Indian Country 52 #12 – Poison the Indians
“The compound, known as Silvex, was deployed as part of a little-known test effort from 1961 to 1972 to wipe out water-hungry vegetation on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, part of a larger effort by the federal government to protect scarce groundwater in the newly booming city of Phoenix.
The dioxin-laden herbicide was spread over a population of 10,000 for more than a decade. Now, half a century later, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is sending investigators to the reservation this month to find out exactly what was sprayed and what lingering effects it may have on one of the nation’s poorest Native American reservations.
“It’s in our air, our streams, our livestock,” said Charles Vargas, an activist on the reservation, 90 miles northeast of Phoenix. “This is fundamentally a crime, perpetrated on our people by the government, and no one’s ever had to answer for it.”
Tribal leaders declined to be interviewed, though they said the tribe had conducted its own extensive tests and found “no reason for concern.””
– Los Angeles Times, On an Apache reservation in Arizona, a toxic legacy and a mysterious history of chemical spraying.
“There are places near the Gila River where the cottonwoods—otherwise pervasive in Southwest riverbeds—do not grow. Some members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe believe that is just one legacy of the dioxin-containing herbicide silvex, which was sprayed on the reservation in the 1960s and ’70s—at the same time that Agent Orange, a similar compound, was being dumped onto Vietnam’s countryside in an act of war.
The cottonwoods are not the only casualties of silvex. Entire families of San Carlos Apache basket weavers have passed on, victims of cancer. Those cancers, some tribal members believe, were caused by silvex when the basket weavers absorbed the noxious chemicals from the plants they stripped of bark with their teeth. Moreover, doctors and nurses who worked in the emergency room at the San Carlos hospital seem to have died of cancers at an unusually high rate, according to Charles Vargas, director of the Sovereign Apache Nation Chamber of Commerce.
Now, tribal members are seeking answers. With soil and water testing just beginning, the evidence is circumstantial. But those who see health impacts on San Carlos similar to those suffered by people exposed to Agent Orange are determined to prove the connection.”
– Indian Country Today, Poisoned Lands: San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation Steeped in Dioxin.
Download the 18″x24″ poster (.pdf), Indian Country 52 #12 – Poison the Indians (Dioxin).
Indian Country 52
Indian Country 52 is a weekly project by David Bernie that uses the medium of posters that promote issues and stories in Indian Country. Follow the series: Indian Country 52
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