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Columbia River Dissenters Series
Tape 1, Side 1
11 February 2000
WS = Wilbur Slockish
MO = Michael O'Rourke
OHS Inv. 2738
Wilbur Slockish was born in 1944 in Wapato, Washington and is a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. As a boy, he fished at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River. In 1981, Slockish was arrested and received a three-year sentence in federal prison for selling salmon out of season. After Slockish was released from prison, he concentrated his efforts on water quality and health issues related to the Hanford Nuclear Power Plant. Slockish was part of the Bi-State Water Quality Commission for the Lower Columbia for three years and was appointed as a member of the Hanford Health Effect Subcommitte (HHES) in 1997. Through his work with HHES, Slockish has educated Tribal members about Hanford pollution and disposal of nuclear waste. In 1994, Slockish fought and successfully banned the storage of Hanford nuclear waste on the Yakama Reservation.
[Interviewer's voice loud - interviewee's voice very faint - VERY noisy background]
MO: Letís see. Yeah, there we are. This is Michael OíRourke for the Oregon Historical Society beginning a interview today, February the, it must be the...
MO: 11th, is it? Okay, yeah, thatís right. February 11th, 19Ėno. Weíll get it right yet. Anyway, February 11, 2000 in Portland, Oregon at the Doubletree Hotel, and Wilburís here attending the Hanford Health Effect Subcommittee meeting that has been occurring over the last few days. Wilbur, I wanted to start at the beginning here. Can you tell me when and where you were born?
WS: I was born in Wapato, Washington in a little like nursing home there in 1944, September 19th.
MO: Okay. And so youíve lived all your life on the Yakama reservation?
WS: Iíve lived both places, on my fatherís family allotment around the Columbia River area until 1954 when I was...
MO: And is that actually on the banks of the Columbia then?
WS: Yes, we lived on the banks of the Columbia River and my grandmother was from Celilo village, and my father fished there, so up until 1954, but I did come back over here during fishing times and spent time along Celilo area, Klickitat River area.
MO: So from Ď44 to Ď54, though, you were living right there all the time, is that right?
MO: And then after Ď54..
WS: ...was back and forth.
MO: Back and forth? From where to where?
WS: From Wapato back to Wahkiacus, a little town called Wahkiacus.
MO: Okay, on the river there or near the river. And did you fish Celilo yourself then?
WS: I could go down there and do some sneak fishing when there was nobody there, but mostly was the older ones that were able to fish. I used to pack sacks of fish up there for 25 cents. Theyíd give me a quarter to pack their fish up to different places and a couple fish and I could pack those.
MO: I see. Youíd haul them up from where the others caught them then?
MO: Yeah, yeah. And so you didnít fish with your father?
WS: I was too young to be down there.
MO: Okay, uh-huh.
WS: But Iíd sneak down there and thatís how I was able to make the (inaudible) bucket.
MO: Were these fish being taken mostly for tribal use?
WS: They were taking for a combination of family use and sold as commercial.
MO: To sell.
WS: ...monetary purposes.
MO: So you must remember Celilo Falls then before it was submerged.
WS: Yes, thatís where I packed the fish. There and the Klickitat River.
MO: And when the dam was built and the falls were submerged, I imagine that had a real impact on that way of life down there.
WS: Sure did, because all of a sudden there wasnít, we just had one little small area then that we were able to fish in that was down at the Klickitat River, which was a similar style but it was a very small river, but we were able to fish there, too, on our family fishing sites.
MO: Was the fishing pretty good back in those days?
WS: The fishing was great. We and my father used to fish in a place called Underwood. White Salmon River down there. There used to be big fish down there. He used to spear fish down there that weighed up to 100 lbs. With a spear, you know.
MO: So youíve seen probably a decline in the fish runs since that time.
WS: Yeah. We have seen a decline of the runs. Weíve seen fishing times reduced, and itís always seems to be focusing the blame on our people for so-called over harvest, that we were the cause of declining runs. Today you can still hear that weíre over- harvesting because of our gill nets, weíre blamed for declining deer and elk herds because of sportsmen making these kind of statements. They donít want to really focus the blame on the two reasons for these declines of these species, fish and deer and elk and other things. They donít want to blame it on their industrial activities.
MO: And thatís where you think the blame is?
WS: I know itís the problem because the water quality is bad. Now, where the water used to be cold and running, you know, free-flowing, the fish were in abundance, but soon as they started pooling it and making the water warm, thatís when the declining salmon starting coming into being.
MO: And you mentioned other wildlife too. What sort of industrial impacts have there been there, would you say?
WS: We used to hear frogs all the time, but we donít hardly hear them anymore. Weíre starting to hear them in places that we havenít heard them before. There was a lot of frogs disappeared (inaudible). A lot of people donít understand that the animals to us that understand them, they announce to us the arrival of certain foods. The frogs, they tell us when itís going to rain and they sing, oh thereís going to be some rain coming (inaudible) ... around us. The fish are almost here, or the fish are coming. Theyíre going to be right here. A lot of people, they donít believe that. They think itís one of our tales that we try to put out, but the animals do tell us and communicate with us. You just have to know how to listen to them.
MO: And you probably know from personal experience that it actually does work to listen to the frogs. Yeah, I guess itís a question of paying attention. And what, I mean, after this way of life, I suppose you might call it, started to be impacted by industrial development, can you remember what kinds of responses people had to that? What did people say about it, or what did they try to do about it there?
WS: They always point out, they keep saying that itís tribal over harvest. They will not..
MO: Yeah, I meant your people.
WS: Oh, my people? They know what it is because they also say (inaudible), but theyíre reluctant because they are afraid speak up because they say, well weíre just one voice, whoís going to listen to us, they havenít listened to us since they came here, because thatís one of the first things that the settlers came out with when they first got here. We just want a little piece of land to grow a crop to feed our people. Now, who has the little piece of land? Itís our people that have just a little piece of land, and if you need a good example, right here along this Willamette River here, you can take a look and dig into the records. (inaudible) and I have some of my people that have put their hands in this river when theyíve been down here fishing, and their hands have rashes and different things that they get on their hands, sores. I wonít come down here and fish because I know what is in this river, all the industrial practices that are pouring into this river. I can remember a few years back when we came down here. What got me into it was, whatís the name of that river? James River was trying to get an increase in dioxin releases into the Willamette here, and they were at the Portland City Council making this request, and they said that they would put in a monitoring station. And the river flows (inaudible) to the north, it flows this way.
WS: Where their discharge pipe was, they were proposing to put in a monitoring station south of their discharge point. They were going to measure the water, the dioxin levels above their discharge pump, not below it.
MO: Uh-huh, right. So whatever dioxin went upstream, they would be able to catch.
WS: And there was no eddy there (inaudible)
WS: So itís these type of things that nobody pays attention because itís jobs, thatís all it is. All the activities that they have here, if you (inaudible) how it is affecting (inaudible) the Asians and all of the ones that fish there (inaudible) different carp, all of those other species of fish that are warm water (inaudible) species. And theyíre very contaminated. But they put up signs in English and not in the language of those people. Donít fish here, donít eat the fish here.
