felt, as is duty to respect the land rights of indigenous peoples. Articles 8 and 9 talk of the indigenous people. In the treaty it stipulated that if pueblo Indian people did not want to be citizens of the United States they could just leave. I guess we could have just left our homelands and moved to Mexico. I think this imposition of citizenship has never really being understood by the ancient inhabitants of this land. In this way we were made political prisoners and we remain so to this day.

The third pervasive institution affecting us here as indigenous people is the form of Spanish civil government. Most of the pueblo governments have leaders named as governors and their attendant staff named after Spanish names. When the Spanish arrived they saw community leaders led us and they made us choose our own leaders. Today in the selection of our own tribal leaders we call this tradition. Too, it is a profound influence that the Pueblo Indian Governors carry the Spanish canes as the recognition of their authority to rule. Why? I once asked one of the former pueblo governors why do they carry the Spanish canes if we threw off Spanish implements during the Pueblo Indian Revolt. His reply was that we had already imbued them spiritually and, thus, they became sacred. This is maintained even today.

The Indigenous Peoples Of Today

The conquerors should be so proud of themselves. We are profoundly brainwashed that we behave as conquered people. This is the legacy of Oñate and the conquerors. Colonialism remains alive and well. We have Spanish forms of civil governments and we select our own leaders to rule ourselves. We rely on the land grant system to have our land rights respected. We are devout Catholics. We are proud American citizens and we proudly put our hands on our chests as we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We are proud to be called Native Americans. How tragic and what a travesty this is. As indigenous peoples we never ask ourselves why. Why do we have blind patriotism to a nation that stole our land, committed genocide and instituted creative law intended to keep us as political prisoners.

Today we, the indigenous people, fight for our human right to be free, sovereign and self-determining people. To become this is the challenge is upon all of us here. The United States of America is the most ardent enemy of indigenous people. This nation refuses to respect and recognize us as PEOPLES because peoples in international law have the right to self-determination. During the Decade of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples we aggressively pursued for the right of self-determination to be enshrined in the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This did not happen as the decade ended in 2004. Prior to this indigenous people at the last World Conference on Racism, indigenous people accused the world’s nation-states of being racist by refusing to recognize indigenous people to be as peoples. This struggle for self-determination continues at the Organization of American States as they work to adopt an Inter-American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In it we are not considered to be indigenous peoples with the full right of self-determination.

So, what is our future today? There are difficult questions to ask of ourselves, as the conquerors and the conquered. Do we accept the legacies of the conquerors and remain treated as the conquered? I think not. In order for me to be here speaking today, someone, somewhere in the past, stood up and died for me to be here. Now it is my turn and our responsibility to carry on that struggle to be free as indigenous people. It is no easy task and the challenge is before us all. Especially now that we, as warriors fighting against the domination of the United States, are considered as terrorist. Well, we as indigenous peoples have been fighting terrorism for over 500 years and we will continue on. So, did God bless Oñate and does God bless America? Does God bless conquerors, murderers and thieves? Does God bless a nation built upon the twin pillars of discovery and conquest? The conquerors think God does and that is what is wrong with people. Thus, we are still at war with the conquerors. It must change. We must learn to live in peace and respect.

What Form of Justice is Due Indigenous People

Apologies are easy to proclaim and they are easily forgotten. One such proclamation is in the works in Congress. In 2004 it is was called the HISTORIC RESOLUTION OF APOLOGY TO NATIVE PEOPLES INTRODUCED IN U.S. CONGRESS and it is now referred to as the NATIVE AMERICAN APOLOGY RESOLUTION. Both are quite meaningless. Some church groups have already apologized and it is now forgotten who did. Do indigenous peoples want all of America back? I think not. Indigenous people are realistic and they know this is impossible. The foreigners are here today and we must now survive together. Albeit, we want to keep our homelands in our possession without the fear of loss through the laws and policies of the conquerors. Are we seeking some form of reparation for genocide and theft of land? Perhaps. Some indigenous people are demanding it and dollars are appropriated by congress to rid itself of the Indian problem. It is done and can be done in order to alleviate the fears and embarrassment of genocide and land theft. Pay the Indians off and forget them. Let them be American citizens like everybody else. Life goes on. A more appropriate form of reparation is allowing our human right to be as peoples. As peoples to peoples we can be both sovereign and self-determining. We must respect and understand all this. That is our challenge today for us all.