¹Wind River Environmental Quality Commission, Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribes, PO Box 217, Ft. Washakie, WY 82514; ²Oglala Nation, Office of Natural Resources, PO Box 320, Pine Ridge, SD 57770; and ³Navajo Community College, NDEL, PO Box 580, Shiprock, NM 87420-0580
American Indian reservations around the U.S. have soil and water contamination resulting from a variety of activities which occur both on-reservation and off-reservation. The Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming has contaminated drinking water. The tribes on that reservation are working with the Department of Energy to clean up contamination from abandoned uranium sites. Elements from the abandoned mines have leaked into the underground water supply and are contaminating wells that supply water for the surrounding houses. Inadequate mechanisms to deal with solid waste and unfunded mandates are also problems for these tribes. The Oglala Nation is grappling with unexploded ordnance and underground storage tank issues on its land. The U.S. government seized Oglala land in 1942 to use it as a bombing range. Since that time, the land has been returned to the tribe, but is contaminated. This contamination is affecting the tribe's soil and water as well as making religious sites less useable. In Navajo Country, rapid population growth and past and present natural-resource extraction are the main causes of environmental concerns. The rapid population growth is causing problems in the areas of water quantity and quality, solid-waste management, overgrazing by livestock, and increasing commerce and tourism. The resource extraction concerns have resulted from uranium mining and milling, coal mining and coal combustion. The Navajo Nation and Navajo Community College have determined that the tribe needs to gain more sophisticated monitoring capabilities, professional education and training, public education and community involvement, and greater regulatory ability by Navajo environmental agencies, and they are working toward these goals.
Native American, Indian reservation, uranium, unexploded ordnance, resource extraction
This paper is from the Proceedings of the 10th Annual Conference on Hazardous Waste Research 1995, published in hard copy and on the Web by the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain Hazardous Substance Research Center.