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Environmental Problems of Native Peoples
10 years ago
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Elsie Cly Begay, a Navajo woman from Monument Valley, Utah, asked congressional leaders and the Environmental Protection Agency during a screening last month on Capitol Hill when they are going to clean up uranium beside her home.

Begay was one of several members of the Cly family featured in the documentary, The Return of Navajo Boy, a story about the return of a 1950s film reel to the Navajo family that was featured in the '50s film. The documentary also explores adoption issues, as the Cly family searches for and finds the youngest member of the family, and problems with a former nearby uranium mine. Produced by Jeff Spitz with the help of Bennie Klain (Navajo), The Return of Navajo Boy was funded by NAPT and aired on PBS in 2000. A 15-minute epilogue was created this year to update audiences on Begay's plight with uranium.

"I want people to know how uranium has affected us," Begay said during the Sept. 24 screening hosted by Reps. Tom Udall (D-NM), Rick Renzi (R-AZ), Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Navajo Nation's Washington Office. "That's why I travel with this documentary film."

The EPA has come up with a five-year plan to clean up Cold War uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation, but Begay's property wasn't initially included in the plan.

Andy Schneider, chief health counsel for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in an email
that the EPA will assess Begay's property in November "and, if they find that it is hazardous, they will develop a plan for remediation."

After the film was shown to the EPA, the EPA in 2001 paid for the demolition of her former home, a hogan, which was made with uranium-contaminated mud.

10 years ago

"...if they find it hazerdous"?!?  What do they MEAN?!?  Almost the entire Rez is hazerdous now!  It's in the water, the soil. the plants that come up from the ground...EVERYTHING is affected!  My husband's father died from the effects of radiation!  We were afraid to drink Rez water, and be sure to wash the dirt off, cuz that stuff seeps into your skin...I could go on and on!  WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?!?


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