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Lakota activist challenges NRC's approach to cultural and historic properties; vows to fight Powertech

Posted July 11, 2011


From the official transcript of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's June 8, 2011 informal information gathering meeting pertaining to the Dewey-Burdock and Crow Butte in-situ leach uranium projects, Pine Ridge, South Dakota:


MS. WHITE PLUME: Good morning. I want to greet our elders, Chief Red Cloud, our elected officials, tribal employees, and our visitors here from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Cameco Corporation, Powertech Corporation.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Debra White Plume. This is our home here with the Oglala band of the Lakota Nation. Our way is to be good to our visitors. Some of you have seen I'm the lead plaintiff against Cameco Corporation in Nebraska, Crow Butte, ISL uranium mines. I'm a plaintiff against North Trend Uranium Mine. I'll be a plaintiff against Three Crow. We'll do everything we can to get standing to fight this.

We'll fight Powertech, so I don't come here friendly. I don't come here hostile. I just come to speak the truth, the way I understand it. All of you all is doing your jobs working for mining corporations, working for the United States Government. I'm here doing my job as a Lakota woman, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. This is my job.

I want the record to show this is not a consultation. You're not consulting with our band. You're here with program staff. Following your procedures and your process, the United States Government is trying to put a round peg in a square hole.

We have two different ways of looking at everything. You say cultural properties, historical properties. We know about that, how you fit a little place, this right here, there's a grave here. This right here, there's a teepee ring. This right here, and then you're going to say well, we won't mine there, we'll mine all around that, but we won't mine right there. We won't disturb that right there, but we'll disturb everything else. That's what your process is. We know about that.

The different ways that we look at things, all of that is our cultural property, all of this is our historical property. First off in a spiritual manner, our relationship to Mother Earth, Grandmother Earth, including the water under the ground, the water above the ground, the water coming from the sky. We have a spiritual relationship, and a spiritual obligation because of that relationship.

You heard Chief Red Cloud; that's treaty land over there, that's treaty land over there, this is treaty land. So, we have two different ways of looking at this. You believe it's your territory, we believe it's ours. It is ours through treaty law, just because your government violates it doesn't make it right.

So, you think you have the right to mine there if we gather here and satisfy your little requirements. That's what you're going to do, you're going to take it back and say we consulted with the Oglalas, but this ain't a consultation.

You want us to prove these little places here and there, and then you'll say well, we won't  disturb it, and you'll mine all around it. Well, I'm here to say all of that shouldn't be disturbed, all of that land, all of the groundwater, all of the surface water, the air shouldn't be disturbed. That's how we see things differently.

The miners, the government who are supposed to regulate the miners, you don't see the way we see. It's all one. There's no separation between the environment and human beings. There's no separation from this little piece of land, and the whole rest of the so-called mining permit areas. To us, it's all one.

That used to be a Humblecha site, Crow Butte. Crazy Horse sat up there and he prayed with his Chenupa every day until he was killed there at Fort Robinson. We can't Humblecha there no more. That's one of our sacred ancient rituals, because there's a uranium mine there now. So, it already is impacting our human right to be who we are.

Medicine grows there. Me and some elders went over there, but there's a fence, and it says, "Radioactive." That's where our medicine grows, on the other side of that fence. So, we have to sneak in there and pick medicine for our stomachs, and our hearts.

The government by allowing these miners to come in is already denying us our human right to be who we are, and our future generations the right to clean water. You can't separate cultural properties, historical properties from the coming generations, and from us here today.

I know the government doesn't see the way we see. This isn't the first time we sat with government officials and miners, and it probably won't be the last. That land over there where Crow Butte is, where they want to put North Trend, where they want to put Three Crow, where they want to put Marslin. Our surface water connects, our groundwater connects. That isn't enough for the government and the corporations to shut down. So, isolating these little pieces of land where there's a grave, or a teepee ring, that doesn't fit in our world. The way you see things doesn't fit in our world, but yet you try to make us fit into your world. So, there's a problem there.

That's why we're challenging Cameco foreign-owned corporation with a little American subsidiary, LLC set up in America. Same with Powertech, Canadian, Belgian, French, all the way back to the Suez, huge corporation, French Suez.

So, I have to tell you this today. We don't want you to mine there. We don't want the government to approve a mine there. Just because you say okay, there's a teepee ring, there's a grave, there's a card, we acknowledge that, we acknowledge your ancient history, and we won't disturb that one place, but we're going to disturb everything else. That's not okay with us.

I'm trying to help you to understand our paradigm. I understand yours, but I want you to understand ours. It's important to us, and it's important to the future generations, as well, who we represent.

