First meeting scheduled for tribe's uranium commission

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON — Two years after Navajo Nation officials amended tribal law to form the Diné Uranium Remediation Advisory Commission, the panel will meet for the first time this week.

The purpose of the commission is to study and reach conclusions about the impacts of uranium mining and processing on the Navajo Nation and submit recommendations to the tribal president and council for policies, laws and regulations.

The commission will have an inaugural meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday in rooms 306 and 307 in the Navajo Division of Transportation in Tsé Bonito.

Uranium, referred to as "leetso" in the Navajo language, was extracted from the land beginning in the 1940s.

Thousands of Navajos were involved in uranium mining, processing, transportation and other related jobs from the 1940s to the mid-1980s. The action left more than 500 mines on or near the reservation, according to the commission's amended master plan of operation.

The commission consists of 11 members with seven from communities affected by uranium mining and from six regions – northern, north central, eastern, southern, western and central – as well as one at-large community representative.

The regional representatives are appointed by the Navajo Nation Council while the at-large community representative and the youth member are selected by the tribal president.

Perry H. Charley, Mae Franklin, Seraphina Nez, Tommy Rock and Adriano Tsingine were appointed to the commission last year.

Also serving is Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency executive director Donald Benn, Navajo Nation Superfund Program designee Vivian Craig and Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Department manager Madeline Roanhorse.

Vacancies remain for representatives from the eastern, north central and southern regions.

Rock is the at-large community representative, a position to which he was appointed by President Russell Begaye in February 2017.

"I'm looking forward to it," Rock said about the upcoming meeting.

He said he applied because the service will further his knowledge about the radioactive rock and to improve the conditions of communities impacted by uranium activities.

According to the meeting agenda, the commission will receive a comprehensive report about uranium remediation on the Navajo Nation from the Region 9 office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

They will also receive a report about environmental self-determination from Tech Source Inc., a scientific and technical consulting firm from Los Alamos.

Nona Baheshone, interim executive director of the commission, said the group will meet in different communities affected by mining and processing and commissioners will finalize the meeting calendar on Thursday.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at