United States. Congress. House. Committee on Veter.

Viewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 online

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2. An Indian Training Program for tribes.

3. Public Law 1 01 -495, the Tribal Environmental General Assistance Act in FY 92.

4. In FY 92 $5.8 million in the form of 88 Multi-Media Grants to 134 tribes.

5. The Office of Water providing neariy $18 million in implementation, technical

assistance and grants to the tribes.

6. 27 scholarships with the American Indian Sciences and Engineering Society.


The Minority Health Initiative as related in the publication National Minority Health
Conference sponsored by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR),

and published by the Princeton Scientific Public Co., Inc., Princeton, NJ 1990, (seen on page 3):

"The Division of Health Studies supports the Minority Health Initiative
working with the Indian Health Service to evaluate methylmercury ex-
posures among Fond du Lac Band members in MN, to studying cancer
mortality among the Puyallup Nation near Commencement Bay Site In WA....
...potential hazards of the Navajo Nation associated with uranium mines
near Bluewater, NM."

And as appears on pages 37-50 (ibid) an Indepth discussion of hazards posed by the abandoned

uranium mines on the Navajo Nation where the reverence of the Indian people for Mother

Earth often clash with the destructive tendencies of the industrial society. During World War II,

the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, Indians were worthing these mines without protective

clothing, protective facilities, or bioremediation of these hazanjous wastes. Following the

Vietnam War some of our retuming heroes were sent to wori< in these mines!

As mentioned in this publication:

The Navajo Nation contains several hundred abandoned uranium mines that


pose a severe threat to human health and the environment. Contaminants
from those sites are migrating off-site though air. surface water, and ground-
water pathways foods grown on and around the sites are contaminated

and those foods present another source of potential human exposure. Be-
cause they have easy access to the sites, humans and animals are at high
risk of on-site exposure to contaminants via ingestion and inhalation. The
sites also contain many physical hazards, such as open shafts, pits, bore-
holes and unsafe structure."

Also, we note that the analyses of ore from uranium mining areas have documented the pre-
sence of heavy metals such as arsenic, barium, copper, chromium, lead, manganese, moloyb-
denium. selenium, uranium and vanadium. Other contaminants are: radon, radium, bismuth,
thorium and polonium. The toxicity of heavy metals and radionuclides in these mines are well
documented! A study by Hans, Eadie and O'Connell (1981) found residents living approx-
imately 20 meters from the mine wastes! The residents also consume sheep that graze on the

contaminated soil while children are known to play on and around the piles of mine

wastel The Vietnam Veterans, when they returned from Southeast Asia, used the mine
waste material to construct home and pave roads. The companies NEVER stopped to (1)
de-ionize the area, (2) notify the workers of the hazards, (3) bury the wate material which
incidently has tha highest levels of gamma radiation. (4) fanca off tha araa, (8) warn tha
residents with signs, (6) study illness to the workers and their families, (7) notify the EPA,
(8) set up health facilities, (9) provide any insurance for the workers, nor (10) pay the
families in dollars or kind for their loved ones who have suffered and died!

From WW II through the 1980s the American Indians and Alaskan Natives were
vulnerable to environmental contaminants. There were several thousand waste dumps on
Indian lands. These were unmonitored, unmanaged, open dumps; and furthermore,
pesticides, chemicals and other waste materials were also put in these dumps!

Approximately 80% of all Indian people in the U.S. have been living in substandard
conditions because of poverty, environmentally related illnesses, inadequate housing and as
Bill F. Pearson, PE of the Minority Health Initiative states on page 29 (ibid). " health statis-
tics for this population were comparable to those in Third Worid countries."



We look forwanj to a great continuation of the Vice President Al Gore's billion dollars
"Superfunds" not to just study, but to STOP hazardous dumping on Reservations and Native
Villages and we look forward to Energy, EPA and LABOR working in harmony to cease the
dumping, spilling and seepage of chlorine, coal, copper, heavy metals, lead, oil, uranium and all
other toxic agents on our Native Lands!

It is necessary that our Veterans work closely with all Native Americans in the control of
anything that is hazardous. We must see that MORE is done to check for Polychlorinated Bi-
phenyls (PCB) on Reservations and Villages. We must be ever alert and work together with
ALL OF NATIVE AMERICAN COUNTRY! The Indian RED ALERT reported the Exxon Cop-
per and Zinc Mine at Mole Lake in Wisconsin was injurious to the Menominee Tribe, but it
was also injurious to the Potawatomi Indian Community in Crandon, Wl v^ich lived even


closer. It would appear that, in ttie future, each Reservation and Village needs an Environmen-
tal Impact Advisory Committee and each must have access to other agencies and leaders.
As Governor Wilfred Pehrson of the Penobscot Tribe stated:

The Land. Air and Water, and the Living Creatures vt^hlch inhabit these
realms, are interwoven with and essential to human life. Man may take
what is needed, even that which will add to his comfort and enjoyment of
life. The taking must be done, however, with a sense of respect and re-
sponsibility. For mankind to use up or poison the natural resources upon
which he depends is not only unlawful, but suicidal."


