Casted Aside: The Role of Media in Normalizing Unsafe Uranium Mining Practices in Navajo Nation (Work in Progress)
My name is Nicholas Kenny, I am an undergraduate student from the New Jersey Institute of Technology studying Environmental Justice in Postwar America under Professor Neil Maher. The Navajo Nation is the focus of my environmental justice research for two reasons: their political autonomy and strangely high rate of cancers among its residents. The Navajo’s autonomy as a separate nation within the United States has always sparked a sort of mysticism in my mind. The fact that a tribe with roots spanning thousands of years still exists and maintains political autonomy has always seemed very strange. As a result, I wanted to more thoroughly understand how the Navajo People operate as a sovereign Native-American nation under the eyes of the United States government. In addition, the heightened rate of lung cancer in non-smoking Native Americans came off as bizarre because lung cancer is usually the result of tobacco usage and secondhand smoke. Being from a family predisposed to lung disease, I wanted to discover whether this increased rate is predisposed or if there are injustices at play.
Project Site Description:
This research paper is set in the mid-20th century, during the beginning of the nuclear arms races between the United States and the Soviet Union. The surge of nuclear arms and energy development during this period led to the emergence of many underregulated uranium mines within the Navajo Nation, resulting in widespread uranium contamination and exposure among Navajo residents. This paper aims to analyze the relationship between 20th century media on Navajo Nation uranium mines and uranium mining regulation. I want to find out how media shaped the public perception of the Navajo Tribe and possibly normalized the consequences of uranium mining among the residents of Navajo Nation. Hopefully, this analysis will help my readers understand the ability of media in advancing an entity’s particular goal, and help them relate to the pleas of Native Americans disproportionately impacted by the consequences of uranium mining due to the lack of proper regulatory policies. Furthermore, readers should better understand the necessity of environmental regulation as a result and, if possible, attempt to prevent avoidable environmental accidents of a similar nature in the future.
Keywords: Navajo, Uranium, Media, Popular Culture, Disease