LINCOLN, NEBRASKA — Yellow Fever, a one-hour documentary premiering this March on WORLD Channel’s “AmericaReFramed” series, examines the history and lasting impacts of the Uranium Boom on the Navajo Nation through the eyes of young, Native American war veteran, Tina Garnanez (Navajo).
Directed and produced by Sophie Rousmaniere of Issue Television, “Yellow Fever,” illuminates questions of American energy policy as a decades-old Cold War uranium-mining strategy that is now being revived as present-day energy development. The film explores the large, ongoing conversation about the U.S.’s need for energy and the equal–if not more powerful–need to protect our country’s natural resources. Today, the Navajo people are raising awareness and seeking to resolve the many problems that have arisen from the energy industry on the Navajo Reservation.
Rousmaniere recounts, “I went to a public hearing about the issue of energy exploitation on Navajo land. This concept of ‘the paradox of plenty’ or ‘the resource curse’ where regions with abundant resources are often poor in money had struck me as very bazaar.”
The film was indeed a story to be told–not only because there were so many compelling elements historically–such as the “NIOSH studies” which hid documentation of the failing health of uranium miners–but because it has turned into a present-day debate. “There is a flood of applications being received in support of re-opening old uranium mines. These mines have contributed to the poisoning of wells and aquifers for thousands of miles,” said Rousmaniere.
“A Native culture that has survived thousands of years is facing complications of a third-world country despite being located immediately in the middle of one of the world’s greatest superpowers,” said Jay Minton (Potawatomi), co-producer of “Yellow Fever.”
War veteran, Tina Garnanez, served in the U.S. Armed Forces in both Kosovo and Iraq. Upon her return to the states, she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She credits photography and spending time with family as a successful form of therapy for her.
During this time, Garnanez took an interest in the stories of the Navajo Uranium Boom. She decided to embark on a personal investigation of the uranium mining industry–looking at the cost of cheap energy, the potential for new mining on the Navajo Reservation, and the tolls it has on the environment. Throughout the film, she becomes an advocate, lobbyist, and a vocal proponent for transparency and environmental justice.
The Navajo Nation extends over nearly 30,000 square miles with lands in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. It is the largest reservation in the U.S. with a population of over 173,000. It is estimated that 3 billion tons of uranium ore lay beneath the Navajo Nation. Uranium mining began on the Navajo Nation during the Cold War in the 1950s in an effort to support the nuclear arms races. During this time, more than 2,000 uranium mines were excavated and four uranium-processing mills were built. Today, engineers and environmentalists consider the lands of the Navajo Nation and those immediately surrounding as an “Energy Sacrifice Zone”–a region highly impacted by pollution from the 16 power plants and the 35,000 natural gas and oil wells located there.
“Yellow Fever”–which received major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Vision Maker Media–is an offering of WORLD Channel’s “AmericaReFramed” series. This documentary will be available to public television stations nationwide on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, at 8 p.m. Eastern. This program is suggested for scheduling for Earth Month in April. For viewing information in your area, please visitwww.visionmakermedia.org/watch.