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Poisoned Land, A People Betrayed

Author to discuss mad rush to stockpile uranium at Navajos’ expense

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November 2, 2010 | by Wendy Leopold
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Award-winning investigative journalist and author Judy Pasternak will talk at Northwestern University about the toxic legacy of uranium and the horrific, long-ignored consequences for the Native Americans who for decades mined it. 

Her lecture, “Yellow Dirt: Uranium Mining in the Navajo Lands,” will take place Tuesday, Nov. 9, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Wildcat Room of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. It is free and open to the public.

Pasternak is the author of “Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). The book describes America’s mad rush to create the atomic bomb during World War II and to stockpile uranium during the Cold War years at the expense of the Navajos whose lands contained some of the nation’s richest uranium deposits.

Working in unventilated, often enclosed tunnels without protective gear, the miners never knew that their exposure to radiation could cause cancers and birth defects. When the nation had sufficient uranium and atomic weapons, the Navajos were left with a “slow environmental catastrophe” that has hurt generations of their people and still contaminates air and water on the reservation, the book concludes.

Organized by Northwestern’s Environmental Policy and Culture Program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Pasternak’s presentation is co-sponsored by the chemistry department and by One Book One Northwestern.

For more information, call (847) 491-7980 or visit http://www.wcas.northwestern.edu/epc/.