Posts Tagged ‘uranium’

A Tiger by the Tail

March 24, 2008


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.



transformation of a community

March 6, 2008

Thanks to uranium exploration north of Sharbot Lake in Eastern Ontario our community has been transformed. Nine months ago we were a peaceful but dynamic community of oldtimers and newcomers. Lots of artists, musicians, writers, craftspeople and organic farmers have moved here since the 60’s. We all get along most of the time. There’s lots of good music and lots of good food.

After nine months of protest we’ve given birth to an historic alliance with two local Algonquin groups whose traditional lands have been staked by a uranium exploration company. Both Algonquin groups are adamant that there will be no uranium mining on their traditional lands. We “settlers” support them without reservation. No one in this community wants a uranium mine or, for that matter, a reservation. The Algonquins in these parts are non-status by choice and therefore have no reservations.

The land here is full of wetlands, creeks, rivers and the Mississippi Valley watershed which flows into the Ottawa River. We value our clean water. And we’ll fight to keep it that way. The Algonquins have taught us that protecting the water is both our duty and responsibility.

Thanks to uranium, the Algonquins and the “21st century Settler” alliance has become an unstoppable force. Our collective eyes have been opened and we’re learning how to work together for a common cause.

Thanks to uranium the settlers and the Algonquins have become activists or “eco-terrorists”, as George White, president of Frontenac Ventures Corp., calls us. Our peaceful lifestyle has disappeared. We spend hours online and on the phone, writing letters, protesting, wondering, ranting. We’re learning how to transform a grassroots movement into a force to be reckoned with. We now know more about uranium and the effects of mining uranium than the average citizen. We now know more about the untold history of Canada’s dealings with First Nations than most of us ever imagined. And we managed to sustain a peaceful protest all through the summer and fall.

But thanks to the powerful lobby groups behind uranium mining our protest has been marginalized in the national media and blatantly ignored by the Ontario government. And lately our protest has been criminalized by injunctions and contempt of court rulings.

Thanks to uranium for the wake up call. NO THANKS TO URANIUM. This is the will of the people who live here and vote here.