September 26, 2017 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Coconino Center for the Arts

This special lecture presentation will explore the impacts of uranium mining and contamination on the environment and on the health of people and animals. There are over 500 abandoned uranium mines in the Navajo Nation alone – and many more throughout the western United States. What is the consequence of these mines on the land, and on the people downwind or downstream? This lecture, part of the 2017 Flagstaff Festival of Science, will explore these topics.

Our speakers are Tommy Rock and Jani Ingram (pictured). Ingram is Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Northern Arizona University (NAU), and the Principle Investigator of the Training Core at NAU for the Partnership of Native American Cancer Prevention (NACP), and director of Bridging Native American Students to Bachelor’s Degree (BRIDGES) program. Rock is a graduate student at NAU whose study revealed that water in the Sanders, Arizona, area was still contaminated from the Church Rock spill in 1979. He tested Sanders’ municipal water supply and found an average concentration of uranium of 50 parts per billion, exceeding federal limits. Rock’s findings shocked the community of Sanders, who were unaware of the contamination.

This event is part of Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land, the new exhibition that explores the impact of uranium mining on Navajo lands and people. The art exhibition will feature work by more than two dozen artists, including Navajo and Native artists. It will be open to the public August 15 – October 28, 2017.

Through the participating artists, Hope and Trauma shares stories and perspectives from Navajo people of their experiences due to radiation-related impacts to their bodies, their land, their water, their animals, and the natural materials and objects they use in their everyday lives. Art work is based on a series of interactions, shared stories, and educational programs that took place in Cameron, Arizona, and in Flagstaff, in October 2016. Artists attended a four-day intensive education program which immersed them in the landscape where uranium mining and contamination has occurred on the Navajo Nation. They learned from Navajo community members, scientists, health care professionals, mental health professionals, and other experts about the impacts of uranium mining.

This blockbuster exhibition is funded in part through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land, photo by Tom Alexander

From 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands. At the time, Navajo miners and residents were not informed of the health impacts of working in the mines, or of the impact on their lands. Many Navajo people have died of kidney failure and cancer from conditions linked to uranium contamination. Research from the CDC shows uranium in babies born now.

More than one thousand abandoned uranium mines are located on the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Hundreds are located within fifty miles of Flagstaff near and in Cameron, Arizona. The federal government recently agreed to commit over $1 billion to clean up 94 abandoned mines on the Navajo Nation. The estimated cost to clean up all abandoned mines is likely too large to calculate.

Virtual reality headset by artist Klee Benally, photo by Tom Alexander

Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land is a partnership between the Cameron Chapter House of the Navajo Nation, the Flagstaff Arts Council, University of New Mexico Community Environmental Health Program, and Northern Arizona University.

Project partners followed the established model for art exhibitions that began with Fires of Change. That exhibition also featured a week-long training for participating artists that covered forest and fire ecology, giving artists education insight into the increase in size and frequency of wildfires in the American southwest, with a focus on Northern Arizona. This process ensures that participating artists are educated and informed about the complex issue of uranium mining before they created artwork for the exhibition.

Hope and Trauma will feature several educational events to be scheduled during the run of the exhibition. Check back on this site in summer 2017 for a detailed schedule of events.

Read the Arizona Republic’s in-depth story on uranium mining >

Funded in part by a grant from:

Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land is generously supported by:

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