reprinted with permission from
Poison Fire, Sacred Earth,


page 155

Austin Sam

Austin Sam, Diné (Navajo) Nation, Arizona, USA. Member of Navajos for Clean Water.

My name is Austin Sam, from Arizona. My nation, the Navajo Nation, is the largest Indian nation in the United States. And I'm one of those people that I will put information about myself and how I worked in nuclear weapons as a chosen person by the military.

           I'll go back to the younger days in my life, on the Navajo Reservation in the 1940's. The time and the place is traditional, where there were no cars or no other means of transportation, therefore, we had horse and buggies. I was born in a hogan. My traditional parents, they don't understand English. The only way that we can communicate was Navajo. As I went to school I was chosen to go to a college, onto military service where I was able to learn nuclear weapons, service to air missiles. As I was chosen further on into nuclear weapons to be in maintenance, to disable and engage.

           I look back into my life as a young person by an older, a military person. It was good that I came from a traditional hogan, a one-room house, to a place where there is new technology. I didn't understand when I was 15 years old. A few were chosen to do that job of specialized work, I was part of that. But later, in my military years, I decided that it shouldn't be, that this is a weapon that one has seen was a destruction force for the Japanese. And I stood at that peculiar spot where they tested the first bomb in 1945, at the testing site. That was my introduction to where the place was hard destructed, the bomb was so -- I don't have no idea that I was going to be in that type of weapon field, that kind of specialized field.

           The reason why I'm here is to have you, the world, feel how it is to be standing at the site of the first bomb that was dropped, in the World War I was there to use it, with the people of the United States. That was in the past. I'm older now and I realize the destruction, and I have been working against it since the mining has been taking place in the forties, fifties, sixties in the area of San Juan Basin, the uranium mining areas of the Southwest. I have been in that particular area when I came back from the military service, where there was a tailing spill, an accidental breakage in the dam which contaminated several villages in the Arizona and New Mexico area.

           We are still fighting to get better water systems into our area where we cannot use the water anymore, and we cannot use or sell our livestock along that river. It just happened that I am one of those people that has been in the same area as some of our brothers that were here a few minutes ago. This is the San Juan Basin Area right here, and this is the Navajo reservation and the spill. The tailing spill ran through here, at Church Rock. I have the video tape with me in case you want to get more information on that particular area. I have the video for your convenience, any time in the video shop.

           And I thank you for being here and having you listen to the people that have been damaged by the mining of the areas of Arizona, New Mexico and other places in the world. And with my people, the Diné people, I like to give you a welcome, to come out any time if you are in the United States to see our beautiful land with a lot of colours in there.

           Thank you.

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