Like many members of the Laguna Pueblo, Dorothy Purley found work at Anaconda’s Jackpile Mine – at the time, the largest open pit uranium mine in the Western hemisphere. For seven years she trucked ore and worked near Anaconda’s crushers. In Dorothy’s hometown of Paguate, New Mexico, uranium tailings were “disposed of” by being used as building material for streets and homes. At a time when uranium mining and milling was a matter of national security, information about the element’s toxic nature was scarcer than gold.
Since 1993, Dorothy Purley has been fighting a debilitating battle with cancer. At the same time, undaunted, she has spoken at many national and international colloquiums, as well as travelled to Japan to share her own personal link to the devastation of the nuclear blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“Now fighting with cancer three times in a row – I don’t know what’s in store for me tomorrow.”
As an outspoken activist and member of the Indiginous Environmental Network, she has informed tribal elders of numerous Indian nations about the damage and long-term consequences that shower from low-level radiation. She tells us: “Having that uranium mine in my hometown for thirty years having to go through what we had to go through. Now fighting with cancer three times in a row – I don’t know what’s in store for me tomorrow.”
There is nothing easier to ignore than that which cannot be sensed. That’s why it is so important that victims of radiation step forward to tell their stories. The powerful voice of Dorothy Purley will ring out far beyond her earthly while. Her personal account lends the invisible a human face.
Dorothy Purley of Laguna Pueblo passed away on December 2, 1999, in her home village of Paguate, New Mexico. Dorothy’s fighting spirit will endure.