MO: Yeah. Of course, later on, quite a bit later on, I guess, in the Ď70s and Ď80s, there were people like David Sohappy on the river and there were the lawsuits that were brought in federal court, you know, that ultimately resulted, I guess, in 50% of the harvest being earmarked for the tribes. Were you at all an observer or participant in any of those activities?
WS: Yes, I ended up in jail numerous times over fishing issues, but I was not a part of the lawsuit, no. But from what I can understand is, a lot of people look at it, the perspective that the government and the courts gave us 50%. Thatís their perception, that they gave to us. Well, how can they give us something that we already have? They didnít give us anything, they took 50% from us. But they donít look at it that way. They donít understand in that terms because when Lewis and Clark came here, they were offered fish, but they didnít want to eat it because they said it smelled, you know, dried fish. They didnít want it because it smelled. They would rather eat dog meat, so they wanted to buy dogs. But they eventually did eat some of the fish, and it wasnít until they had a canning process that all of a sudden, the settlers all of a sudden started fishing and processing it. So how can, you know, that frame of mind say that they gave us something. They didnít give it because when the wagon trains came here on those water barrels, there was no fish of any kind in those barrels. There was no fawns and calves from elk, fawns from deer. They were all here already. And thatís one of the things that they need to understand, that these animals, they all have a purpose here. And theyíre here to keep everything in balance. They have a role, whether itís food or clothing or control, predator control or (inaudible) species. Theyíre here for a purpose and they keep everything in balance. Theyíre not here for wall mountings or pay thousands of dollars for a license to shoot so they can put them on, as a trophy and mount them. They were here for a purpose.
MO: You said you were arrested a few times on the river?
MO: Can you tell me about any examples of arrests, I mean, you know, that you might pass along, just tell me the story of what happened?
WS: When I was arrested, there was David Sohappy, Jr., his father, David Sohappy, Sr., some other defendants that were arrested in 1981 in anticipation of changes in the Black Bass Lacey Act making tribal misdemeanors federal felonies. That was enacted by Howard Baker when he was senator from Tennessee. I canít remember the other one. But he was instrumental in it, and Reagan signing it into law. So they ended up in prison for awhile.
MO: So you went to trial?
WS: Yeah. We were found guilty, but we were tried as, through Jack Tanner in Tacoma, and we were found guilty of misdemeanors made felonies by this Lacey Act amendment.
MO: [sneezes into microphone] Excuse me.
WS: I received a three-year sentence. I did 20, I think it was 28 months...
WS: ... in federal prison.
MO: What, what...
MO: I was mainly in Sandstone, Minnesota, but I did my last, letís see, I think it was June until December†17th I think it was, somewhere around that time frame, at Spokane, Geigerfield, under camp custody. And then the last, from there until June†3rd, I was in a remote release program instigated by Senator Dan Inouye and Dan Evans and Brock Adams.
MO: Uh-huh, and that was, they, in other words, you were sort of on probation, is that right?
WS: I was at home. I had to stay home from 7, first it was 9 oíclock in the evening, but then they dropped down, their reasoning that most crimes occur after 9 oíclock, so I had to be home I think it was by 6 or 7 in the evening. Seven in the morning. 7 to 7. From 7 in the morning, I could, within a 50-mile radius, I couldnít go too far. And after 7 oíclock at night, Iíd receive a phone call and I had to answer the phone. And if I answered then heíd mark it down that I was there at home. And they said that any time it wouldnít necessarily be 7 oíclock, it could be midnight or 3 oíclock, whenever, but I had to answer the phone.
MO: Let me back up a little bit on this story. So you were arrested originally on the river, fishing, or what was, where was the site of your arrest?
WS: They did not arrest me. I turned myself in because I read myself in the paper. Thatís how I found out. I read my name, Columbia 19 Indicted.
MO: Now how did they get your name?
WS: Oh, they sent a, heís a retired man. His name was Richard Severtson, come down there and he was buying fish up and down the river from tribal people. I didnít sell him any fish. I sold it to another person, but he in turn sold it to him, but he did in turn give it a check written in my name.
MO: I see. And so you saw your name on the list and decided to turn yourself in, huh?
WS: Yeah, because Iíve seen federal police in action and I know how violent they can be because theyíre federal officers. Theyíre not family people. We were, in 1977, we were in Washington, D.C. and when they come marching down the avenue, we were all told, we were in front of the White House picketing the White House.
MO: I, you and who? Who else?
WS: I forget what the name of the organization was, but we were there with some people from Frankís Landing. I canít remember the name of it. But we were there in support of, you know, the sovereignty issue. And it left from here and ended up in various major cities, and we ended up there I think it was around July.
MO: And you were demonstrating on behalf of tribal sovereignty? Yeah, okay.
WS: And when they come marching down in shiny shoes and, oh, they had riot gear on, and they said do not be here when they, because I donít care who you are, theyíll whack you in the head. They had those big batons and those shields and all of that stuff. We had to jump in buses and get out of there. We were staying, it was at American University. Thatís where we were camped at.
MO: Yeah, okay. And so that was, thatís an example of, you said earlier that you knew how violent the federal officers could be. Is that, that was what you were thinking of?
WS: Yeah. So we arranged an attorney in Goldenville to surrender and let them know that we want, you know, we werenít running away. We werenít going anywhere. And when we did, heís a judge now. He was a magistrate then, Franklin Burgess?
WS: Thatís who we had to appear before. And itís interest that when we called and offered to surrender that Steve Schroeder who was the prosecutor, he said he didnít know anything about it. And heís the one that knew of it, and he prosecuted the case. We did surrender and we had to appear before Magistrate Burgess. Heís a judge now. And we were asked if, we were asked to be released on our own recognizance. And they said that they were wondering if weíd be flight risks. I said no, this is my country. This is where all of my people are. Why should we abandon? Weíre not going to go anywhere.
MO: Course you turned yourself in, too.
WS: That worked in our favor. We were granted a release. And thatís one thing there that a lot of people donít understand, that we were here since the beginning of time. This is where all of my ancestors are. When itís my time Iíll be buried right here. Iím not going to go anywhere else. I have no place else to go. Because some of these sportsmen have told me that I should go back where I come from. Iím already here.
MO: What was your real prison time like?
WS: Well, it really depended on where I was. In Sandstone, Minnesota, it wasnít that bad because of the political status of it, you know, they really watched out for our - and a lot of the prisoners knew why we were there. They couldnít understand it, but they said that we shouldnít even have been in jail. So we were, there was no, really no violence towards us or anything by any of the other prisoners. But it all depended on where you were at. When we were in a transit, you know, we were denied basics because we couldnít have any money in our possession. And commissary status, you had to be there. If you order something, you have to have money in there so that you can get your things and then they take it out of your account, but we didnít have that. We couldnít have things while we were in transit to various places. I was in Terre Haute, Indiana, Oxford, Wisconsin, Phoenix, Arizona.
