You’d look to the west and there would be pink. Sometimes the sun was red. I remember that, but not knowing what was happening, not knowing about the testing going on in Nevada. I was a kid, born in 1952. You never were told what the pink clouds were. If you’re not told, you don’t pick up on what’s happening.
There’s a gap [in our documented history] from 1954 into the late ’70s during what I call the “time of termination.” The tribe was terminated from the federal government, meaning we were no longer recognized as Indians. During this time many things happened, people were on their own, and there was a void, a gap there. On April 3, 1980, the tribe was reinstated as a federally recognized tribe, and there were a lot of health needs that needed to be met. We notice that now diabetes is at a high rate in St. George, and in the Kanosh area there are more blood-related diseases, some bone cancer. There’s been a high rate of arthritis in the tribe. In the 1970s in the Moapa area near Las Vegas, where I was living at the time, I noticed that people did have cancer. I know of a little boy in the ’60s, a cousin of mine who used to come visit us all the time. One summer he came up and he was having a lot of nosebleeds. When they went back home to the reservation they found out he had leukemia. That was my first contact with it, in 1963 or 1964. He was four or five. My mom died in 1986. There was a drastic loss of weight, and she was bruising very easily. She had leukemia. She lived over near the Utah-Nevada border near the Indian Peak area when she wa a child, and then to Cedar City.
A Shoshone man told me that putting the Test Site on that land was a blasphemy and a desecration of something his people considered holy. Do you feel that your land and your people have been defiled by the radiation that came your way?
Yes. We just live from day to day, not entirely in tune with what’s happening on the national level. We say that we’re the protectors of Mother Earth, and yet the only way some tribes can make money is to have those types of things on the reservation or, say, an incinerator. We need income. We’re a prime target. Maybe it’s a lack of knowledge on the part of our tribal people.
Our old reservation used to be out at Indian Peak. We had 8,000 acres, and we were the smallest group of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. It had an effect on the plants, so you know it affects the harvest that you depend on. It affected our pine nuts [a staple in the diets of western aboriginals]. We look at the land as the Mother Earth, and we are supposed to be caretakers. As times change, I suppose everyone has a different opinion, and as the generations go, hopefully we can keep that concern there that we can care for the land. I feel we have been affected by the radiation from Nevada. It may not only be cancer that is a health hazard. We have a high level of arthritis, high levels of blood diseases in one of our areas. In working in the community and being involved in trying to get information for compensation, I feel we have been left out. We’ve been overlooked, again. We had our land taken from us. We were pushed aside. They say, “They’re not interested, they’re not concerned.” Yes, we are concerned. We’re concerned with the past, what happened to our families, and we’re concerned about what will happen to them in the future again. We’re sending out notices to let people know what action needs to be taken. Yes, we need to do something. Yes, we need to be heard. We all share a common cause. We want our people to be healthy, but we can’t be healthy if nuclear testing continues.
Cedar City, Utah
from American Ground Zero: The Secret Nuclear War by Carole Gallagher