LANL Agrees to Stop Calling Weapons Bunkers Kivas

Bush's Pentagon Choice Moves U.S. Closer to "Star Wars"

* Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has been calling nuclear-experimental bunkers at the lab 'kivas' since 1946, but that has now ended. Lab Director John Browne ordered an immediate name change after members from three different Pueblos asked the lab to stop calling these bunkers 'kivas'. Governor Red Eagle Rael, of Picuris Pueblo and Marian Naranjo, a member of Santa Clara Pueblo and Native Communities Outreach Director for Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), wrote lab Director Browne letters in December that were read by Harley Brewer, a member of San Ildefonso Pueblo and a Board member of CCNS, at a recent press conference regarding LANL's compliance under the Clean Air Act.

In his letter, Governor Rael stated, "I feel the use of the word 'Kiva' at a nuclear weapons facility is very disrespectful and is in violation of our cultural beliefs, and culturally insensitive to our Indian People as well as our Ancient Pueblo People. I strongly recommend you rename your nuclear facilities that are currently named 'kivas.'" Browne responded in a December 20th letter saying, "I assure you that no disrespect was meant in using the word 'kiva.'" The Governor could not be reached for comment, but Ms. Naranjo expressed her happiness when she learned of the labs decision, "A kiva is the place where we have our religious aspect. It's more than a church. It's what really ties us together."

Since the early days of Los Alamos, the term 'kiva' referred to criticality bunkers at Technical Area 18 and one at Technical Area 54. The lab now plans to call the bunkers by their numbers or "experimental bays."

Ms. Naranjo, although pleased with the decision, still wants an apology from lab officials, the Department of Energy, which oversees the lab, and the University of California, which is contracted by DOE to run the lab. "I know that the people who presently are in positions [at the lab] personally did not name these places. That's why I feel that a letter [of apology] from them is essential so that it can be a historical positive change. They can show that this government can show respect for what was here before they came."


* President-elect Bush's appointment of Donald Rumsfeld Director of Defense, and the former head of the Pentagon 25 years ago, is causing critics in the U.S. and nations around the world to believe that Bush may be heading for a confrontation with Russia, China and U.S. allies over the heated issue of national missile defense.

Rumsfeld has made it clear he considers the U.S. vulnerable to ballistic missile attack from countries such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq. Bush is quoted as saying, he wants Rumsfeld to "make sure that the missile defense receives the priority we think it must receive in future Pentagon budgets." These appear to be the plans of the new administration, even if it means scrapping the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, a cornerstone of arms control for 30 years.

Russia has opposed all changes to the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty saying that if Washington pulls out of the pact, other deals might unravel, including the two nuclear arms reduction treaties signed by Bush's father, President George Bush, at the end of the Cold War. Among those who oppose the National Missile Defense plan (or NMD), are the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a joint report released in April, they found that attackers using nuclear weapons could defeat a missile defense system in several ways.

Many experts believe China and Russia will look for ways to upgrade their arsenals. Camille Grand, with a political institute in Paris, writes that there is genuine concern in Europe that ``the country that invented arms control and nonproliferation is showing a mounting distrust, if not outright contempt, for bilateral and multilateral regimes and treaties. ... The determined pursuit of NMD is another signal of growing U.S. preference for unilateral responses to global issues.''


Back to News Index