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Military hazards are greater for Native Americans, according to sociological research

WASHINGTON, DC-A new study by sociologists at Washington State University (WSU) suggests Native Americans and their lands are disproportionately exposed to hazards posed by the U.S. military's explosive and toxic munitions.

The research, conducted by Gregory Hooks, chair of the WSU Department of Sociology, and Chad L. Smith, Texas State University-San Marcos professor and a former WSU graduate student, provides evidence that Native American lands tend to be located in the same county as sites deemed to be extremely dangerous due to the presence of a variety of unexploded military ordnance.

The researchers study, "The Treadmill of Destruction: National Sacrifice Areas and Native Americans," appears in the most recent issue of the American Sociological Review, the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association.

While a body of previous research has determined that Native Americans and other minority populations are often subjected to environmental inequalities as the result of economic and industrial activities, Hooks and Smith said this latest research is the first to systematically examine the role of the military in the uneven distribution of environmental hazards.

"The study demonstrates that much of the disproportional exposure of Native Americans to environmental dangers throughout the 20th century was the result of militarism, rather than economic competition," Hooks said. "And it shows that historically coercive governmental policies in locating Indian reservations are a major factor in determining their exposure."

The study cites historical evidence showing that the United States widely expanded its military infrastructure in the 1940s, and then reinforced that infrastructure again during the Cold War, each time using remote lands to serve as bombing ranges and weapons testing and storage sites. For the most part, the expansions occurred throughout the western United States, where by the 1930s much of the Nat
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Contact: Johanna Ebner or Lee Herring
pubinfo@asanet.org
202-383-9005 x332
American Sociological Association
27-Oct-2004


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