Acoma Petuuche Gilbert opens The Last Oil symposium in New Mexico, the home of U.S. nuclear bombs, with words of prayer and respect for all life.
By Brenda Norrell
ALBUQUERQUE -- Petuuche Gilbert, Acoma, opened The Last Oil symposium, with prayer and a call for peace and respect, while questioning why the United States continues to build nuclear bombs to kill the people of the world.
"How do nuclear bombs really make America great?" Petuuche asked, as he opened the three-day Last Oil symposium, that continues with 26 speakers at the University of New Mexico, through Friday night.
Petuuche said the nuclear power industry began here in New Mexico.
"Why do we want to continue the nuclear bombs to destroy other people, to kill other people," he asked.
New Mexico, and the Pueblos are not just the home to the nuclear power industry, but the region continues to be home to the scattered radioactive tailings left from Cold War uranium mining.
Petuuche began his opening comments by explaining that Spaniards saw the communities here when they came, which were like those in Europe, and used the term 'Pueblos' to describe his people.
"We are still here," he said, of Acoma, among the Nineteen Pueblos.
"We welcome you here. We welcome you here to visit us."
Etched on the rocks at the Petroglyphs National Park are the "handiwork and handprints of our ancestors," he said.
Chaco Canyon is definitely related to Acoma, and Mesa Verde is another place where his ancestors were.
"We are ancient here," he said, speaking of the longevity of the Pueblo people.
When Chinese came to visit his homeland, he told the group, "Finally two ancient people meet again."
"We're still here today," Petuuche said during the opening of The Last Oil.
Welcoming visitors to his home, he said, "Do come to visit Acoma."
Petuuche spoke on environmental activism, and the peoples concerns for each other, the land, water and air that is around them. He said that Indigenous ideology can contribute to the saving of mankind.
"As humans, we are all connected."
"We are all Indigenous to this globe, we are all Indigenous to Mother Earth."
Petuuche works with an organization in the Grants, New Mexico, area, an area where there was 50 years of uranium mining.
"We are still trying to clean up radioactive mines and mills." He said it has affected the land, water and lives of people.
The whole development of nuclear power really began here in New Mexico, he said.
Petuuche said when he heard of this conference, The Last Oil, he wondered if Sen. Tom Udall would be present.
"I really wanted to kind of confront him."
"What we see here in New Mexico is the dependency on nuclear energy."
He said the "all mighty dollar" is used to fund the Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Petuuche said he has questions to ask Sen. Tom Udall.
"I wanted to ask how nuclear bombs really make America great?"
"Why do we want to continue the nuclear bombs to destroy other people, to kill other people."
Petuuche said the plutonium pits, plutonium triggers, are still manufactured in New Mexico to detonate atomic bombs.
Today, he said the term used is "smart bombs," called low-yield nuclear weaponry.
"A lot of this research still goes on," he said of the nuclear industry at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, and at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The United States is increasing its nuclear arsenal, with more expenditures. Now, the U.S. Congress is budgeting $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years.
"Why doesn't this money get expended for health, education and infrastructure, instead of building this nuclear power of the United States?" he asked.
Petuuche said at conferences like this, dialogue is important, and the issue of being respectful -- not just the respect of humans to humans, but humans to the land, the environment -- the air, land and water.
Petuuche spoke of the inter-relatedness of all life.
"Climate change is a big part of that, the human impacts of causing that."
Urging understanding, he pointed out that it is the responsibility of all people.
"We are all somehow contributing to that."
"We all need to understand that."
Indigenous Peoples realize the need for being spiritual.
"All the natural things on the land are gifts for humans to use."
Speaking on the relationship of Indigenous Peoples to the natural world around them, he said, "It was always a peaceful and respectful relationship to the land, water, air, wildlife and animals that are here -- our place in this universe."
Petuuche said the opening prayer he offered for The Last Oil conference, is meant for all people, and the wildlife.
At Acoma, religious leaders are there for prayer.
Today, as with every day, on the Rock of Acoma, great leaders went out to pray, for everyone, for their families.
"Their prayer was that we have peace and respect, and that we be able to maintain this beautiful way of life."
Watch life the three day symposium through Friday night.