50 years ago

Uranium boom hits Navajo

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

March 6, 2014

Text size: A A A

The 50s and 60s were a good time for the members of the Navajo Nation and their best friends, the uranium companies.

Thousands of Navajos worked for the mines or the uranium mills that were scattered around the reservation, making fairly good money and enjoying life. That is until the mines and the mills shut down and many of those who worked for the mines and mills found themselves battling cancer.

More from the "50 Years" Times series

Times finds moneymaker with special editions

Times editor resigns due to flaps with Nakai's staff

Navajo history kind to tribal leaders running in primary

Hopi man seeks Navajo Times' help

Killing of local trader unsolved after tribal, city investigations

Social Security benefits lead to IRS study of Diné pay

Louis Armstrong performs on the rez

Dueling statements in the Times

Uranium boom hits Navajo

Motel development squelched by liquor ban

Former Marine selected to manage Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild

Scout falls 156-foot from cliff, Times hires D.C. reporter

Rewind to the first Navajo taxpayers

Times branches out into national coverage

Adee Dodge defends medicine men

Times treads carefully when covering tribal politics

But reporters in those days never realized the ill affects of uranium and if you read papers from those days, you would see that Navajo officials were promoting uranium mining on the reservation much like television promoted cigarette smoking as a healthy form of pleasure.

Take this AP article from 1954:

"By car, by horseback, afoot and from planes, Navajo tribal officials are scouring the Navajo Reservation for uranium."

Later newspapers reported that in one month alone, more than 133 prospecting permits were issued for lands on the reservation and its fringes.

Even the Indian traders realized that they were in the midst of a modern day gold rush.

How to get The Times:

Back to top ^