In doing research for the performance, Precious Drop, we have found a number of compelling stories about water issues and water rights activists around the United States. We’d like to share some of these stories and organizations that have influenced the music and dance production, Precious Drop.
The first story that we’d like to share is about people of the Navajo Nation referred to as, the Forgotten Navajo People. I recently interviewed a woman who worked with an organization to provide safe drinking water to people of the Navajo Nation. She reflected on some experiences she had on the land and with the people, and their conditions, as she described them, were comparable to third world…. No running water, contaminated water that was transported in, lack of infrastructure, and high costs of accessing safe drinking water due to commodification. This is one of many stories that reveals how lack of access to safe drinking water affects peoples lives in the United States.
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The Forgotten Navajo: People in need
By: Katie Bolger
…”no corporate entity has ever been prosecuted for uranium contamination on Navajo soil, and yet as far back as the 1930s there was an awareness of the health risks associated with uranium. Somehow the message never made it to the Navajo. As recently as the 1980s — half a century later — U.S.E.P.A. scientists were putting Geiger counters to the wall of hogans near abandoned mines to measure radiation and seeing readings that were off the charts.
Florabell Paddock, 76, attended the Forgotten People meeting with her companion of 40 years, Jerry Huskon, 68. Like the thousands of others in the Western Navajo Nation, Paddock, a tiny, frail woman, has never had running water, instead having to haul heavy jugs from a nearby well to her home — something she won’t physically be able to do for much longer. And like so many others, her ailments are multiple.
“I drank water from the Tochachi Spring,” she said in her native Navajo, interpreted by the president of the Forgotten People, Don Yellowman. “My doctor told me my gall bladder was not working and I had internal bleeding. I have asthma, seizures, a problem with lung and liver,” she added, alluding to the cancer that has spread throughout her body.
Pauline Lefthand, 41, also came to the meeting, albeit slowly and with help from a daughter on one arm and her husband on the other. She sat heavily in a metal chair and often nodded off during the meeting. She takes 15 pills a day, including strong painkillers.
“We did. We drank a lot of water from the well. That’s what we lived on. It’s one of the best waters,” she said, referring to the cool, refreshing taste of the water, which nonetheless was poisoned by the tasteless, odorless radionuclides.
Ten years ago, Lefthand began going “downhill.” Her legs became purple and swollen. She went to a doctor who told her that both her kidneys were “gone.”
“I went on dialysis,” Lefthand recalled. “I have arthritis, I have had my bladder and appendix removed. I had stomach surgery; they took my large intestines out.”
The medicine she is prescribed also has taken its toll.
“When I started, I weighed 135 pounds, then I went up to 247 pounds. Now I weigh 192,” she said.
Lefthand’s daughter Deidre Walker, 18, was there to support her mother, whom she said has had “kidney failure, diabetes, seizures” since Walker was eight years old. Two years ago, Walker gave her mother one of her own kidneys.
Despite decades of contamination, the U.S.E.P.A. began posting warning signs on drinking wells and in local post offices three years ago. Other education has been more grassroots, such as the recent community meeting. Local and national environmental groups are actively reaching out to educate Navajos about the drinking water and to build a consensus against new coal mining and power plants.”….
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