By Mary Beth Brangan & James Heddle – EON
The Legend of Ward Valley
This week people from around the state and the entire country will gather in Ward Valley, California to remember and celebrate the 25th anniversary of an historic people’s victory – the shutdown of a proposed nuclear waste dump project that would have endangered the water supply of Arizona, Southern California and Northern Mexico.
It was a victory of over a decade of persistent non-violent resistance by a coalition of Native American tribes and numerous other activist organizations who joined forces in an inspiring example of the impact united people power can have. That power was again shown in the successful campaign leading to the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in 2013.
In his book Doing Democracy – The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, the late social movement theorist Bill Moyer [not the TV guy] stressed the importance for activists to remember and celebrate their victories.
In honor of the Ward Valley Win celebration we are issuing an updated version of our 1992 film Choicepoint: California’s Water and Radioactive Waste.
In 1989, a small group of Californians –including Phil Klasky, Ward Young, Rachel Johnson, Pam Dake and EON Co-Director Mary Beth Brangan – joined the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and a few residents of Needles, California to help begin a movement to stop a planned nuclear waste dump at Ward Valley in the Mojave Desert near the Colorado River. Diane D’Arrigo of NIRS gave expert organizing assistance and Dan Hirsch of Committee to Bridge the Gap and Roger Herried of Abalone Alliance provided technical and procedural help.
Considered by many a hopeless cause at the beginning, over time the movement grew to include scientists, environmentalists and the region’s many Native American tribes. After a ten-year battle, an peaceful occupation at the proposed site and the powerful involvement of Native American tribal organizers, a judge’s ruling in 1999 brought an end to the planned dump.
This film – produced in thirty years ago and re-mastered from an archival copy – tells the story of that successful movement’s beginning. It portrays many of the now-fallen peaceful warriors who played important roles in the successful campaign and whose memories will be honored at the Ward Valley gathering.
The film’s analysis of radioactive waste issues is as relevant today as when it was first released.
Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle Co-Direct EON, the Ecological Options Network.. The EON feature documentary S.O.S. – The San Onofre Syndrome will be released this Spring.