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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, NGO Statement 8, 1999

NGO Statement 8

Pray that we touch the Earth with kind and gentle hands,
That Freedom will be found in this and other lands,
And that Peace will reign all over the Earth.May the changing of the seasons
Bring friends to your fireside,

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Happiness to you heart,
Peace to your pathway,
And good health throughout your years.
May your camp forever be safe and warm,
Secure away from harm and storm,
And that good things will come your way,
To warm your heart each and every day.
May the warm winds of heaven
Blow softly upon your house.
May the Great Spirit
Bless all who enter there.
May your moccasins
Make happy tracks
In many snows,
And may the rainbow
Always touch your shoulder
- Wolf Spirit

Wolf Spirit's prayer "that we touch the Earth with kind and gentle hands", must also be taken as an admonition to heed the warnings of humanity's combined actions against the Earth; from all corners of our globe, we witness major changes that bode ill for our continued survival. However, the most catastrophic consequences both for the environment as well as human health have been those generated by the Nuclear Age. For many Indigenous communities worldwide, the tale is a grim one, and if we as Indigenous peace advocates had a choice in the matter, we would rather focus our energies on work closer to home, like social and economic development and ensuring access to proper education for our peoples. However, the grim statistics of the Nuclear Age necessitate that we come to regional and international forums like these to continue to "tell the story" of those of us who form the underside of this history.

In spite of having our interests thwarted here time after time, however, we as Indigenous peoples continue to come here to seek redress of the violations of our fundamental human rights and right to self-determination as Peoples. We look to the noble aspirations of the UN Charter and all subsequent efforts to strengthen the resolve of this Institution in our struggles.

Thank you, Mr Chairman and Delegates of this the Third NPT PrepCom, for extending to us representatives of NGOs an opportunity to share our views and offer some of our ideas about ensuring a world without the threats posed by nuclear weapons.

Indigenous peoples have borne the brunt of nuclearism through the nuclear fuel cycle. This begins with uranium mining on their own lands, often doing the mining themselves with little or no protection, to having nuclear tests carried out on their lands, and culminating in their lands being used as radioactive nuclear waste dumps. We recognize that we are not the only ones who have been affected by this process. Nevertheless, with 70 percent of the world's uranium resources located on the lands inhabited by Indigenous Peoples in Africa, Asia, Australia and North and South America, and a vast network of mining extraction of these uranium resources, fraught with racism and irresponsible environmental practices, the net result is a toxic legacy to indigenous communities of genocidal proportions.

For each ton of uranium oxide, several thousand tons of 'tailings' remain behind as low level radioactive waste; just in one single site in Igloo, South Dakota, something of the order of 3.5 million tons of exposed tailings, which remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years, line the banks of a river and a creek near the city. Wind and rain spread the carcinogenic dust to the surrounding water, air and soil, thus contaminating agricultural and animal meat by-products and foods for human consumption.

This legacy of environmental contamination has exposed hundreds of indigenous communities to serious environmental and human health hazards. Why is such a legacy justified, and or allowed to exist, even as the United Nations and States Parties to the NPT proclaim the urgency of "curtailing" the proliferation of nuclear weapons?

As the World Uranium Hearing held in Salzburg, Austria in September 1992 concluded, "The territories of Indigenous peoples, impoverished developing countries, and the global commons are frequently targeted for storage or dumping of waste, thus compounding international injustice"

Injustice is the key word here. Injustice in any part of the world and against any portion of humanity is an affront to humanity everywhere. The injustices of the Nuclear Age must be acknowledged and addressed by the international community. To do violence to the environments upon which Indigenous peoples have lived upon for millennia, is to commit the most appalling injustices against them, for it is by deliberate choice that many of them choose to abstain from industrialization.

Justice considerations also compel us to confront the international political economy of resource extraction and utilization and the attendant violence that is perpetrated against communities standing in the way of such resource acquisition. We see a direct connection between nuclear violations of our lands and colonialism. What we are experiencing is a foreign economic and political regime, imposing itself and depriving peoples of their rights to self-determination.

As Indigenous peoples, our demand for nuclear abolition is also a key component of our struggle to bring an end to the violence of colonial rule. As developments of recent years have shown, the fates of Indigenous and non-indigenous communities are intimately tied together.

It is time that local, national, regional and international bodies own up to the problems created by nuclear weapons and fuel production and begin a healing process that is overdue. States party to the NPT have and should bear the responsibility for ensuring that such a process begin and be supported.

You have before you the task of finding practical ways to stem the tide of proliferation of instruments of mass killing that lie dangerously close to your own doors. But any such effort must also re-visit the roots of nuclearism. We in the Indigenous communities around the world challenge this body to consider the national and global arrangements of power served by weapons of mass destruction.

As you deliberate in this the third year of your preparatory deliberations for the Formal Review in the millennial year, we urge you in the most strongest language possible to speak truth to power, to confront the bases of the threats to our collective security, and to propose radical changes to the manner in which Nations rely on out-dated military strategies that threaten millions of peoples and on the obliteration of our natural environment in order to maintain "security."

Thank you very much for your attention, and for the privilege of speaking to you.

Appendix

We strongly support the recommendations proposed in the Resolution submitted to the European Parliament in October 1997 by the Uranium Tour of Indigenous Peoples. The Resolution called for:

an independent study about uranium imports/exports, analyzing the impact of uranium mining and processing on health and environment, on the rights of Indigenous peoples and on waste production of the mining operations in regard to the respective country of origin;

a ban all imports of uranium from mines where the land rights of Indigenous Peoples are being compromised;

a call to the governments of countries and the private companies involved to respect Indigenous Peoples inherent right to self-determination as well as their right to land, water and resources, including their right to end all ongoing and planned uranium mining activities on their territories or lands, and that the degree of clean-up and/or reclamation be determined and prescribed at the local level and by local people;

a call for initiatives to reform Article 1 of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the creation of a new United Nations International Solar Energy Agency, and in any case to repudiate the May 1959 Agreement between the World Health Organization (WHO) and IAEA;

a call to the international community to halt the construction of new nuclear power plants and to phase out all existing civilian and military plants;

In addition, we also support the following recommendations put forward by Indigenous Peoples at the World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg:

a call upon governments and, within their respective spheres of responsibility and competence, transnational and other corporations, organizations, communities and individuals:

To recognize and respect the inherent right to self-determination of indigenous peoples, including their right to determine and control, without external interference, the nuclear process as it affects their societies and territories;

To provide reparations for peoples, communities, and individuals victimized by the mining of radioactive minerals, the use of nuclear weapons, or the storage or dumping of nuclear waste. To make every conceivable effort to alleviate risks and damage caused by past and existing uses of radioactive materials.

CO-CONVENOR: Richard Salvador
Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANO)
2424 Maile Way, Porteus 640, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
tel 1.808.956.8141; fax 1.808.956.6877
salvador@hawaii.edu