MO: All this part of this one sentence?
MO: What sort of support did you get from the tribal government in this episode?
WS: Initially in the outset, it was mostly, ďwe got ourselves in this, get yourself out.Ē But through education efforts and a vote of the general council directing the tribal attorney and late in the game to offer us, to give us assistance. And finally after we were sentenced, we had a trial in Los Angeles, California, and we were sentenced in Tacoma by Judge Tanner. We were found not guilty of conspiracy. They labeled us as Indian mafia family controlling fish prices, controlling access and all of that. They really tried to paint us as bad people. But they blamed us for 43,000 missing fish that they counted coming over Bonneville Dam and on their way upstream they got to The Dalles Dam and John Day Dam. Well, at John Day Dam, I donít remember who owed the aluminum plant at that time. I donít know if it was Martin Marietta or, I canít remember the other one. But they were putting a lot of fluorides and different chemicals into the river, discharges, and these fish, 43,000 fish lost their homing instinct because of these chemicals, so they spawned in a different area. And people found these missing fish. It was the industrial practices. So after I was released from prison (inaudible) Hanford water quality issues. Public education, water quality issues and wondering why my people, my own family members, high incidences of cancer and high incidences of diabetic, you know, high blood pressure. Because we had none of these diseases until after it was constructed.
MO: Well, let me just back you up a little bit before we move into talking about Hanford and water quality issues. I wanted to ask you just a little bit more about your growing up years and your family background. So you said you lived near the river until Ď54 and then you were in the Wapato area after that. Did you live with your family during those years?
WS: Yes. Back and forth to my grandparents (inaudible) with my father and my mother. When I was younger, (inaudible) heíd come over, well, heís going to come spend some time with me, and heíd come back over and bring me back over here. And thatís where I pretty much grew up.
MO: And youíve already talked a little bit about fishing and running the fish up for 25 cents or whatever, but what kinds of activities did you engage in as a boy and a young man, just yourself or day to day? What kinds of things did you do?
WS: Oh, we was always, at that time there wasnít too many toys. We had to make do with whatever we could find such as cardboard. Weíd slide down the hills using cardboard boxes. Those were our sleds because it was sandy. And oh, we could make up our own games down by the river, through the canal there watching the barges go through there. And when we were at our homesite at Wahkiacus, we could go hunting whether itíd be for deer or trout fishing or whitefish, just about any kind of activity that a young man could think of. Weíd walk way back in the daytime...
MO: Hold on.
[End of Tape 1, Side 1]
Tape 1, Side 2
11 February, 2000
MO: ... youíd spend time out in the wild areas?
WS: Yeah, the forests, along the riverbanks. Just climbing trees, whatever else, and just whatever we thought of doing. Because we didnít have, you know, all of these games and stuff that we have now. We just had different things. We used to make our own wagons with clutch plates, you know the disk?
MO: Oh, yeah. Uh-huh. Theyíd be the wheels of the wagon?
WS: Thatíd be our wheels, just like the soapbox derby but, you know, weíd push them. Weíd just, most of our time making our own play things. And my parents were out berry-picking, picking fruit, fishing, drying fish, drying all of the various products, the roots and the moss that we eat and different things for our wintertime foods. We had cattle. We had a milk cow, chickens. At that time, we had, put away a lot of our winter foods (inaudible). Money was pretty scarce in those days.
MO: So it sounds like your diet in those days consisted mostly of natural foods then that were...?
WS: Yes. Our traditional natural food supply. That was the diet.
MO: And thatís what you gathered just locally?
WS: Yeah. And weíd, I guess my grandfather and grain and hay that he sold. That was (inaudible) before I could walk. And he had horses heíd trade, grain for different things. Hams. And we had a little spring house that was dug into the ground and we had a pipe where the water would come out. It was cold in there. That was our refrigerator and water supply. Weíd put everything in there. We used to make our own butter, all of that.
MO: And you mentioned horses. Would these be wild horses? I mean, I know there were a lot of wild horses on the reservation, at least in earlier years. Maybe they were starting to be depleted by that time.
WS: I donít know if they were wild. I just know we had horses. I have no idea how we acquired them, but we had horses. My aunt had cattle there, and that was part of our job, you know. We had to feed the animals and we had jobs we had to do during the daytime. As soon as we finished those jobs we had to chop wood, get wood in, (inaudible) water and milk the cow and feed the cow, clean her stall and the horsesí stall, and then we could get ready for schooling that we had.
MO: I was going to ask you about school. So did you go to a school there or were you taught at home?
WS: Yes, the Klickitat .
MO: The Klickitat School. And high school? Did you go there or somewhere else?
WS: I ended up in Wapato.
MO: In Wapato, right. And did you do any college? Did you go away to college at all?
WS: I had a chance to, but I lost the scholarship. We had to do the school year over again because some of us, we had a party and all the Filipino kids, Indian kids, Mexican kids, we got sent home and had to do the school year over, but the white children, the white boys, they got sent home sick so that it wouldnít hurt their careers. But us, we had to do the whole year over again.
MO: Oh, dear.
WS: I donít need it, you know, if thatís the way itís going to be, I donít need your school so I gave it back.
MO: This was their discipline for having a party?
MO: And they were, so you were treated differently depending on who you were.
MO: And did you, say, up until the time that you were out of high school, did your diet change at all, or was it natural foods pretty much all the time?
WS: Well, it all depended on where I was at. When I was over along the Columbia, it was the traditional food supply. And when I was over on the reservation, it was a mixed diet. My grandmother on the reservation, she had some of the foods but then over there was, she had both sides, pork chops, chicken and steaks, beef, like that. Sometimes youíd get the roots and fish and the other huckleberries, but it all depended on where I was at.
MO: And then the other foods were just from a grocery store somewhere, or where they...
MO: And what contact did your family have from, well, let us start with the Yakama people. Did any members of your family, were they politically involved with the tribe? Like with the tribal council or anything like that, or did you, were you not part of that?
WS: Some of my earlier grandfathers, they were in their Ď20s, they were connected to the tribal governmentals and stuff, but my grandfather (inaudible) came over to Wahkiacus and lived out there and assumed his role as chief. So he did not get into reservation politics. He stayed out there and did what needed to be done.
MO: And looking back on it now, how would you say the tribe functioned as a political entity? How were things done back in those days?
WS: Well, they were pretty much following the government teachings that as elected officials, they had supreme authority to say what happens and itís pretty much followed the same governmental system that the whites use. They can do what they want regardless of your opinion.
MO: Actually, why donít we just back up here. One earlier question. You mentioned that you went to school there at Klickitat grade school, I guess? You already mentioned the Wapato school that was mixed people, white people and native and Filipino, but in KlickitatĖwas that also a mixed school?
WS: Yes, it was. There we got the message that we were not to speak or practice any of our language or anything because we were being civilized, that we werenít heathens any more. A couple of teachers there really come out with this system. Their names were Buckles and Mrs.Belfield, very, very mean teachers at that time. It was no question that they (inaudible) any of the children. (inaudible) So we, by us even just counting, myself I had my head grabbed by the top of the hair (inaudible) that heathen language that we were supposed to be, that they were teaching us to be civilized.
