The Dene people are an indigenous group of the Northwest Territories of Canada. The Dene People’s modern history is directly intertwined with the proliferation of nuclear engineering. Beginning in the late 1930s, the Canadian government pushed for the Dene to mine for, what was unbeknownst to them, uranium. The Eldorado Mine was established at Port Radium on the indigenous land of the Dene, and they mined, without adequate protection, for what they thought was silver, but was truly uranium. As time passed, the Dene miners and their families realized that what they had mined was actually far more dangerous than they realized. Miners contracted cancers and radiation-induced illnesses at much higher rates than the general population, and whole communities were left reeling with the death and the destruction that was left in the wake of the mining that took place at Port Radium. In 1998, 10 Dene leaders went to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to participate in the peace ceremonies and apologize for their role in the bombing of their cities, as the Dene thought the uranium used in the “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” bombs were extracted from their land. However, even though the uranium used in the bombs was mined from the Belgian Congo, the Dene still demonstrated accountability, respect, and empathy for the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, healing the ties between them.
In our project, we hoped to build on and expand the work of a previous Freshman Seminar project, From Princeton to Hiroshima: Following in the Footsteps of the Deline. In this project, the group hoped to connect with the students of Hiroshima University and rectify Princeton’s lack of care and culpability in Hiroshima’s tumultuous history. The project offered a vision of their inspiration, their apology, and the next steps they would like to take in order to connect with members of the Hiroshima University community and right the wrongs of the past. Although the previous project was unable to establish a direct connection with the community of Hiroshima University, in our project, we take off from where they left off, connecting with Hiroshima resident and third-generation atomic-bomb survivor, Misaki Katayama.