February 16: Northampton to Amherst

A wonderful second day for the Walk For a New Spring Peace Walk with blue skies and sunshine for over 35 participants who gathered at Pulaski Park in Northampton, MA. After Sister Claire spoke with sincerity and wisdom about our focus for the walk, the walkers chanted and drummed down the well populated Main St of Northampton and the high visibility thoroughfare of Rt. 9 towards Hadley, garnering many smiles, honks, waves and folks flashing the peace sign.

Walkers join the Northampton Peace Vigil

Walkers join the Northampton Peace Vigil

The American Friends Service Committee with Jeff  Napolitano and Nuclear Free Future with Hattie Nestle hosted  us for a lovely lunch at the First Congregational Church in Hadley MA, where participants shared about upcoming  and important nuclear free activist events and joined in some connection and laughter amongst themselves.

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The group continued walking after lunch through Hadley on Rt. 9  eventually arriving at the Jones Library in Amherst, MA for a Potluck  and talk by Charmaine  Whiteface of the Great Sioux Territory. The group was warmly hosted by the Amherst Human Rights Commission headed by Co Commissioners Ingrid Askew and Carol Ross.

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A group of more than 80 people gathered at the library and the event was positively charged with spirited discussion,  the camaraderie of old and new friends working for a common good, and the addition of documentary filmmaker  Robbie Leppzer of Turning Tide Productions.

DSC04778The finale of the days events was truly a highly educational, moving and inspirational lecture given by Charmaine Whiteface entitled “America’s Chernobyl.”  Charmaine is a scientist, a professor,  a member of the Defenders of the Black Hills and a Sioux woman who currently resides in the Great Sioux territory.

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Charmaine Whiteface  gave an historical overview of the  tribes comprising the Great Sioux Nation and how their territories have been marginalized,  with the bulk of the discussion landing on the 2,885 open pit uranium mines  that are currently flooding  the rivers, the reservations, the schools and the communities of the Sioux with radiation 4 times that of Fukushima. She spoke of the Riley Pass Mine, which emits 1400 micrograms of radiation/hour.  She spoke about a group of students and a professor coming to test at an open uranium site 300 yards form an elementary school where the micrograms of radiation count reached such high levels the professor ordered her students to leave as it was too dangerous. She spoke of the work her community has done to simply get signs posted that warn people of the toxic dangers of the radiation and how the government has yet to post most areas, and even worse has deemed certain areas  close to these sites “picnic areas”. Ms Whiteface  shared evidence that this region has the highest percentage rates of cancer in the country and how children swim unwittingly in radioactive river water. Ms. Whiteface  had many shocking facts to share and stories to tell about the government’s knowledge of these dangers and unwillingness to do anything about them.

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An innovative and tenacious woman, Charmaine White Face came with a solution. She has made an open request for a bill: The Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act, which in effect,  requires a moratorium on all further mining projects and mandates the clean up of all former sites before that moratorium can be lifted. This process calls upon the EPA (The Environmental Protection Agency) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to inventory the problem areas and create an Action Plan for clean up as  well as implement the Moratorium on new uranium Exploration and Mining Permits.

Charmaine White Face ended her talk with a strong request and plea for people to implore their politicians to  sign onto the Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act.

Post by Ana M. Wolf
Photos by Vanessa

 

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