MO: Did you get any input contrary to that then from your family? I mean, was there an attempt to preserve your native language amongst your family or other people?
WS: Thatís when my grandfather and my father speak fluently and thatís the time there then that the language was taken from us in the school system, that they were told (inaudible) not to do that anymore. We were being Christianized. My grandfather was passed away then. Both of them. So (inaudible) school system. So, it was taken from us then.
MO: And did they take it from you personally?
MO: I mean, do you still, do you, are you fluent in your native...?
WS: No, but I understand a little. I hope one day to start a program that we can teach our language. I can remember things, but the Catholic Church had a role in that, too. (inaudible) pagans. They used to beat our hands, both sides, palms up first and then the other side. The nuns were very mean at that time.
MO: Yeah. And, okay, well now might be a time to move on to, well, actually I guess Iíll ask you. So you went to school there in Klickitat, then on to Wapato, lived there for many years. Whatíd you do instead of going on to college, what did you do then as a young man?
WS: I went to Yakima. I got my GED. I took an aptitude test. I was certified that I was smart enough to be a jet mechanic. So I went to the government program called relocation ... time I went to, took a test for Lockheed. When they seen me face to face, they said no, we canít use you. Weíre afraid youíll get drunk and sell the secrets to the Russians.
MO: They said that to you?
WS: Yes, so I received no training in that. So I came back and various other things and eventually remembered my fishing, so I took it up again. I was big enough then. I could go down to the river and fish, so thatís what I did.
MO: Okay, and you were fishing to make a living partly, is that right?
WS: Yes. (inaudible)
MO: Now you mentioned earlier that you got interested in water quality issues and then you connected that to Hanford, but I assume thereís other parts of water quality too besides just the Hanford pollution that you were concerned about, or?
WS: Oh, yeah. Well, the salmon runs have been declining and I ended up on the Bi_State Water Quality Commission for the Lower Columbia River and thatís how come I know that the industry discharges a lot in this river out here and what the sediments and parts per trillion and all of that. I did, attended a great number of the meetings. I think it was a three-year appointment, and now instead of the Bi_State Water Quality, it evolved into the Estuary, and I didnít participate in any more after a while. But then...
MO: And why was that?
WS: Oh, there was some things that, see it was all industry-supported and if you brought something up and industry didnít like it, they wouldnít address it. (inaudible) so I ended up hearing and wondering about the health problems, wondering why salmon runs were declining and ... made the connection that farming practices, logging practices, all of the user groups ... affect the (inaudible) reasons why the salmon runs were declining. It wasnít our fishing that did this. It seems to me, oh every few years, that government and various user groups like to point their finger at us, and itís easier to blame somebody else than their economic practices because theyíre afraid if the truth comes out, theyíre going to lose their jobs and then what are they going to do. My response to a lot of them saying that was, ďI thought you guys were all of superior intelligence, you know.Ē I said,Ē you came in here, changed my economic system and I survived. If youíre of superior intelligence, would it not be easier for you to survive because whether anyone realize it, we have two rules that we lean on. Tribal rule and the white system ... jobs, economic...Ē But they never have answered that.
MO: How did you come, you sat on this water quality board, you said? How did you come to be appointed to that?
WS: One of our tribal councilmen sat and he was telling me that it wasnít, there was no decision-making (inaudible) recommendations and he seen it as a waste of time. He never wanted to be a part of it. I told him well I would like to be up there, and at that time, there was another lady on there from the Bingen area, and I thought she was an ally . She also put my name up, too. So thatís how I ended up on this water quality commission.
MO: Now you said you thought this woman was an ally and a friend? Does that mean that she proved not to be?
WS: Yes, but thatís a internal matter for our people up there, and we want to put it behind us and not discuss it with other people.
MO: Okay. Let me ask you, when you first started, well, when was your first awareness that you can remember of Hanford?
WS: Well, my first awareness of it was, I donít remember it when it was, but I think it was Ď90? Somewhere in that frame, because it was, well, I really didnít pay much attention earlier because we were involved in this legal struggle since Ď81 to Ď86.
MO: Over the fish.
WS: Yes, the appeals process and everything. So I didnít really pay much attention, but it was in the background (inaudible) come to mind well, why are my people, my family members having high incidences of cancer? Diabetics. So I started thinking about that but still focusing on public education (inaudible) that we werenít the cause of the declining runs. I think it was Ď88 December. Or Ď89 (inaudible) but I was finally released in June but I donít remember what year, Ď88 or Ď89, I think it was Ď89. Might be somewhere in there, but it was June†3rd anyway.
MO: Thatís when you got out of prison then?
WS: Thatís when I was released from custody. I could go where I want and do what I want. And I started going to, well one cousin said, you need to (inaudible). Come on, letís go. So we went to these meetings, started finding out and hearing...
MO: About Hanford, you mean, meetings?
WS: Really, really focusing on it then. But we still knew that public education of our fishing rights. ... surface ... The early l900s they focused on tribal fishing (inaudible) the Ď40s, in the Ď20s again and in the Ď40s, my father and my uncle, they came home from World War II. They were thrown into jail for fishing. The Ď80s, I was thrown in the prison, so I started keeping doing this public education because I was afraid for my children that maybe. What, put in county jail, I was put in federal prison. The only other thing that was left, you know, was execution, so I got concerned for that, for their safety. Thatís what we continued to do, public education. We expanded it to health and thatís how it came on to be (inaudible) is the health. High incidence of diabetes, arthritis, oh, in addition to the alcoholism and cancers, tumors. Well, whatís going on because I never heard of these things prior to that. (inaudible) scientists, they said thereís not enough of us to do an accurate study on us because you need, at that time they said we need 100,000 people or more to do an accurate study if thereís something wrong. And at that time, I think there was only 4,000 of us, 5,000 of us. But we had to learn all of the other chemicals, dioxin, find out that other products (inaudible) can cause illnesses.
MO: Probably could have found a quieter place here, but weíre doing okay though. You sound nice and loud because that microphoneís so close to you. [NOT REALLY!!!] So, Iím wondering, can you tell me just a little bit - first of all actually, your cousin. You said your cousin was the one that said you should come and attend some of these Hanford meetings, so what was his name? Or what is his name?
WS: His name is Johnny, Johnny Jackson.
MO: So you, have you been doing, have you continued to work with him on these issues?
WS: Oh heís, yeah, we have continued to work together on these issues, but he, itís up to me†- heís getting, heís in his 60s, so itís up to me to go on runs because I know more about it.
MO: Uh-huh. And how did you educate yourself on Hanford?
WS: Oh, there was a guy we call the Real Indian.
MO: Right, I know, Arjun.
WS: Heís the Real Indian. We went, I went back there. I took one of, my sister-in-laws and my wife, and we went back and we received training from him, how to read (inaudible) curies, nanocuries and all of those things, what the terms are, roentgens, oh, all of that. We did a two-day workshop with him. I received the training twice.
