Native-American nation’s land was turned into a nuclear test site. Now, they suffer from illnesses
‘The most nuclear bombed nation on the planet’ is the unwanted accolade claimed by the Shoshone Native American tribe. This has had devastating effects for the community, and RT spoke with one campaigner fighting for justice.
“They are occupying our country, they are stealing our opportunities and we are expected to die because of that. We are still trying to grapple with and understand what happened to us, and find ways to stop it, correct it and prevent it happening in the future.”
Ian Zabarte’s voice is angry but does not falter as he describes the stark fate of his people, Native Americans who for decades have been – by any measure – subjected to the most unimaginable horrors, all perpetrated by their government in Washington.
Over a period of just over 40 years, there were 928 tests conducted there – around 100 in the atmosphere and more than 800 underground – resulting in nuclear fallout of around 620 kilotons, according to a 2009 study. In comparison, there were 13 kilotons of fallout when Hiroshima was bombed in 1945.
This is obviously a massive health risk and Zabarte, who lives in Las Vegas but runs a healing center at Death Valley, is understandably angry. Although he’s engaging and friendly, a sense of rage regularly creeps into his voice as he becomes more animated about the injustices his people have endured. But he never lapses into self-pity; there’s always a steely aura of defiance.
“The Department of Energy doesn’t consider that an accident because they manually released the gas inside the underground chamber where the weapon detonated. It went around the world and beat the Chernobyl radiation back to the United States,”Zabarte claimed.
Of course, the US is not the only country to have conducted nuclear testing. The United Kingdom also used Western Shoshone land, in 24 tests that were joint operations with the US.France completed 210 nuclear tests in Algeria and the South Pacific from 1960 to 1996. And the Soviet Union used the Semipalatinsk site in Kazakhstan until 1989 to perform its testing.
“My grandfather always said, ‘don’t kick up dust’ because of the radioactive fallout. I care for these people because of that treaty of peace and friendship, and have an obligation to provide aid and comfort to other Americans passing through. But I watch them kick up dust in their off-road vehicles and they are quite likely exposing themselves. There is plutonium in a lot of the roofs of their houses, too.”
The key for Zabarte is awareness. The more people know the history of the land and understand the issue, there greater the chance of meaningful action. That could involve providing medical surveillance and advising the next generation how to protect themselves.