INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SPEAK OUT
by Joanna Macy
In an unprecedented global "speak out" last September, representatives of indigenous peoples around the world gathered in Salzburg, Austria to report on the suffering and devastation inflicted on them by our nuclear adventures. Seventy-five in all, including Inuit and Cree from Canada, Adivasis from India, Cherokee, Hopi, Shoshone, and Sioux from the U.S., Tibetans, Mongolians, Kazakhs, Marshall Islanders, Namibians, Australian aboriginals, and many others, gathered at the World Uranium Hearing. They testified before an international Board of Listeners, in which I participated for the Nuclear Guardianship Project. I was also asked to describe the guardianship concept.
The stories told by the indigenous delegates constituted an appalling indictment of nuclear colonialism. For it is their homelands, their bodies, and their ancient cultures that are most immediately victimized by nuclear power and nuclear weapons. On their lands, which they hold sacred, 70% of the world's uranium is mined, most of the testing takes place, and radioactive waste is dumped. These crimes are compounded, in virtually every case, by secrecy and deception and intimidation on the part of industry and government. So the speak out was all the more remarkable and stirring, as is generally the case, when the truth is told.
The event was organized by Claus Biegert, a visionary German film maker, who now spearheads efforts to bring the results of the Hearing to a global audience. In the making are a film and a book of the colorful and moving testimony brought before the Hearing, a mapping project, and a Trust Fund to support educational, health and legal aid to the affected indigenous peoples.
At the conclusion of the six day hearing, the Declaration of Salzburg was drafted and read, and the indigenous delegates took it home with them. After it has been discussed and amended in their home communities, it will be ratified in of 1993.
Joanna Macy, PhD, is a scholar of general systems theory, Buddhism and environmental ethics, teaching at the Graduate Theological Union and the California Institute of Integral Studies. Her books include Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, and World as Lover, World as Self. She is a founding member of the Nuclear Guardianship Project.