The Department of Education reports some of the real concems of Indian Education
are: (1) improved college financing, (2) availability of funding and grants, (3) the need to remove
restrictions imposed by the Federal and state govemments, (4) inform the Native Americans of
the grants available, continuing concem for drop-outs, (5) a need to make college economically
feasible, and provide an ombudsman for Native Americans at every college with Native Ameri-
can enrollments. We look fonward, in the future, to the implementation of Dr. Edwin Strong-Legs
TION presented before this Sub-committee on Oversight and Investigations, Committe on
Veteran's Affairs, U. S. House of Representatives, May 8, 1991 to permit all tribal or village
enrolled Native Americans to attend any Land Grant Institution of Higher Education
tuition free.


More of our people are entering the professional ranks of doctors, health care providers,
medical technicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, college professors, teachers, and
administrators. Some are going into politics such as Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell from
MT and Congressman Ben Reifel from SD. Some have reached great heights in sports like:
Jim Thorpe, Johnny Bench (baseball), Orville Moody (golf), Billy Mills (Olympic runner),
Roman Gabriel and Mark Rippen (football). With unemployment on the Reservation and
Villages between 40-98%, we have to continue to look forward to improving opportunities
for employment.


As J. Thomas Burch, Jr. Chairman of the National Vietnam Veterans Coalition states,

"Let us rethink our strategy and pertiaps change our tactics What remains to be done is to

property utilize this support on behalf of our fellow vets in a positive and constructive way." As
he has suggested, there is a greater need for lobbying efforts, and so is there for Native
American Health and Human Services Programs. At the very time that President and Mrs.
Clinton are advocating a Health package for everyone they are reducing the funding for the
Indian Health Service! Indians in the past refer to this as "speaking with a forked tongue".

^^^ 3 9999 05983 210 3

Therefore we are hopeful that adequate funding will be reinstated for Native Americans. The
critical aspect of this is the fact that at one time there was a backlog of 222 surgical cases on
the Rosebud Indian Reservation with only 50% of the staff available.

We are also hopeful that an Indian Desk will be established in all possible Health and
Human Services areas to include in the Office of Alternative Medicine of the National
Institutes of Health.



We hope Vietnam Veterans will recognize that total community Involvement is needed
in increasing mine safety, and, as happened the Four Corners Area Power Plant, insist on re-
ducing some 6,000 pounds of fiying ash per hour which was belching down on Native
Americans! We trust that more will be done for Veterans, uranium miners, and others who
are dying of Agent Orange, cancer, silicosis, leukemia and other diseases, for little has been
done to aid or compensate them or their families. For example, Paiute Indians from southern
Nevada where involved in atmospheric testing of atomic bombs in the desert. There were
some 235 tests!

We will continue to work closely with Congressional Leaders like Pete Domenici,
Daniel Inouye, John McCain, Bill Richardson and others concerned with the Uranium Miners
Compensation Act and other in the Departments of Heath Human Services, Labor, Justice,
and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. We trust that in the future the
Tribes and Villages will check every avenue and every agency that may be of help to them. For
example, it was necessary to get in touch with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TV A) to clean
up an inactive uranium mill in Edgemont, SD.


In addition to many professional associations and an increasing number of foundations.
Native Americans now have some hope for a Native American National Museum under the
Direction of Richard West. Every effort is being made to erect a museum and not a mausoleum.
We applaud the recent trend of retuming human remains to their Native Ancestral Lands.


One of the many problems on the Reser/ations and Villages remain that of inadequate
interstmcture. Reservation roads are simply car and wagon tracks across the countryside.
These are often impassable and become a real problem in a medical emergency. In some of the
remote Villages, especially in Alaska, the only mode of transportation to a hospital is by air.
Bush pilots are not always available and during inclement weather a person may die be-fore
being airiifted "outside".


The Indian Health Sen/ice Hospital and the Veterans Administration Hospitals are often
the only recourse left to Native Americans who are unable to afford medical insurance. When
VA Centers are located in areas of the country where there are Native Americans, and where the


staff is Native American, services have bben tailored to meet the needs of the Native popula-
tion. Such has been the case at the VA Centers in Sturgis, SD, Minneapolis. MN. and Albuquer-
que, NM where they have established Sw/eat Lodges, Indian Alcoholic Counselors, and Pow
Wows for the Vietnam Native American Veterans. The problem with the Indian Health Service
Hospitals has been one of both funding and staffing. Some of the hospitals have been on the
edge of closure t>ecause of a lack of trained physicans and nurses.


R9-fi91 n - 94 (196)

ISBN 0-16-046124-3




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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on VeterViewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 → online text (page 23 of 23)