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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/13/17

A'ho, Cherokee Nation and Way to Go! You stopped ongoing radioactive pollution in the Sooner State!

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Chalk up a big environmental win for the Cherokee Nation. On Friday, Feb. 10, the largest tribe of the Five Tribes and the largest Native nation in the country, legally acting in conjunction with the State of Oklahoma, was granted a restraining order against Sequoyah Fuels Corporation near Gore, Okla., to stop this corporation from dumping radioactive waste near the Arkansas and Illinois Rivers.

In the early days of Trump, this is indeed a big win. He has been aggressive, dangerous, and reckless in signing executive order after executive order, and he's stated that he's not concerned about environmental regulations. Industry, even big, dirty industry that emits poisonous byproducts, are Trump's golden chips. He could care less about pollution. Trump and his kakistocracy seem to want to make mass pollution 'the new normal'. Maybe strength in numbers helped, too, as far as the Cherokee Nation is concerned. Where smaller tribes and bands of American Indians seem to be getting stalemated by Uncle Sam - even by having established treaties ignored and trampled on by the ruling elites - the largest grouping of American Indians country-wide stopped a noxious werewolf right in its path and sent it running back into the woods.

"The Cherokee Nation is a staunch defender and protector of our natural resources," said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, as quoted in Earth First and Native News Online. "We will not stand idly by and allow the Arkansas River, one of our most precious resources, and the Cherokee community of Gore to be polluted. The Cherokee Nation will fight for the rights of our people to live safely in their communities, and for the rights of our future generations to inherit an environment free of hazardous pollution."

"Sequoyah Fuels Corporation was opened by Kerr-McGee in 1970 to convert yellowcake uranium into uranium hexafluoride, a compound that produces fuel for nuclear reactors. The company switched hands several times over the years before closing in 1993 after several releases of hazardous chemicals. In January 1986, one worker was killed and dozens more were injured after a cylinder of uranium hexafluoride ruptured. It has since been in the decommissioning process, under the authority of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission," a Feb. 10 posting of Earth Firstreads.

"During the decommissioning process, Sequoyah Fuels collected approximately 11,000 tons of uranium-contaminated sludge in several basins, lagoons and ditches at the site. In November of 2004, the state of Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation and Sequoyah Fuels entered into a settlement agreement wherein Sequoyah Fuels agreed to spend up to $3.5 million to responsibly dispose of the waste off-site," the article continues.

According to official statements issued by the Cherokee Nation, the Sequoyah Fuels facility, which converted yellowcake uranium into fuel for nuclear reactors, left tons of uranium-contaminated sludge in many basins, lagoons and ditches at the site when it closed its operations here in 1993. The order will temporarily keep the company from disposing of the waste at the site and court records indicate that tribal and state officials want their own experts to review options for off-site disposal.

It's rather commonplace to see this seal displayed on the bumper stickers of cars in the Sooner State. The largest tribal grouping of American Indians live in Okloahoma, with nearly 190,000 enrolled members there and almost 300,000 members the world over.
It's rather commonplace to see this seal displayed on the bumper stickers of cars in the Sooner State. The largest tribal grouping of American Indians live in Okloahoma, with nearly 190,000 enrolled members there and almost 300,000 members the world over.
(Image by Cafe Press)
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Well, as far as this writer sees things, all I can say is: Bravo, Cherokee Nation! Kudos to the State of Oklahoma, too! Although the site in question is already horribly polluted with radioactive waste, at least the rogue company responsible for this hellish mess has agreed to foot the bill for the cleanup of the site. Things won't be able to get worst, either, with further dumping of radioactive waste prohibited.

It's good to know that there are valiant vanguards out there, still, in America, to fight the ridiculous manifest destiny of environmental disaster that the Trump Administration seems to have set free on America. And although Trump cannot be implicated in any way with this toxic nightmare, this despotic lunatic doesn't care about pollution or its effects on the country, our people, our watersheds, lands, flora and fauna. Lord knows what the outcome would have been if it was up to him to decide on this issue. How would the two major river systems be effected if more dumping was allowed to continue?

All this dim-witted bully seems to be concerned about is making money. And if it was about making money for the parochial and provincial people in America's never-never lands - or, to put it bluntly, the very folks who voted Trump into office because they bought into his lies about the creation of 25 million high-paying jobs during his Presidency - this is still a dirty deal. When someone's livelihood is placed on a higher order than the well-being and the lives of others, it is time for the worker whose work poses a dangerous threat to others to find another line of work.

In the words of Native American Activist Wnona LaDuke, "Mother Earth needs us to keep our covenant. We will do this in courts, we will do this on our radio station, and we will commit to our descendants to work hard to protect this land and water for them. Whether you have feet, wings, fins, or roots, we are all in it together." And to use another voice from Native American Traditionalism and its antiquity: "When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money." So in the meantime, until we have another healthy, pristine, wonderful planet where life can thrive to just skip off to at a moment's notice, let's try to keep this blue, green, and brown ball flying around in the Milky Way Galaxy as clean as we can. And Trump's ridiculous assumption that climate change was some myth started by the Chinese, well, that's just ridiculosity at its worst. Isn't that Trump's default blame button? If all else fails, I'll just blame the Chinese.