In 20, 30 years all of you all is going to be gone, the uranium will be gone, and you'll all be gone. We're going to still be here, those of us who are surviving the cancer, the diabetes, the renal failure caused by your mines, by your rules, and laws, and regulations. So, our perspective is different.

That whole land is our cultural property, our historical property, all that water, the air, not just what little pieces your archeologists found. This isn't an information-gathering session either. All that's represented here is Indian Reorganization Act Government. You were fortunate our Chief came to speak to you, but we have many spiritual leaders who should be here. The tribes should have made them be here, tell them we'll give you gas money and a meal, come, defend our land. But the tribe isn't going to do that. They could have called on their own experts, our spiritual leaders, our medicine men, our historians, our treaty people.

We have Lakota scientists. They're not here. This isn't a fair information-gathering, because the government is only corresponding with Indian Reorganization Act Government. I have nothing against the IRA people in here, friends, relatives, but it's the system, it's the process. So, this isn't even a fair information-gathering session.

I want the record to show that I said that. This is just the Oglala band. We have Sicangu, Hunkpapas, a lot of other tribal nations could all have their people here, their experts to give testimony on this, but the way your process and your system is set up is to your advantage, not ours. So, this isn't a fair information-gathering session as part of your overall consultation process, which means you sit down with our government. Your government sits down with our government. That hasn't happened, and it's not going to happen. Consultation process cannot happen because it's not going to be fair.

There's something in international law called free and prior informed consent. You're not giving that by only communicating with the tribal government, because that's just one part of our society. We exist side-by-side, traditional way with tribal government way. Sometimes we're on the same side, sometimes we bump heads, but at the end of the day we're all friends and relatives again. So, this whole process isn't fair, does not give us our free and prior informed consent. And that's an international standard of recognition for people impacted by government decisions, government actions, which includes mining.

The government nor the mining corporations had the free and prior informed consent of the Oglala band, the Lakota Nation. You do not have that. I don't know how you'll get it using the processes that you employ. But I want the record to show that I'm here defending my right to free prior informed consent under international law.

So, we live in two different paradigms, we have two different perspectives. All you all is on the payroll, you're getting paid to come here, sit here and listen to us, type up your reports, file them when you go home. So, this information-gathering session is inadequate, and it's to your advantage, and that's wrong.

Up in the Black Hills where Powertech and Synatom, and Suez Corporations want to mine uranium, that's a real special place to us up there. Any mining up there is wrong, just as it is in Nebraska. That's where our ancestors wanted to settle. That was our choice after the Black Hills. We couldn't do Powder River, couldn't do Black Hills, so we wanted there, but they were moving us, forced march under arms, they were moving our ancestors, the Oglalas, Sicangus. They were marching us, going to settle us way over there but a blizzard hit. Sicangus got ahead of us. A blizzard hit, we're in this area, so we stayed here. That's how we come to be here. But we were being marched under gunfire from there, so now we're here.

The Black Hills area is already contaminated by past uranium miners, past government officials who sat in your places years ago, left their waste behind. ISL mining stores, toxic soup deep underground like you are at Crawford, like you want to do some more, like you want to do some up there. But that all, too, is our cultural/historical property, all of it. And it's not just ours, it's our generations to come, it's the birds, the four-legged, those that crawl and swim. So we have to oppose that mining in the Black Hills, as well, for all of that benefit.

So, this is not an adequate information gathering session for either Cameco or Powertech's proposed mining permit areas. We used to gather eagle feathers over there, fish. We can't do that no more. Our rights have been erased by that uranium mine. That's how it's going to be in the Black Hills, it's going to be worse in Nebraska than it is now. Our rights are going to get killed more, more rights are going to get killed. The more advantageous it is to the miners and the government, the less advantageous it is to us. So, right away we have a confrontation because of the way we see things, and because of the way we're impacted.

So, I want the record to show that this challenge, you're challenging us. You come here to our land and challenge us, and you're on the payroll to do it, so you're doing your jobs. But there are people who oppose the desecration of that land, the  desecration of that land and water. Money isn't important to us when it comes to making those kind of decisions. We don't want no money for mining.

Setting up your mines and mining is a desecration of our cultural property, of our historical property. We wanted our lawyers to be here. NRC has their lawyers here. That's not allowed in your process. That's also unfair and disadvantageous to anyone who doesn't support mining. I want the record to show that. And I guess I'll see Cameco June 22nd at your hearing in Crawford. 

Official Transcript of Proceedings - NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION - Informal Information-Gathering Meeting Pertaining to Dewey-Burdock, Crow Butte North Trend, & Crow Butte License Renewal, In-Situ Uranium Recovery Projects - Pine Ridge, South Dakota  - June 8, 2011 (PDF 437 KB, 196 pages)