MO: How did you...
WS: ...know how to read those atomic numbers and understand what they are?
MO: And how did you get the opportunity to go back and study with him?
WS: Well, I met a couple of people, one from Nevada and one from New Mexico. Juan Montez from Questa New Mexico and Marla Painter. She lived in Carson City, Nevada. And they came up, they gave training to people in the Toppenish area. And at that time, they had a, well, we had a, People of Color, this meeting in Washington, D.C. in 1991. And thatís where I met them there. They came out to the training and then they were going to, they had a position open for a contract for six months. And they were going to offer it to one of the tribal members, but we already had the Hanford Tribal program running then, so they offered it to me...
MO: Was that either Moses or Russell Jim then?
WS: Russell Jim. They offered it to me, and I took it. Rural Alliance for Military Accountability was the organization, and through them I was able to secure all of this training, how to read the numbers, graphs, learn all of that terminology.
MO: And what do you think of Arjun Mahkijani?
WS: I think heís an okay person, but at the time he was affiliated with the military production network.
MO: Right, I remember that.
WS: ...is now involved into the Alliance for Nuclear Accountabilities. And Marla started it, you know, on the racism part of the organization. We followed it up to force them to enter into supposed mediation with our people, and they changed their focus and were able to get them reorganized. Bill Mitchell was running MPN at that time. And Susan Gordon runs it now. Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is not a good person for that. We lost out through mediation. Some of the other people, they just donít want to fight with them no more, so we were finally forced to disband our organization in 1997. We couldnít get any more funding because of this fight we had with the MPN.
MO: Oh, yeah. Okay. And the fight originated over racism in that organization? Is that what you said?
WS: Yes. They were speaking on our behalf without any input from us and all kinds of things like that.
MO: And just sort of discounting or not even taking you into consultation on things, huh?
WS: They were there to solve the problem for us, not with us.
MO: Okay. But you at some point then became appointed to the HHES, the Hanford Health Effect Subcommittee?
MO: And when was that?
WS: I think almost two years before I was officially a member. My term ended last 31st of December, and I was reappointed. I had to reapply for another two-year term. (Inaudible) December 31st of 2001. We had a meeting back in, I think it was Atlanta, Georgia, with some of my other associates from New Mexico and Savannah Riverside. We had a meeting back in Atlanta with...
[End of Tape 1, Side 2]
Tape 2, Side 1
11 February 2000
MO: This is a continuation of the interview with Wilbur Slockish on February†11, 2000. So, you were saying? Iím sorry.
WS: And I met one of the members that recommended me for this position here at that meeting and from her recommendation, was able to get on the committee.
MO: And who was that?
WS: Madeline Spino.
MO: Madeline? Okay. Madeline, well, used to be Queahpam? Did she get married just recently? Yeah, okay, I figured that must be the reason. So then youíve been serving on the Hanford Health Effect Subcommittee for a couple years now?
WS: Yeah, and it took them three meetings before they finally got the paperwork done. I was not a voting member, but I could attend the meetings. We were in San Francisco, Tri-Cities, here and Seattle.
MO: Now, I understand that you were also a little, that you were working with Greenpeace for awhile. Was that these earlier days?
WS: No, I didnít work with Greenpeace. I was not employed by them, but I did get advice, technical assistance from them, and they did a couple times, well, one time they did. Greenpeace Seattle did give us some money to get Juan Montez and I, they gave us some money to get farm workers to one of the meetings in Tri-Cities. They gave us a couple thousand dollars.
MO: And what kind of meeting was this?
WS: It was a public forum, and we were trying to get the message across that tribal involvement, tribal people and farm workers were not involved in this process and that they needed their perspective heard. So we were able to get some farm workers down to the meeting down in the Tri-Cities. (Inaudible) down to the DOE because they got up and they spoke in Spanish and had it translated. They didnít understand. They wondered why they didnít speak English. Why didnít they do this? We got across the message to them that English to us is a foreign language, so they accepted it and they had, they brought a translator in. [laughs]
MO: So it was a public forum about Hanford and the pollution?
WS: (Inaudible), yeah.
MO: Yeah, okay.
WS: Pollution, job safety of workers. These were some of the issues that we were trying to get out at that time.
MO: What would you say in the course of these what must be 11-12 years now of involvement here with Hanford, what would you say do you think was your most effective involvement? I mean, where do you think you did the most good?
WS: Well, we were able to, I had been interviewed by Sam Donaldson, director in the Tri-Cities, had my opinions on ABC and videos have come out that weíve spoken of. Weíve made videos on our fishing rights, on nuclear issues and what we were finally able to, some of the people that understand that the mining, you know, the nuclear issue involves our people from mining to processing and ultimate disposal is going to affect our lands. Itís going to affect our health because these lands, they need water for transportation, they need for roads for transportation. But just, for instance here, decommissioned submarine reactors go up this river here for disposal at the Hanford site, and they keep saying itís safe. Well, they fail to take into account that our systems, our immune systems, are different. Because if you take a look back in history from the European continent, theyíve had diseases of all kinds over there. So their systems have adapted to that. When they got here, our systems were not, had none of these exposures. As you can come here (inaudible) how many of our people died from smallpox, whooping cough. We never had those exposures. And they fail to take into consideration that our systems are still adapting. It affects us a lot worse than the European societyís systems because theyíve been through these diseases and things a long time and theyíve only been here a couple hundred years. And theyíve been out here 150-160 years (inaudible). So our systems have not yet adapted, but you canít tell any one of these scientists that. They like to put us all into the same group, that weíre all affected equally. They donít take that under consideration. So, you know, our people are more susceptible to the diabetes, to the arthritis, to all of these other diseases that cancers. And itís not of our choosing. Itís because of the economic practices of this capitalistic society. Money and jobs. My thing is, ďnothing is free.Ē Something comes out of this practice. Something is going to have to pay for it, this economic gain, this economic growth. And itís my peopleís health that are suffering (inaudible). Itís the health of my food supplies, the health of my water supplies, the health of my mountains, the health of the wildlife, the fish. Theyíre also suffering for this economic growth.
MO: And it sounds like you think that some of your more effective work has been in bringing this message to the dominant culture out here. Is that, would that be a fair statement?
WS: Yes, it is. And some of the allies that I have, they understand this message, but a lot of them, you know, I had one lady from - her husband worked at the Hanford site, and she told me that her husband wouldnít do anything to harm us. Well, heís not in charge of the operation, heís just a worker. He doesnít know what harmful effects these are. Heís just working. Heís doing his job. And I told her, I said, ď look, weíre trying to get it to the cleanup place. Thatís what we want to do is clean this place up. Maybe your husband will get a higher-paying job.Ē She was a delegate to the Washington Association of Churches, and we were trying to get their endorsement for our activities. She wouldnít give it because she said that her husband wouldnít do it, so she wasnít going to support that. And thatís when I told her. But she came back again the following year to the Washington Association of Churches meeting and she told me she understood it then. Because her husband now had a higher-paying job. She said she was not going to give up the lifestyle that she was accustomed to because of his high-paying job. So, thatís a lot of things, the problem is, there is, - theyíre not willing now, but if salmon or any of the other species are not here, the health of the animals will be the health of the people. If theyíre gone, our way of thinking, my belief if the fish are gone, if all of the other food supplies are gone, then we will cease to exist as a people.
