Just when you thought the federal government had done just about every despicable thing it could to the Native American population, they decided to raise the bar…
The USDA approved a plan to dumping thousands of tons of trash on one of their reservations.
You see, Hawaii has some serious garbage issues… For one, while the average American creates about 4.5 pounds of trash a day, the average Hawaiian citizen creates over 9.
The state’s largest city, Honolulu, is only authorized to use one landfill and it’s way over capacity. So officials are scrambling to find a home for the 40 million pounds of trash currently rotting away in a local industrial park.
The AP reports the waste — which has been compacted into bales and wrapped in plastic — is stacked up to twenty feet in the air, and has been stinking up the area and attracting gnats.
The industrial park is owned by Hawaiian Waste Systems of Seattle, which has the unpleasant task of figuring out what to do with it all.
image courtesy of Honolulu Advisor
Because Hawaii has strict laws against trash importation, Honolulu cannot dump the trash on the other Hawaiian Islands (nothing spoils a serene tropical view like a festering landfill). So, authorities have decided to ship it to an area with plenty of space: the Klickitat County dump, conveniently located in the Yakama Indian Nation’s backyard.
That proposal called for shipping 100,000 tons of garbage a year to the Yakama Indian Nation’s ancestral hunting grounds. Needless to say, the tribe wasn’t too keen on the idea.
Shortly before the garbage was set to leave, the Yakama’s tribal council gave federal officials a tour of their lands — including their historical hunting and gathering areas. Included on the tour was Edward Avalos, the Obama-appointed Under Secretary of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
“We explained our fears that Hawaiian garbage could destroy our resources and ways of life,” tribal chairman Harry Smiskin said. “Our efforts fell on blind eyes and deaf ears.”
The tribe went on to issue a statement detailing their alarm:
Yakama citizens gather huckleberries and chokecherries and roots like lammush and bitterroot and pick various flowers and plants from the lands surrounding the landfill — all for use as food or medicine.
They didn’t want municipal waste mingling with their medicines, and I can’t really blame them.
Additionally, the tribe was concerned about the damage that might befall their ancient Native American burial grounds, an act that seems certain to bring about a morbid curse of some kind.
So the tribe, along with several environmental groups, filed a lawsuit against APHIS and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seeking to block the importation of trash.
Last month, the courts granted a temporary restraining order against transporting the trash. And in a victory for the tribe, a court revoked Hawaiian Waste Systems’ license this week.
So where will the trash go now that they can’t heap it onto the tribal areas?
Honolulu will burn as much of the waste as it can, but the remaining waste will have to be crammed into the city’s single landfill, the Waimanalo Gulch on the island of Oahu.
In a stroke of irony, the Waimanalo Gulch is right next to the largest concentration of Native Hawaiians in Oahu. If the only places left to dump our waste are the historic grounds of local populations, we really have a problem…
Everyone knows by now that we are simply creating too much trash, and we’re running out of space to put it.
Nobody wants a landfill in their backyard, yet everyone shares some responsibility for creating such large amounts of waste.
Maybe if we focused all of the energy and resources spent to fight trash removal schemes like this, and put it into incentivizing people and businesses to reduce their consumption and waste, we wouldn’t have to resort to shameful measures like dumping trash on Indian hunting grounds.