Skip to main content

Navajo Uranium Miners Oral History and Photography Project

Identifier: MSS -622-BC

Scope and Content

This oral history project consists of 26 individual interviews with former uranium miners or family members of the Navajo Tribe on 26 different cassette tapes. This collection also contains 14 DVDs containing 3 interviews, scenery shots from the mines and the area where the miners lived, as well as some miscellaneous, untranscribed interviews.

The interviews were conducted in either Navajo or English by Mr. Benally. Most interviews, or excerpts from them, were transcribed in both Navajo and English. There is also a copy of the questionnaire that Mr. Benally used in the interviews. Mr. Benally also took additional field notes on the interviews which are in the collection. Excerpts from the interviews and still, black and white photographs were complied into a book entitled, Memories Come to us in the Rain and the Wind: Oral Histories and Photographs of Navajo Uranium Miners and their Families. The collection also contains newsletters which helped raise money for this project.

This project addresses the health issues such as some of the effects of prolonged exposure to radioactive uranium and the failure of health officials to educate the Navajo on safety issues and potential dangers regarding uranium. This project also shows how many Navajo miners who got cancer and other diseases from working in the mines, were not compensated. Archival copies of the cassette tapes, the DVDs (original video tapes), and a copy of the interview transcripts on a disk are located in B3; second copies for patron use are housed within the manuscript collection. Photographs have been transferred to CSWR photoarchives.

English language transcripts for all interviews were completed by the project staff in 1999 and were added to this collection at that time (folders 8 and 9).


  • 1996-1998

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Project History

The purpose of this project was to document the lives of Navajo uranium miners. The ultimate goals were educating people, both Navajo and the general public, of injustices the miners faced and to hopefully promote further compensation for these miners and their families. The project coordinator was Douglas Brugge, Ph.D., with the assistance of Timothy Benally, a former uranium miner and Navajo College administrator. Interviews were conducted in the Shiprock area of the Navajo Reservation. By interviewing widows and children of miners, the project encompassed the broader health and social effects of uranium mining on the community.

In order to further document the miners and their families, photographs were taken of each informant. The experiences and recollections gathered during the project were then disseminated through a traveling exhibit and a published volume.

Funding for the project was provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Ruth Mott Fund, the Ford Foundation, and other private donations.


1 box

Related Material

Compensation for Navajo Uranium Miners collection Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

Photographs have been transferred to the Navajo Uranium Miners Oral History and Photography Project Collection.

Archival copies of cassette tapes, DVDs (original video tapes), and a disk containing a copy of the interview transcripts are located in B3.
Finding Aid of the Navajo Uranium Miners Oral History and Photography Project, 1996-1998
Processed by P.B.K.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 622 BC::Navajo Uranium Miners Oral History and Photography Project)//EN" "nmu1mss622bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131