One important yet often-overlooked aspect of kindness involves an appreciation of history. Context is everything. Which is why the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s site for their Tribal Advance Notification program is so unnecessarily unkind.
First off, the top of the page is dominated by a giant searchable map of the entire United States. So cool, right? You can zoom around to anywhere in the country to find tribes that have qualified for advance warning when nuclear waste will be transported through their territory. Except for one problem: the map is utterly blank.
Beneath it, in tasteful italics, lies the explanation:
“The map above displays participating Federally Recognized Tribal governments that have opted to receive Advanced Notification when shipments of irradiated reactor fuel and certain types of nuclear waste pass within or across their reservation boundaries.
Currently there are no tribes that have met the prerequisites required to receive advance notifications.”
Those prerequisites? NOT ONEROUS! Basically a tribe just needs someone in an authority position to register, get a background check, and leave fingerprints on file. Oh, wait, they changed the rules so they don’t even have to file fingerprints any more! Which begs the question: WHY are there no tribes signed up? I mean, it’s not like the tribes don’t WANT advance notification when nuclear waste is on its way.
It seems pretty clear the NRC did a piss-poor job of reaching out to the tribes on this one. Giving someone an opportunity isn’t actually an act of kindness if there is no way to actualize that opportunity. Especially when one considers the history of oppression and injustice heaped on the Native American peoples. Especially the antecedents of such oppression, namely lack of reliable internet access or the ability to peruse the Federal Register on a whim.
Which makes it extra-specially annoying to check the NRC 2014 Tribal Policy Statement page. The NRC’s working on their tribal relationships and had a 120-day window to take public comments. The deadline for those comments? April 1, 2015. Really, NRC? Not only is your 2014 tribal policy adjustment getting a bit long in the tooth, but you couldn’t have avoided invoking April Fool’s Day? That’s more than just not kind. That’s not cool.