'Poison Wind' - Film History of Uranium Victims - AZ Tribes For Grijalva - Sec. Of The Interior
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK — It has been nearly two years to the day that Jenny Pond first came up with the idea of “Poison Wind,” an oral history on the effects uranium mining has had on indigenous people of the Southwest.
Co-produced by Pond and Navajo filmmaker Norman Patrick Brown, the documentary was screened as the official selection of the 33rd Annual American Indian Film Institute Film Festival in San Francisco. It has aired in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado and twice in German, including Oct. 26 at the Nuclear-Free Future Award ceremony in Munich along with the acclaimed documentary, “The Return of Navajo Boy,” by Jeff Spitz of Chicago.
Pond said she was inspired to make the film when she and her husband went down to the village of Supai to spend the weekend in the Grand Canyon for his 60th birthday. Supai, the tribal center for the Havasupai Tribe, is located in Havasu Canyon, a southwestern branch of the Grand Canyon accessible only by foot, horseback, or helicopter.
“At the end of the weekend we were waiting for the helicopter to take us out with a group of other people. I walked off in the middle of the village and as I was standing there, a man walked up to me and he said, ‘What do you do?'
“I said, ‘You mean for a living?’ He said "yes." And I said, ‘Well, if I’m lucky I work in film and TV.’ He said, ‘I had a feeling I should speak with you. Did you know that there are leases being sold for uranium mining here at the Grand Canyon?’
“I live in Arizona, I read the news a lot, my dad was a news man, but I just never heard about this,” she said.
She gave Damon Watahomigie, or “Supai Waters,” her phone number, flew out of the Grand Canyon and called Manuel Pino, a long-time anti-nuclear activist from the Pueblo of Acoma, whom she has known for about 20 years.
“He said, ‘You’ve got to call Norman — Norman Patrick Brown.’ So I called him and we just followed it. It was like it was leading us, and it all started in the bottom of the Grand Canyon with Supai Waters saying to me, ‘What do you do'?” That was two years ago.
Brown, who also appears in “Poison Wind,” says he believes the film “gives an intimate look into the hardships of the people who mined underground, the cancers that they’ve contracted, the radiation exposure and how it has impacted their lives. Probably one of the strongest points of the film is having the people talk about what uranium mining has done to them and their families.”
Another important thing about “Poison Wind,” he said, “was letting industry know that regardless of their attempts to stop the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005, it’s only going to make our resistance even stronger.
In a lot of ways, I think the film educates people who are not familiar with the nuclear process, that we’re at the ‘front end’ of the nuclear fuel chain.
“The thing about the video also is it seemed to develop itself. There was a spiritual aspect that permeated the film. It was with us all the time, this spiritual awareness that life is sacred. We looked at the land and we looked at the people and the cultures. There are different types of people in the video. There are pueblo miners, Navajo miners and Hispanic miners.”
Brown said attempts to stifle Navajo’s ban on uranium activities is secondary to the main point. “The ban is not really an act of sovereignty, it’s a declaration of independence. No matter what the courts say, no matter what the corporations say, those are all secondary. We already made a decision, no ifs, ands or buts. It’s ‘Hey, look, what part of ‘No’ don’t you understand?’
”If there is an attempt of physical bringing any type of uranium development on Navajo, he said, “I believe people will rise up. I believe they will not allow it.”
Pond acknowledges that the film, which was funded using her husband’retirement money, is not very balanced as far as the uranium industry goes. “It’s really all one-sided. I figure if somebody else wants to make that film, they can, but I’m not going to do that. This is what I need to do.
“I don’t think there is any better way than to present these oral histories of people that are dying,” she said.
ARIZONA TRIBES BACK GRIJALVA
Indian Country Today
Editor’s note: The following is an open letter to John Podesta, Chair, Obama-Biden Transition Team.
We are writing in support of the appointment of Congressman Raul Grijalva as the new Secretary of the Department of the Interior. He is well respected by the tribal community and has worked diligently for his constituents – many of whom are tribal members – over the past six years. He has created an open and working relationship with tribal governments in Arizona and the Department of the Interior would be fortunate to have his leadership.
Congressman Grijalva currently serves the 7th Congressional District in the State of Arizona, which covers the southern and southeastern part of the state. Within his district are seven sovereign tribal governments. They include the Tohono O’odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Cocopah Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Quechan Tribe.
As leadership of our respective tribes, we know that Congressman Grijalva has been a strong and consistent supporter of tribal issues. He has also taken a lead role in championing issues of importance to tribes, such as reforming mining laws, utility clarification, homeland security and others. We strongly encourage you to consider Congressman Grijalva as the next Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Thank you for your consideration.
– Ned Norris Jr., Chairman, Tohono O’odham Nation
– William Rhodes, Governor, Gila River Indian Community
– Sherry Cordova, Chairwoman, Cocopah Tribe
– Peter Yucupicio, Chairman, Pascua Yaqui Tribe
– Daniel Eddy Jr., Chairman, Colorado River Indian Tribes
– Delia Carlyle, Chairman, Ak-Chin Indian Community
– Mike Jackson Sr., President, Quechan Tribe
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