Posts Tagged ‘leetso’

A Tiger by the Tail

March 24, 2008

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There’s an interesting story told by the Anishnabe people in Northern Ontario about uranium. They claim they can sense veins of uranium under the ground by its smell and it’s not a pleasant smell. Geologists heard about this ability of the Anishnabe people and actually used native noses in detecting new uranium mines in the mid 1900s.

yellowcake1.jpgSince 1941 the Navahos in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have had a long and painful relationship with uranium. They have a name for it, Leetso. Leetso means “yellow dirt” but the Navahos use onomatopeia in translating their words into english and to them leetso sounds like a reptilian monster, a monster that brought disease and death to their communities. Their traditional teachings tell them that to slay a monster they must first name it and then gain knowledge of it; knowledge of what feeds and sustains it. They believe that leetso walks hand in hand with fellow monsters and that these creatures feed on power, political and nuclear, and thrive on disrespect for human beings and for Mother Earth. The Navahos believe that the best weapon to defeat these monsters is the use of respect and group action.

These are often difficult concepts to grasp when you’re in the midst of a political struggle. Respecting your enemy is a concept the Natives understand but I suspect we white folks have some problems with this idea. But the marketing world successfully uses this approach. “Embrace the obstacle” is one of Terry O’Reilly’s mantras and he’s an advertising guru. He says, “the best ideas are found inside the very obstacle that appears to be preventing an easy solution.” The Dali Lama says essentially the same thing. But what is the obstacle exactly in this story? When it comes to group action we’re just beginning to understand the power of community building. Our group actions in these past nine months have been powerful and effective.

Here’s another question. What is the purpose of uranium as it co-exists underground with all its other mineral siblings? Left undisturbed, it’s an ingredient in some geological recipe. What on earth is cooking down there? Does uranium act like yeast or baking soda or salt? Or is it like the apple in the story of the Garden of Eden?

We know that a region’s geology defines the makeup of our soil, the taste of our water and the kinds of plants that grow in that region. In our beautiful corner of Eastern Ontario where our geology includes uranium we now understand that disturbing this mineral by drilling or blowing up the rocks it lives inside will affect our water, our air and our soil.

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