Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed
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Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  178 ratings  ·  41 reviews

Atop a craggy mesa in the northern reaches of the Navajo reservation lies what was once a world-class uranium mine called Monument No. 2. Discovered in the 1940s—during the government’s desperate press to build nuclear weapons—the mesa’s tremendous lode would forever change the lives of the hundreds of Native Americans w...more
Kindle Edition, 338 pages
Published (first published September 10th 2010)
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Mikey B.
A penetrating study of what happened to the Navajo people when they started to mine Uranium in the early 1940’s.

This occurred on the Navajo reservation that is located in Arizona and Utah. A great deal of the mining was in Monument Valley. The initial reason for extracting the Uranium was the real fear that the enemies of democracy, particularly Nazi Germany, would also start to process Uranium for the purposes of making a nuclear explosion. In the early 1940’s little was known of the affects of...more
Ryan Mishap
There have always been some fucking monsters in this world--we don't need fictional stories to conjure them up because greed, racism, and patriotism already create them.

Pasternak writes a concise, well-researched report on the depredations of the U.S. government and uranium mining countries as they exploited Navajo land to fuel their profits and weapons supply. The neglect, recklessness, and lack of compassion shown by those entities is absolutely stunning, and the shock is all the more sharp gi...more
Due to my preference for non-fiction, I often read books that I have no desire to review. Why? Because the subject matter is just too depressing to write about. This is one of those books.

How long and how often will we continue in the U.S. to rape and pillage non-whites? I'm thinking maybe when non-whites finally become the majority? That day is coming soon, thank God! Oh, no wait, then of course there is the constant barrage of abuse of the poor, who are just getting poorer and less powerful, b...more
Dan C.
Yellow Dirt was the second book I read while on vacation this January. The first was Torment - a piece of post-apocalyptic zombie fiction, and then this book which tells the story of how we basically raped the land in Navajo Nation of uranium, left the radioactive crap laying around to contaminate everything in sight and are just now getting around to making restitution to the Navajo. Not exactly the feel-good books of the year. But as I always say, the funny thing about feeling is don't always...more
Rebecca Martin
Reading this for fall learning community: Neglected Landscapes: Approaching the Environment Through Film and Creative Writing. Deborah Poe and I are teaching the class together. I'm reading this book because the Monument Valley area is one of the "neglected landscapes" we will deal with. This is a very readable and informative (not to mention disturbing) book by a writer for the LA Times exposing the devastation of the environment and people of the Four Corners area by 70 years of mining for rad...more
Fredrick Danysh
During World War II and during the the Cold War, the United States was looking for a source of uranium for its nuclear programs. A mother lode was found on the Navaho and Hopi reservations in the Four Corners region. This is the story of the exploration for the uranium and the explotation of the Navaho who became exposed to its toxic properties even generations after the mining stopped.
Text Addict
During World War II, the United States needed uranium. The Navajo Nation had uranium deposits and needed jobs and money – and was glad to be helping the war effort, as well. After the hot war, the Cold War required uranium for American nuclear weapons.

But the mining was carried out with no safety standards. No ventilation, no dust remediation, no breath masks, and not a word to the workers that the substance they were excavating might be dangerous. Pasternak notes that this was true at mines wor...more
There's been a lot of talk since the 2010 election about intrusive government regulations hurting the economy and being at least partly responsible for rising unemployment in our Country. Without making it the point of the book, the author tells a story of why the opposite is also true. Unfortunately, as part of the Cold War, Uranium mining became a national priority in the 1950's, and one of the largest sources of domestic uranium was found on Navajo lands in the vicinity of the Southwest Unite...more
Looking back at the 20th century now has an eerie ring of “the end justifies the means” for those with eyes to see it. True, here in America we developed faster than any other period in history: from the Industrial Revolution to the automobile to electricity to running water to medicine to the information age, we accomplished more than has ever been done in a century before. Not to mention we fought two enormous wars during those years and five or six smaller ones. In truth, history will probabl...more
Shocking. My sister said it would be when she recommended it, and she was not wrong. My brother-in-law is Navajo, and I have always been fascinated with Native American culture, wishing I had such deep roots and abiding family ties.
But what the government allowed to happen to the Navajos…all for the sake of uranium…is appalling. The U.S. government is supposed to be a protector for these people. Instead, from 1930 -1960 they exploited the Navajos and their resources. And the implications of this...more
Great reporting here, tragic story about the devastating effects of uranium mining on the Navajo people. I've seen enough of the area to picture everything she talks about. Such a collection of lessons about how wheels that don't squeak get no grease.
Patrick C.
A disturbing account of one of the many terrible things done to the Navajo. The book is well-researched and reads easily. Some parts are just heart-wrenching, others beg the question "who the hell thought THAT was an okay thing to do?"
Colleen Moore
Insightfully observed investigative report of the human and cultural impacts of uranium mining on the Navajo Reservation. As you read you experience the stunning panoramas of the 4 Corners region. At the same time, you will feel the heartbreak of people losing their loved ones to lung cancer and other degenerative diseases associated with uranium and toxics of mining waste. Your outrage will grow chapter by chapter as the author leads you through the history in which mining companies are made to...more
Bill Sleeman