In all actuality, the only people who make money from industries like radioactive harvesting, Big Oil & Gas exploration, and a host of other noxious industries ranging from uranium mining to fracking to harvesting rare metals like gold, silver and copper, are a handful of top leaders in these industries. Owners of such heavily-polluting corporations, along with their cronies, have the biggest stake in the lion's share of profits. Why do you think Trump wants to be a good pal with Vladimir Putin? It's all about that Russian oil, baby, and that new Secretary of State we have who is also a Big Oil & Gas fat cat who will put his Exxon label, most likely, or some derivative of this brand, on all that untapped oil lying underground in the former USSR - well, Rex Tillerson wasn't chosen by Trump to be Secretary of State out of happenstance. No, Tillerson joined ExxonMobil in 1975 and served as the chairman and chief executive officer of the company from 2006 to 2016 and he got appointed under Trump so as to work with the Russian government on harvesting energy. Tillerson knows Putin well, along with other major players in the Russian oil and gas structure. There is a vast supply of oil in Russia, too, and with Tillerson, Trump, and Putin in cahoots together, that old song "Oil Always Love You" will be blaring far and wide throughout the Siberian forests and other outlying Soviet outbacks where a good portion of that black gold lies.

Trump's voting base thinks his promise of better jobs through a rebirth of heavy industry, which he's also said that he will see come to fruition under his rule, will increase their quality of life and add a big boost to their lifestyles. Sadly, this is also a lie. In comparison to the windfall profits enjoyed by the leaders of these industries, even the "high-paying jobs" being boasted by Trump and the fat cats in these noxious, dangerous, heavy pollution industries, well - the empty promises equate to mere peanuts for rank and file workers - as compared to the top dogs who manage and run things, especially in the energy sector. The work of extraction of fossil fuels and minerals is very dangerous. Workers must live in harrowing, lonely places for extended periods, far away from their spouses and their families. The high cost of living, the proclivity of workers to become lonely and depressed and turn to mind-altering chemicals to cope with such a dauntingly spartan life, along with the low quality of life experienced by those stuck in very remote villages located near oil rigs, fracking wells, radioactive mines, and mineral-extraction outposts, is enough to at least make many consider taking up another line of work. And a large majority take up other work after a time, as well, even for much lower wages. Because money can't buy happiness. Even sadder, nixed or renegotiated trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP have led to some economic reports by those who track the world's job markets that warn that most jobs created for Americans under the insane Trumpian promises will go to robots, not people. Have you ever witnessed a robot walk into a bank to cash a paycheck?

Still, the Native American community must savor this win with much relish. Just like those old movies where the cowboys always won and the Indians always lost, in the economics of the U.S.A.'s history, Native Americans and their bands, tribes, and nations have also come out as big losers. Uncle Sam has reneged on each and every one of about 500 treaties signed with a plethora of Indian tribes throughout history. And the land you're standing on right now? If you're standing on land in the 50 states known as the United States of America? Well it's Indian land. It always has been and always will be - as far as any Native American is concerned. This land was stolen by Europeans from Native Americans. Continuing this bipolar Eurocentric disease, Donald Trump set the wheelhouse back in motion for the further construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline just a few weeks ago, much to the chagrin of Native Americans everywhere in the country. After President Obama put an end to the further construction of these two venomous, crude-pumping snakes, "The Donald" gave his okay to both pipelines on Tuesday, Jan. 24, by scribbling his name on two executive orders. Influential Native American attorneys have set the legal wheelhouse in motion to sue Trump and the U.S. government over continuation of these pipelines.

Before signing these executive orders, I wonder if Trump knew that the crude carried from in or very near Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, will be some of the dirtiest crude oil in the world. I wonder if Trump knew that all pipelines leak and they cause environmental problems for the Indian reservations, cities, villages, along with lonely homes with not a neighbor within miles, and farms the pipeline will pass through, or near, along their pathways. And I also wonder if Trump knew one of the biggest things the Standing Rock Sioux are concerned about is that this pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, is being planned to run underneath the Missouri River, a major source of the tribe's water supply, and also, the river is a water source for innumerable municipalities along its course. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe also relies on hunting buffalo to feed their families. The Missouri River is used to transport dead buffalo kills downstream since the carcasses of the heavy beasts are so heavy and hard to haul. Who wants to eat meat tainted with crude oil? What could possibly go wrong? Why in the world would the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe not vehemently oppose the further construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline?

Tribal leaders have also cautioned their people about the dangers of protesting, since who knows what kind of retaliatory measures peaceful water protectors will face under the Trump regime. Even though water cannons, trained attack dogs, rubber bullets, and exploding tear gas canisters are far from being safe and can leave lasting scars, live ammo from M-16s, tanks, and rocket launchers are much more dangerous. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is also interested in getting Trump and the federal government at the place where injury hurts the most - their pocket books and revenue lines. Civil suits are very good ways to negotiate things, after all. According to accounts, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault, II, writes that it is "vitally important for his tribe to have our rights be heard by this Court before Dakota Access drills under Lake Oahe."

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Samuel Vargo worked as a full-time reporter and editor for more than 20 years at a number of daily newspapers and business journals. He was also an adjunct English professor at colleges and universities in Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi (more...)

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