Black Hills:The Current Situation

An explanation of the situation by Harold One Feather: There are numerous abandoned uranium mines throughout the southern Black Hills National Forest as well as in Custer National Forest. Also there have many studies conducted on these abandoned uranium mines, but none consider stream flow and groundwater regimes in their analysis. We feel that these studies don't consider down-gradient health impacts due to jurisdictional issues which we feel violates their [the Government's] trust responsibility to Native American tribes in the down-gradient impacted areas.

Riley Pass Site: This mining area has the highest grade uranium ore in this country and even becomes more concentrated once burned on site using diesel fuel, then it becomes 80% to 90% uranium oxide per pound; in its natural state, content is on the order of 3% to 10% per pound. This issue has been studied many times by the U.S, Forest Service and one of their studies is on their website under the Riley Pass Abandoned Uranium Mine in the Custer National Forest. Although these mines are highly toxic, the U.S. Forest Service has been deferring to the 1872 mining law and concedes that the mining companies are not obligated to remediate their strip mine.Therefore, the U.S. Forest Service requested the U.S. EPA to place the Riley Pass Abandoned Uranium Mine under Superfund for remediation. The U.S. EPA then gave $22 million to the U.S. Forest Service to remediate the abandoned uranium mine nearly two years ago and they have yet to conduct any remediation. See video of the abandoned mine.

Standing Rock Site: Current water samples by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) indicate that during this drought period that radionuclide levels in the Grand River have averaged 5 picocuries/liter to 7 picocuries/liter. We assume that the radionuclides precipitate in water and become mobile during rainstorms and snowmelt, we feel that the SRST water samples are insufficient to conclude that the Grand River is "safe." We also assume that during extreme rainfalls and snowfalls that the levels increase exponentially. The SRST water samples also are nearly identical to the water samples taken by the State of South Dakota last year and, like the SRST, the State has not considered high precipitation events as a factor in their reasoning that the Grand River is "safe."

With respect to the steadily emerging health problems in Rock Creek, my mother died at 41 of cancer, my father died at 33 of heart disease, my aunt died of cancer, and there are many other people in the community that have died of cancer. There are also many miscarriages by young women occurring right now. On the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, there is a very marked increase in diabetes rates and cancer. The Indian Health Service just hasn't been given the proper motivation to determine the cause since it is easier to blame alcoholism; this defeatist attitude stops with me. The Indian Health Service has been blaming alcoholism for too long; I know that this is not the case with several of the other unfortunate cancer deaths that were not caused by alcoholism.

Defenders of the Black Hills: A group of volunteers, without racial or tribal boundaries, have formed the Defenders of the Black Hills, whose mission is to ensure that all of the provisions of the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868 are upheld by the Federal government of the United States.

In doing so, these volunteers are also upholding the Constitution of the United States which, in Article Six, states that "treaties are the Supreme Law of the land."

Until the Treaties are upheld, the actions of the Defenders are to restore and protect the environment of the Black Hills and the surrounding Treaty Area to the best of their ability.

Defenders of the Black Hills: An excellent resource of history and current campaigns in the area.

Message from Founder and Coordinator for
Defenders of the Black Hills

The Silkwood Project:
A comprehensive resource of uranium issues in Black Hills and elsewhere.

Press Release: June 20, 2007
Judge Denies Stay--Drilling to Continue

Return to Home