Uranium Mining

[Header Image] Artist Unknown. “A water well that someone has warn neighbors they should not draw from. Navajo Nation. Arizona.” June 2016. (photo © Jetsonorama)

The Navajo Nation

"Where is The Navajo Nation?" Navajo Business, Image Link.
“Where is The Navajo Nation?” Navajo Business, Image Link.

According to the United States 2010 Census, the Navajo Nation “includes 27,425 square miles of land that extends into New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and borders Colorado, which makes Navajo the largest geographic land base American Indian reservation in the United States.”[1] The Navajo Nation is the “second largest tribe in population, following the Cherokee Nation,” with over 300,000 tribal members.[2]


Uranium Contamination in the Navajo Nation

As a result of uranium mining that took place on the Navajo Nation reservation in the 1940s for nuclear research during the Cold War era, the land is left with many scars. Among the biggest of the impacts from uranium mining, is the effects on access to drinking water.[3] The effects of uranium mining in the Nuclear Arms Race, leave many Navajo people today with minimal access to safe drinking water, affecting the overall health and wellbeing of the entire community. 1500 wells are poisoned with uranium and deemed unusable for humans.[4] Today, while the average water intake of someone in the United States is around 100 gallons per day, for a person in the Navajo Nation it is only 7 gallons per day.[5] Additionally, at least 40% of the Navajo Nation residents live without running water at all.[6] Many activists both within and outside of the Navajo Nation are fighting for the water access rights for the Navajo people.

[Above] “Living Without Water: Contamination Nation” (2015). Courtesy of VICE News, Video Link.

This documentary interviews several residents of Haystack, New Mexico in 2015 about the uranium water contamination that is a result of a history of mining on the Navajo Nation. The documentary interviews many water activists fighting from both outside and inside the Navajo Nation for the right to safe drinking water for the Navajo people. The documentary also contains interviews from a former uranium miner without running water, a leader of the non-profit Dig Deep, and many others involved in the water crisis. The documentary shows the efforts that need to take place in order to clean up the mining spills and uranium contamination in the Navajo Nation, and shows several perspectives of people affected and their feelings towards what is currently happening. This source is helpful for my project in gaining current perspectives of the grassroots water activists and a better understanding of environmental justice and how this case is and is not getting attention.



[1] “Navajo Population Profile 2010 U.S. Census.” Window Rock, Arizona, Navajo Nation, 2013.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Brett Schlesinger and Neha Shastry. “Living Without Water: Contamination Nation.” VICE News. November 24, 2015, accessed November 30, 2016. VICE Documentary.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.