MO: Itíll have its impact. Can you tell me a little bit about, I mean, I know thereís, weíve already mentioned thereís other programs within the tribe. Russell Jimís office gets substantial funding each year to carry out studies on behalf of the Yakama, and I guess Moses Squeoohs, is his name? is doing something for the tribe related to Hanford, too, or at least he was doing something I think on the header project at one point? How have you interacted with those programs, and how effective would you say the tribeís been in interacting at Hanford?
WS: Well, my take on these tribal programs is that they have mistakenly in the past, I canít say that about now because I donít know. Taking a look at nuclear waste as an economic project, that it would provide jobs, that the government will, the government agencies, government was promoting that if they stored the waste on the reservations, theyíd give an economic incentives for up to 50 years. They were calling it hosts. My mindset (inaudible) has always said, if the government is promising you something and the other states are not wanting a part of it, why is it offered to me if itís such a good deal? And that was the first thing, because in there they says anything is negotiable. Weíll build bowling alleys, weíll build hospitals [background noise]...
MO: Noisy bunch here! Anyway, go ahead.
WS: Weíll build hospitals, weíll build anything, roads, lines, rail lines, anything is negotiable. What do you, what will it take for you to host this facility? And they wanted to store it for 50 years, up to 50 years.
MO: Well, the Yakama never offered to give their land over for hosting waste, have they?
WS: They had a proposal in there. They were one of the tribes that applied for funding. The initial startup was $100,000 to study the possibility of...
MO: Of storing waste on Yakama lands?
WS: Yeah. They had to return $99,710 back to the government.
MO: Really! When was this?
WS: Oh, I canít remember, I think it was about 5-6 years ago. That was one of the big incentives, the Mescalero Apache were looking at it, the Goshute Tribe in Utah is still looking at this as an economic development. What they fail to realize though, is that no government agency can commit to something for that period of time because Congress appropriates the money yearly. Congress can say, ďoh yeah, well, weíll give you the money for a couple years and then first year maybe theyíll get the full amount.Ē Then itís, ďwell, weíve got other pressing needs, maybe weíll just give you this much,Ē and the third year, whenever, they can say youíre dumb enough to take it, you donít need any money. They cut it off, what can you do? Do they have the money to move it? Does it have the money to dispose of itself (inaudible)? No. Itís theirs, itís solved their problem. And they still have this nuclear waste disposal problem, because each one of the phases, mining is on tribal land, processing is on tribal land, disposal Yucca Mountain, the Western Shoshones living there, itís their lands. So I fail to understand if they have no place to dispose of this waste, why continue producing it?
MO: Well, itís a good question. Back to this $100,000 though. You said that they had a $100,000 grant...
MO: That they returned to the government, is that? But what was, the grant was for exploration of storing waste on the reservation, is that right?
WS: Yes, it was.
MO: I wasnít aware of this. And who in the tribe was looking at that?
WS: It was an idea from Delano Seluskin and Russell Jim who got it to the Tribal Council. It was a matter of great importance that had to be decided by a vote of the people. So that was my message. I kept delivering it to DOE and the elders to keep voicing that opinion, through the education process, the Arjun. I was able to show how big the storage casks were, the weight of them, the mini-dump that it would create because of the equipment, the protective stuff that they would have to use in bringing that stuff there. Although the chemicals that would be left over so wouldnít affect it. They did move it, the pads, the buildings and equipment that they wore and all of that would still be radioactive and contaminated, so theyíd still have a mini-dump.
MO: A mini-dump where?
WS: At the site. Whoever takes it. Whoever hosted it for this 50 years.
MO: So it was voted down by the Tribal Council? Is that how it happened, or was...
WS: They didnít do anything with it. They didnít use it. They were of the mind that it was to be used in a study purpose that they were going to use it to gather information. But I guess itís safe to say it now. I received a copy of the contract, the proposal, and what they were going to use the money for, and there was nothing in there for any studies, just the salaries, car rentals. Letís see, $3,000 was earmarked for reproduction, phone costs, the rest of the waste money, hotels, car rentals, salaries, fringe benefits. Nothing in there for studies.
MO: Thatís interesting.
WS: But I couldnít tell them that I had, but thatís how I knew that they werenít going to use it that way. I couldnít divulge that I had it because it was given to me in confidentiality, and I couldnít let them know that I had it, but I could in a round-about way for my people that they werenít using it in a right way. So they had to return it. They didnít spend any of it, and the government, the DOE did demand it back because they werenít dealing in good faith. I was at Fort McDermit reservation. We were doing an education forum down there for the tribal members. Their tribal government was thinking of taking it as economic development. And we were there presenting to the people how big the, how long it was, you know, that Congress appropriates the money yearly. Thereís no guarantee that they would get the funding for so many years, for 50 years, and there, thatís DOE asking, ďwhy are you here? Why donít you just go home? Weíve demanded the money back from your tribal governments, so why donít you be quiet and let us make our presentations to these people?Ē Thatís when I jumped for joy.
MO: You were as of that point maybe doing some good, huh?
WS: Yeah. There was three of us there, four of us. There was Grace Thorpe from Sact (Sp?) Fox, Jim Thorpeís granddaughter, and Paul Rodarte from Pyramid Lake, Paiute Tribe, and Joe Campbell from Northern States Power Opponent. Heís from the Prairie Island community. They have a nuclear power plant right next to them, and Northern States Power is still the one thatís pushing privatizing nuclear waste disposal at the Utah tribe. I canít remember the name of it right now. I said it earlier, butĖGoshute.
MO: Trying to think of it, okay, Goshute. And so, let me just make sure I understand this proposal, too. The tribes were being asked to take waste and store it temporarily for 50 years, is that it?
MO: And this was what kind of waste, from where?
WS: Nuclear waste from the power plants.
MO: From the power plants, okay. From the commercial nuclear power plants? Okay. This would be, would this be, I think they called it monitored retrievable storage or something?
WS: Dry cap storage.
MO: Yeah, I know. I heard that there was a Nevada tribe, well, the reservation I think extends into Oregon as well. Itís right down there on the corner...
WS: The McDermit.
MO: Okay, yeah, they were interested as well, I know.
WS: Thatís where I found out. Thatís where we were making the presentation, us for the people. Joe Campbell, Grace Thorpe, Paul Rodarte and me. We were presenting to the tribal committee the other side of the coin. The Tribal Council of Fort McDermit was promoting it as economic development, the jobs and how much money they would get out of it, and we were pointing out the other side of the coin. And they voted it out. They said they didnít want it, want any part to do with it, no matter how they could have used the jobs and the...
