Navajo Uranium Workers and Environmental Justice: A Case Study of Grassroots Activism, Science and Social Policy
Speakers: Susan Dawson and Gary Madsen
Monday, October 18, 2004 at 7 p.m.
Issues of environmental justice involve concerns about social class and social power, because these factors affect who is exposed to hazards, as well as how they are compensated and treated for resulting health complications. A careful review of the history of uranium production in the United States indicates that Native Americans were employed in many roles in the uranium production process, a fact not often recognized in most historical accounts of the era.
Native Americans’ experiences as miners, millers and transport workers, who were exposed to uranium and other hazards during the cold war period from the 1940s through the 1980s, has been a subject of study of Dr. Gary Madsen and Dr. Susan Dawson for more than 10 years. The couple’s approach to their research combines scholarly analysis with an activist orientation that attempts to improve the lives of Native Americans who were involved in these processes and were subsequently exposed to a variety of hazards.
At Plymouth, the scholars (both professors in the department of sociology, social work and anthropology at Utah State University) will review their important work in this field and share their experiences from working on this critical environmental justice issue for more than a decade.
Their research on Native American uranium workers has contributed to knowledge about environmental justice issues, the complexities of working in Native American communities, and has also affected the social policy arena at the legislative level where their research findings were used by Congress in the revision of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) of 1990 and the Amendments of 2000.