Native American, Black, Latino protesters tackle toxic waste, chemical weapons production and Nevada nuclear test site

Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans from communities contaminated by toxic waste dumps and chemical weapons production traveled to Las Vegas Oct. 12-14 for protests at the Nevada Test Site in the heart of Native American homelands.

“It’s in our backyard … it’s in our front yard. This nuclear contamination is shortening all life. We are going to have to unite as a people and say no more! We, the people, are going to have to put our thoughts together to save our planet here. We only have one water, one air, one Mother Earth,” said Corbin Harney, a spiritual leader of the Newe (Western Shoshone) who is founder and chairman of the board of the Shundahai Network.


As the war on terrorism continues and military action against Iraq looms on the horizon, the U.S. government has moved to resume full-scale nuclear weapons testing and open the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in the Nevada homelands of the Western Shonsone, activists said.

These actions are of grave concern for hundreds of thousands of people of color and the poor, whose communities are already disproportionately overburdened with the nation’s most hazardous government and industrial, nuclear and chemical weapons facilities, they add. 

The Bush administration is placing these communities on the frontlines of war and as “sacrifice zones” for devastating health effects from toxic radioactive and chemical weapons exposure, said the activists.  

“We want to raise the issue that Black, Latino and Native Americans continue to disproportionately bear the burden of their communities being located near nuclear plants and waste disposal systems. Our communities are devastated by life threatening diseases linked to toxic waste,” Kim Freeman, an organizer of the protest, told The Final Call.

The national, multiracial delegation of grassroots environmental justice activists is composed of members of the BASE (Building Action for Sustainable Environments) and the Initiative of the Peace Development Fund, a peace and social justice foundation based in Amherst, Mass.

The project facilitates the development and advancement of sustainable environment strategies emerging from local communities most affected by the proliferation, production, transportation and disposal of nuclear and chemical energy and weapons.

The Shundahai Network, coordinating organization of the Action for Nuclear Abolition, is a Las Vegas-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the “nuclear chain.” The chain includes U.S. government and industrial uranium mines, weapons production and testing, military and civilian waste, and routine radioactive releases from nuclear power plants located near non-White communities, said activists.

The goal is to build alliances with indigenous and environmental peace and human rights movements. The Shundahai Network is a member organization of the BASE Initiative.