MO: And the money.
WS: ...the revenue. The health came first.
MO: What happened on the Yakama reservation when they had to return the money, anything? Or did they just give the money back and went on?
WS: At that time, the vice chairman, we were at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Russell Jim verbally tongue-lashing for that.
MO: Now Russellís your cousin?
WS: Yeah. And Jerry Meninick was Vice Chairman at that time and he told me we could have used that money for a study, for a good accurate study of the health of our people. And I just had to laugh. And I says, ďJerry, I know better.Ē But I couldnít tell him that I had copy of the contract at that time. And I knew there was no study money involved. It was salaries, hotels, car rentals, other fringe benefits and only $3,000 was earmarked for reproduction and phone costs.
MO: And so you said you got a tongue-lashing?
WS: Yeah, right there at Yucca Mountain.
MO: In public, or just in private?
WS: It was at the DOE center. It was a building like this, there was people coming and going. It was semi-private. Cousin Johnny was standing there and he heard it because it was directed at both of us. He turned and walked away and I says, ďwell, we did something right.Ē Because heís never made a report to the population, tribal population. Heís only made a report to a select group of people, Tribal Council...
MO: Who, who?
WS: The Tribal Council only. And I find that not right.
MO: But his, he continues to run the environmental restoration and waste management program...
WS: Same initials as the Department of Energy. Down at one of the meetings that was interesting at the Tri-Cities, we were having a meeting there, and I got up and I said what I had to say. I donít recall what I was saying. But I did point out that it was harmful to our health. (inaudible) The animals suffered, the fish suffered. We did have some pictures, still have them. We showed them the pictures and Russell told us afterwards, he got up and he says, I wish I could say the same thing that these guys say, but DOE had a censorship on what he could report.
MO: DOE what now? I didnít...
WS: Censorship on what he could report.
MO: Oh, I see what you mean. You mean he didnít feel free to speak.
WS: He couldnít speak unless they said it was okay. In order for him to continue to receive his funding, he would not jeopardize it. So, they donít pay us anything, so we can voice our opinions.
MO: Well, I guess this $100,000 is a little extra money, but the tribeís programs receive significantly more than that, donít they, on an annual basis?
WS: I have no idea what the figures are. They keep it in the governmental circle and they donít make a report. They donít have all the amount that they get.
MO: So, since this time then, have you, whatís your relationship been like with Russell Jim? Did that cause you any sort of problems, or was it not good before?
WS: Oh, I still have a talking relationship with him. Heís still my relative. You canít throw that away. Jobwise he has his opinion and I have mine. But we still participate and are friendly to each other as relatives. But jobs - he has his opinion and I have mine. We still interact with each other.
MO: Well, one of the things I find somewhat surprising about this story is that I know the Tribal Council--I believe with Russell Jimís encouragement, I mean, he may have been one of the people behind this back in the early days, like in 1980 or something like that - passed a resolution that they wouldnít allow nuclear waste even to cross Yakama land in a truck or just momentarily. And since then, Iíve heard Russell say things very similar to what youíre saying about that, you know, health impact on your people and Iím just sort of surprised to hear that he might have been in favor of a proposal that would have brought waste to the Yakama because it seems like theyíve been pretty consistent about saying no about that ever since this original resolution back in 1980.
WS: Well, youíve got to realize when itís presented in an economic development sense, it sounds good, it sounds great. Fifty million dollars a year is going to make a lot of ears listen. Itís hard to turn down fifty million dollars.
MO: Well, thatís true.
WS: So, if declining salmon runs, we havenít been able to fish for spring salmon since 1977. So there is a financial hardship. There is high unemployment rates in our area of our reservation, and the jobs are all minimum wage. So it sounds good. But youíve got to take a look at both sides of it, and if you look at it from an economic development sense, I can understand that. But youíve got to look at it from both sides. What is the impact? And thatís whatís the matter with this society. They only look at it from an economic gain perspective. They donít look at impacts that economic gain makes. What is it going to cost? Thatís why I say, ďnothing is free.Ē If you cut down all of the trees, there goes the oxygen, there goes the limbs for the birds, there goes the shade for the water, there goes, did I say oxygen?
WS: All of those things. But they donít understand the harmful effects of clear-cutting. The water is not going to pool, itís just going to flash flood. Itís going to cause mudslides, all of that. Thereís only one perspective, the economic perspective. So in this economic sense, this society needs to look at both sides, not just oh, Iím going to get a job. I have this job and the wife could say, Iím accustomed to this lifestyle.
[End of Tape 2, Side 1]
Tape 2, Side 2
11 February 2000
MO: ...maybe about this process that youíre involved in now with the Hanford Health Effect Subcommittee. This is a group thatís sort of overseeing health studies and other information or other activity going onĖletís put it that wayĖrelative to health effects from Hanford. And, of course, thereís been the HEDR Study back in the late Ď80s and into the Ď90s and then more recently thereís the Hanford Thyroid Disease Study in which many millions of dollars have been spent. And thereís other things going on as well, and then youíve got this what, I donít know, 30-member body, the Health Effects SubcommitteeĖwhat do you think of that process? Whatís your view of how thatís working in terms of solving the problem ultimately but also just in terms of public involvement? Do you think it actually is working on that level to get the public involved in these decisions?
WS: Well, I can only offer you the opinion of my individual perspective as an affected tribal person that lives along the Columbia River. The transportation route for nuclear loads by barge of decommissioned submarine reactors. That itís not really empowered to do anything. A recommendation is all. There is no decision makers here. They can only deliver the message. I think of it as they know, DOE knows of the harmful effects that they are causing. Theyíre trying to bring this perspective, (inaudible) but at their control what can be brought out. Then they can tell the public, yeah, weíre doing something. I heard today that about $50 million has been spent but, yet they want more. More money. Thatís just a way to keep the nuclear wheel going. Because of the risk of nuclear waste. They have no place to dispose of it. This wheel is trying to spin as fast as this one, but over here they (inaudible), the having to prove that it harms, having to prove that a lot of people are going to be affected. Theyíre designed to not reach those numbers. The studies Iíve seen. The first one is the fish consumption study that they did along this river is flawed.
MO: In what way?
WS: My sister does not fish. My sister does not know how to interact with fish. Sheís been raised on the reservation. Sheís never journeyed off of it to do anything. She canít fillet a fish. She doesnít know how to do it. But yet they brought her in and surveyed her. How much fish did she catch? How much did she take home? How much does she consume? She doesnít know anything. She has been raised on another diet. Sheís one of my younger sisters.
MO: Okay, and so she, her diet wasnít the same as yours then.
WS: Yeah. But yet, this is a selective process to bring the numbers down. Theyíre going to do it. They need to go to the people that live the lifestyle, that reside in those areas so that the information can be accurate, so that the accurate numbers can be drawn.
MO: So youíre saying is theyíre trying to dilute the effect by talk...