Judy Pasternak’s remarkable story of deceit, injury, racism and murder all built around the quest for uranium during WWII and the Cold War era is a masterful bit of research and writing. Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed follows the discovery of uranium on the Navajo reservation in the American West (really, the discovery by Whites as the Navajo knew it was there all along, they just generally did not understand what it represented in the modern age) and how

I just finished reading Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and the Betrayal of the Navajos by Judy Pasternak. A book like this does two major things: not only can the reader begin to understand the disastrous consequences of uranium mining paid by the Navajo Natives, but there is also an element of warning for the future and environmental implications other communities might have to face as a result of disinformation and greed. I left this book, wondering, how clean is my water, really and is there ev...more
If books were rated on the importance of the subject alone, this book would get 5 stars. I had the same response to it that I had to The New Jim Crow: how did I not know that this was happening?!? Especially given all the time that we have spent in the 4 Corners area! It is important for all of us to know the extent to which a people can be duped and, really, destroyed by our government. That said, I had problems with the writing. The author had a hard time telling a coherent story, especially i...more
Marti Garlett
What am amazing work -- compelling and tragic that reads like fiction! I could not put it down. There is no doubt the US government has treated Native Americans shabbily since we white folks invaded and conquered many peoples. Then after "we" gave reservations and nation status to various tribes on the land least desirable to us, we continued with our betrayals. We mined uranium for our bombs without letting the indigenous people who lived there know. And we left huge heaps of radioactive tracin...more
This is the story of uranium mining on the Navajo reservation in the Southwest and of the disastrous health effects lasting for generations. The book is divided into sections by generation so it emphasizes the long lasting effects of the uranium pollution. I knew little to nothing about this. Again and again I am amazed at my ignorant and insulated life.

The author uses a story-telling style for the early part of the book. This is effective in setting the tone of how the Navajo people view the la...more
If you don't know a lot about uranium mining and are interested in cause and effect this is a great book. It is also sad because the situation these people are in will take years to clean up and have the potential to cause more problems.
Willa Johnson
It's very well-researched and exposes the outrageous and immoral, long-running conduct of the US government in their interactions with the Navajo people whose land held large deposits of uranium desired for the Manhattan Project, and ensuing Cold War. Because the Navajo miners' exposure to the effects of uranium was so long-term, it has been determined to be 44 times that which the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki endured! And it was not just miners who were affected. People were exposed via the...more
I love investigative journalism! Most of us already know the basic story of the Navajo miners digging out uranium without any protection or safety standards during the Cold War. But it's fascinating (and rage-inducing) to read the machinations that the mining companies and the U.S. government went to in order to avoid responsibility, fix any problems, or introduce any safety standards. I also had no idea that the Navajo literally built their houses using the dirt with uranium tailings in it. So...more
Rusty Vaughan
Read about what Uranium mining did to the miners and keep Fracking in mind. Excellent presentation.
Ray Smithee
Uranium mining during the 40's,50's,and 60's in the homeland of the Navajo. A cautionary enviromental tale of a naive people suffering the consequences of past events.
Paternak's book tells the grim story of uranium mining on Navajo land by commercial mining companies and the US government. Workers and residents were not given protection from the known dangers of the mining and the lack of accountability is disgraceful and probably criminal.

This book is based on a series of articles in the LA Times by the author. I suspect that the articles probably read better. The book is heavily padded and ponderous. The story is compelling but I'd recommend either skimming...more
Miranda N.
Well researched, thoughtful expose of one of our darker chapters in American history. Pasternak's writing is lively and captures the essence of the people and the history in a fresh way that keeps it from being dry.
David L
In the spring of 2009 in Albuquerque, I served as foreman on a mock jury charged with hearing probable cause against uranium mining companies and the DOE, a case on behalf of Navajo families who lost family members who had worked in the mines for years under unsafe conditions. There is little doubt in my mind that the concern of that jury and the subject of this book are one in the same. Our jury found in favor of the plaintiffs. This heart wrenching book relates the reality of the situation.
Carol Hassett
It took me several months to read this book. Every time I reached the point where my heart was breaking I had to put it away for a bit. And unfortunately that happened a lot throughout this book. Judy Pasternak brought the reality of greed and corruption in our government and the corporate world to light. The pain and suffering they caused the Navaho Nation is unbelievable! My heart goes out to all the families affected by this betrayal. Amazing read!
Carol Chapman
Fascinating story, but rather poorly written. I've been to areas of Monument Valley, Grand Junction and the Navajo Reservation discussed in the book,so for that reason I found the book particularly interesting. And of course, the treatment of the Navajo by the US Gov't. makes me ill.
Well-written book about a tragedy that should never have happened in the United States.
Jan Holmes
prepare to be angry the whole time you are reading this book. yet another true story of the US government abusing native americans and getting away with it. the page count is misleading because about 25 to 30 pages are reference pages.
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