Abbey’s Desert Solitaire brought up many of the political and environmental issues surrounding the desert lands of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Although they appear sparse, these lands are filled with valued minerals, including uranium ore.
Somewhere between social justice and environmentalism lies the art activist group Honor the Treaties, sponsored/organized by Obey graphic designer and street artist Shepard Fairey. As Sarah Moore brought up in her “trash talk,” there is a disparity in the amount of chemical waste placed on the lands of marginalized POC’s in the US and around the world. Likewise, in the case of many American Indian communities across the states, there is a lack of respect for land ownership and habitation proximity to hazardous mining sites, dumping grounds, and chemical warfare practice ranges. The recent uranium mining enterprise of Mt. Taylor, which is located on Acoma and Laguna pueblo land, threatened these groups’ Constitutional rights to maintain sacred land. Private companies were coming in and mining ore from Mt. Taylor. According to Laguna pueblo Jaque Fragua, (the muralist who came to school last fall) friends and family reported tainted water, and fear of radiation. None of these reports made it into mainstream media. Fragua and other native art activists were able to remedy this undercoverage by pairing with Fairey’s campaign to create mass circulation posters:
These works and the ensued campaign brought awareness to the issue and eventually propelled it to the New Mexico Supreme Court, where it was awarded federal protection as place of ancient activity and cultural resources.
Unfortunately, the illegal mining and environmental damages done to reservation lands by big companies is not uncommon. One of the largest issues is the decimation of water resources.
For a communities who have been systematically forced to live in poverty, on already unideal land, the issue of environmental threats and damages manifest more directly as a human rights violation.