WS: Yes. And thatís an example. Thatís the only one that I can present because my sister told me this. They gave her $50 for interviewing her. And she wouldnít say what the questions were, but she did say how many fish she caught, how many fish eaten, how much fish, when did she eat it, how many times. Daily intake.
MO: Course if she answered those questions truthfully and they recorded them truthfully, then it would come out that she didnít really eat that much fish.
WS: Right. See, so itís flawed. And these are the things that we keep trying to present and get across to them.
MO: So you donít have too much confidence in these studies it doesnít sound like.
WS: No. Because theyíre designed to lower the numbers.
MO: Designed to be inconclusive, is that what youíre saying?
WS: Yeah. Because if they can do that, then it legitimizes continued production of nuclear waste. It legitimizes continued mining, processing and disposal. And thatís one of the things there that a lot of people donít understand, is itís processed, itís mined and its ultimate disposal is on our lands. Transportation routes. My friend Juan Montez, we did an action down in New Mexico and that is the transportation route was through Chicano, Hispanic communities. The ritzy, the rich white neighborhoods said no, itís not coming through here. So thatís the route, what they chose. So they did, it was a hands across New Mexico. All along the route, people, tribal people, the Chicano community were out on the road of that proposed route. And right then and there, people could see it, the racism within the Department, to the disposal site. I have a friend that lives near Los Alamos and he has pictures of workers at Los Alamos labs when they were constructing it. All of the white engineers there had protective suits with those breathing apparatus, and the Mexicans, the Indians that were working there just had a shirt and a hat. No protective gear. So...
MO: Iíve heard stories like that myself. Another question about Hanford Health Effect Subcommittee. Itís sort of, I guess itís supposed to be a panel that brings together all the different factions.
MO: So that must make for pretty interesting meetings at times.
WS: Yes, but again itís my perspective as an individual tribal member that it is designed that way because, you know, we canít make any decisions. We can only advise and make recommendations. If they want to follow them, they can follow them, and not, itís, at least they will say, we gave them the opportunity.
MO: Right. So maybe as a sort of final question here, getting towards the final question anyway, what are your, whatís your view of the future with respect to this Hanford issue? Do you think that, what do you thinkís going to happen, I guess is the question.
WS: Well, if they truly want to do something, then they should label it what it is. Instead of calling it cleanup, call it what it is. Itís a disposal site, and acknowledge it. Is that cleanup to bring in wastes and store it? No, itís a disposal site. There is, some of the stuff that is at these sites, thatís going to be hazardous for 10,000 years. And I donít know if itís still thought of, but they wanted to put up a big statute that would have the meaning that it was hazardous. And if they want to do something like that, how can they justify records for 10,000 years when they canít even keep accurate records for the last 50-some years that Hanford has been in existence? How can they prove it ? Thereís areas that they donít even know what is there. So if they canít keep accurate records for 50-plus years, what makes them think that they can keep records for 10,000 years? And why (inaudible) is it that they want to (inaudible) and youíre producing this (inaudible). Western Shoshone at Yucca Mountain donít want it. I went down there, and I couldnít believe it, that they were proposing to relocate the desert tortoise. A reservation for tortoises! I couldnít believe it. Tortoise relocation proposal. I mean, thatís the way I took it. They like to put them in an area and fence it. [laughs] Poor desert tortoise is going to have his own reservation (inaudible).
MO: It does sound like a pretty ridiculous idea.
WS: In order to keep using Yucca Mountain as a disposal site.
MO: Well, in the face of this, I guess part of where I was trying to go with this question, do you think thereís much hope that weíll get this turned around?
WS: No, I donít think there will be any turnaround because theyíll promote the making of materials for these bombs in the name of national defense, and thatís what has started it. So in order to say that they need a strong deterrent, theyíre going to have to continue production.
MO: You think theyíll continue to use that argument even though the arms race with the Soviet Union is over now and that actually the arsenal is shrinking at the moment?
WS: (Inaudible) but they still have to say what they need to replenish plutonium in these bombs that they have, (inaudible) that they have. Because of deterioration so they have to replace them.
MO: Well, the tritium, I guess, is another one that does deteriorate, I guess. Half of it goes away in eight years or something like that. So, yeah.
WS: (Inaudible) They keep sellingĖ Now thereís an arms market that theyíve sold depleted uranium bullets, depleted uranium armor in tanks, all of these things. Itís marketed. Itís on the open market. So theyíll have to use whatever materials that it takes to make bigger and stronger weapons. But thatís another story (inaudible).
MO: Yeah. Thatís right. Thereís so many stories. Maybe itís about time to wind up here. Is there any final thoughts you have about this, about anything we havenít talked about so far?
WS: Yes, I think it needs to be understood that the things that I try to present and why I do it is for my future generations. My future people. And my belief and my ceremonial practices and belief, itís when my time comes, I can be able to tell the creator that I did my best to leave the world as He wanted it. That I did my best to make sure that my children had a place to survive. That my animal resources, that my plant life were here as He placed them. And I did my best to ensure that they were here for future generations. And thatís why I keep going, because one day Heíll judge me for that, and if I can choose to look Him in the eye and say, ďI did my best,Ē then I know I will have, in the Christianity termed it, everlasting life. That I will be with Him for eternity. And thatís one of my strongest beliefs. (Inaudible) comes.
MO: Okay, Wilbur. I want to thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. So, thanks a lot.
WS: You bet, and if you ever...
MO: Okay, we were just talking off tape here about, yeah, your own experience of, you know, health problems on the reservation within your family that, and I wonder if you can tell me a little bit about that, who are your family members that have had some health problems that might be related to what weíve talked about.
WS: Yes, my grandmothers from both sides have passed away from tumors. And two of my aunts on my fatherís side have passed away from cancers. The last one that I can remember, my aunt, she was taking therapy and her skin changed color, her eyes crossed and her hair fell out. (inaudible) both of my aunts (inaudible), and my uncle also on my fatherís side passed away from a tumor in his head. And these family members, I have knowledge of, I know what they passed away from. The other family members I have no idea because they were, I was quite small at that time. And they lived primarily from, on my fatherís side, the grandmotherís aunts and uncle subsisted on our natural food supply. And my grandmother on my motherís side, she was the one that was Catholic, but she lived in that valley, she worked in that valley, so that must have been where she got her exposures, from the fallout. Because she worked out in the fields. She picked potatoes and all of those things. So to me, thatís a high incidence of family members having cancer.
MO: How about your own health history? Howís that been?
WS: Fortunately, Iíve had very, very few problems. I have only had - I came back from Los Alamos trip, we went down there and made a presentation at Los Alamos Labs, and I got back here, got off the plane, got to my car and I had a urinary tract infection. So Iíve had two of them since. And this was about four years ago. But I havenít had any problems since. But I only got it after being around Los Alamos Labs and the territory there. So, myself, they want to do any site tours of any facility, I will not go to Nevada test site. I will not go onto Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and I will not go onto Los Alamos again.
MO: Stay away from the hot stuff, huh? [laughs] Okay, Wilbur, well thank you again.
[End of Tape 2, Side 2 and interview]