President of National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans
Fighting Against Nuclear Waist
“The Great Spirit instructed us that, as Native people, we have a consecrated bond with our Mother Earth. We have a sacred obligation to our fellow creatures that live upon it…The purpose of NECONA is to invite tribes to express their sovereign national rights in a more creative way in favor of our Mother, by joining the growing number of tribal governments that are choosing to declare their lands nuclear-free zones.”
In the early 1990s, many Native American tribes including Grace’s tribe, the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, had applied for government grants to build monitored retrievable storage sites on their lands. The purpose of these storage sites was to provide the government with a place to store nuclear waste. Many tribes needed extra money and saw the building of nuclear sites as a good source of income. Grace Thorpe, however, was appalled by this because she was aware of the dangers that it would cause to their environment.
In 1993 she formed the National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans to fight against the building of storage sites on Native American land. Through her efforts, she managed to convince her tribe along with several others to refuse the grant and declare their lands Nuclear Free Zones. In 1996 Grace published an essay “Our Homes are Not Dumps: Creating Nuclear Free Zones” discussing the harms of building nuclear storage sites on Native American lands. She discussed how in the past many Native Americans had worked at mines built on Native American lands and were promised reparations in the Radiation Exposure Act of 1990. However, only a few Native Americans out of the many that worked on the mines received the reparations.
She also discussed many other issues caused by the exposure to nuclear waste on Native American Reservations such as injured children and tainted water. Grace also called to attention how it was the responsibility of Native Americans to take care of their lands, a responsibility that had been passed down for generations by their ancestors.