Toxic dumps on Indian lands and in communities of color and poor urban and rural counties nationwide is an environmental justice and poverty issue.
Marian Naranjo from Santa Clara Pueblo in Northern New Mexico founded H.O.P.E. - Honor Our Pueblo Existence - to work to clean up the toxic wastes from nuclear work at Los Alamos that has poisoned the homeland of her people.
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MARIAN NARANJO: Good afternoon. My name is Marian Naranjo, and I'm a member of the pueblo of Santa Clara, which is one of the core tribes, meaning that it's one of the tribes that's mostly affected by the waste at Los Alamos. I decided at the last minute to change what I came here to say. I have been a potter for 24 years, and this is a tradition of my people since prehistoric time. My connection to understanding what happened at Los Alamos was explained to me by my mentor in pottery who is not living anymore but her spirit lives on. When I approached her in asking her the questions on the designs of pottery from prehistoric times of our people, the designs are the feathers, the serpent and the bear paw. And these designs were done on individual pots and 16 they were powerful, powerful designs. Symbols as the scientists use symbols. Now our ancestral people were, to me they were the top notch scientists. They lived natural law. They left these things for us to learn from. Their dwellings. You know, they didn't have microscopes in that time, but yet the dwellings they built were circles and squares.
You look under a microscope and you see cell structures of life. There's an animal, it's found. If it's plants, it's got corners, squares.
They lived this natural life. Our dances, our songs are in praise to life. The story that she told me that I want to share with you is because of the place of our ancestral home, the Puji Cliffs, which is in the Jemez Mountains, our sacred mountains, there are writings on the wall there of a dragon with the fire coming from the mouth and that symbol is still utilized. It's a Santa Clara symbol. I asked of the meaning of this. I was told that during the time of our people's migration of all of these sacred places, that there were reasons of moving on and there were reasons why these places were covered. We were told that you are not to uncover these places, especially this place of Puji, because you will be opening the mouth of the fire dragon. Well, at that time nobody knew what that meant, but you never questioned what the elders told you . During the time in the late 1800's when Dr. Edgar Hewlitt and Adolph Bandelier approached the tribe to ask them permission to uncover our sacred mountain, it was at a time of change and it was time to move on to a new circle, and our elders, our spiritual leaders knew that. And it was a very hard decision for them to make, in that half of the people said we can't do that because we'll be unleashing -- opening the mouth of the fire dragon even though not knowing what it meant.
The leaders at the time decided that it's time. The reason she was telling me this is to explain our meaning of what full circle meant. In that you cannot have good without bad, man without woman, hot-cold, positive-negative. That all of this completes a circle. And that when the digs happened and they uncovered our sacred place, that Los Alamos happened. And if that ain't opening the mouth of the fiery dragon, I don't know what else is.
Now this knowledge has become full circle. It is around the world. Let me back up a little and tell you the power of those symbols that I mentioned before, their meanings. The feathers are the protectors and keepers of our sky; the bear paw is the walker, keeper and protector of the land, and the serpent is the controller and keeper of the water. This, these power signs or symbols were also universal in that countries utilized these power symbols for their power. In that we have the United States eagle, the feathers, the Russian bear, the bear paw and, the Chinese dragon, the serpent. So these are very powerful things and these symbols are also your symbols. Environmental Protection Agency, our environment, includes these symbols.
As I watched you yesterday and I have watched you today, I can really see who you are in that our ancestral people have given us these knowledges and these powers, and I see that in your spirit as these people in charge of our environment, our livelihood, that the power is in your hands to help us go on to a new circle. This circle, and it's a job and it's almost a war, so to speak, and that it's time to close the mouth of the fiery dragon. We are at a time at the end of this circle where WIPP is not the answer. We don't want to tail end it and WIPP it. It's waste and it stinks, this dragon. And we have these accord agreements, and I really would want to pay more attention to these because it's only been a one-way street. You're dangling, our U.S. government is dangling these dollars in front of our leaders and telling them for money, you know? It's a detrimental thing to think that sacred really means something, that we messed with this sacred thing already. Let's learn a lesson from that. The other thing is that it hurts me deep inside to know that we're touching another sacred thing. We have a thing called salt woman, salt mother, and now it's destroying something else sacred. Why bother with that, that is not the answer.
So I am asking you to utilize the power that you've been given to save us, clean up this thing, reroute the money, to really save us, because if you save us, you're going to save the rest of the world. This knowledge will start again and it will go full circle again. So please, take us into this new circle. Help us go into this new circle of closing that mouth of the fiery dragon. Stop the source and then let's concentrate on cleaning up as good as we can so there will be future generations. My bloodline from way back can continue. I'm a mother of four children and I'm a grandmother. I don't want to leave a legacy that we didn't do anything about this. I'm sure we don't wish this on you, that you have this power and that it won't be documented that you go down or we go down doing nothing about continued destruction. This Los Alamos it's the whole opposite of what our whole essence is was life. Los Alamos was the opposite, destruction. We need to really find those balances, and taking the knowledges we've learned from this 50 year experience and utilizing these knowledges that are beneficial for mankind. And all of those things that are destructive, put them back and don't touch it no more. Thank you.
PRESIDING OFFICER: Thank you.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
PUBLIC COMMENTS REGARDING EPA'S PROPOSED RULE ON
WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PROJECT
JANUARY 9, 1998
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO