The Navajo people once had such low rates of cancer; they were thought to be almost immune to it. Those statistics dramatically changed during the Cold War nuclear arms race. The U.S. Government contracted private mining companies to blast 30 million tons of uranium ore out of Navajo land with little environmental, health or safety oversight.
For almost 40 years, Navajo women, men and children worked in the uranium mines, families, livestock and crops used contaminated well water, families built their houses out of radioactive materials and children swam in open pit mines filled with radioactive rainwater.
When mining operations ceased, the companies just walked away without sealing the mines or cleaning up the radioactive waste.
Today, this toxic legacy continues with more than 520 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation and the majority have not been cleaned up or contained.