By Dan Fiorucci
10:18 PM AKDT, October 14, 2012
Today (Sunday), on the eve of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, hundreds of people attended the screening of a documentary at the Anchorage Museum.
The film, called "Project Chariot" outlined a late 1950's project -- proposed by the Atomic Energy Commission -- to use a 1 megaton nuclear bomb to build a harbor in northwestern Alaska.
The planned blast -- 160 times as powerful as the one that levelled Hiroshima -- would have been detonated just 30 miles from Point Hope and its 300 Inupiat Eskimoes.
"Look, it stands to reason that you wouldn't pick Long Island, right?" says Dr. John Kelly, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Alaska in the documentary. "You would find -- right away -- that 'not in my backyard' is alive and well." Kelly concludes.
"They considered us natives as heathens", adds Mae Hank -- the former Executive Director of the Village of Point Hope. "Souls that are not saved yet."
If the federal government expected the Inupiat to take the hydrogen bomb project lying down, the feds were wrong. The Inupiat fought back and managed to prevent the detonation.
But the documentary then goes on to point out that the victory may have been a pyrrhic one.
Over the past few decades, the documentary makers claim, Point Hope has seen cancer grow to become the leading cause of death in the community. That is at odds with the nationwide trend of heart-disease being the number one killer.
So community leaders at Point Hope began to suspect that the federal government hadn't dealt with them straight. They started to wonder whether -- after the bomb project was thwarted -- did the Atomic Energy Commission resort to secret radioactive tests? Tests conducted without first seeking the consent of the community.
Using the "Freedom of Information Act" people there have now uncovered documents that show exceedingly high levels of Strontium-90 -- a radioactive element -- in the soil.
They also uncovered documents that led them to believe that the federal government deliberately dispersed radioactive dust into the air near the community -- as a scientific experiment -- in order to track how it might be carried by the wind.
Using this information, in 1994, they finally got the feds bring in bulldozers -- and perform a clean-up of the soil in the region.
But because cancer rates at Point Hope have remained high, the Inupiat suspect that the clean-up was merely perfunctory... Just for show.
So now they've lobbied the Obama Administration to do further studies.
The lobbying has apparently paid-off.
The documentary concludes by saying the Obama Administration has now agreed to revisit the issue of "Project Chariot", and find out whether radioactive contaminants were, indeed, left in the soil there.
It's a story which, as of publication of this article, is still unfolding.
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