In 1998, a group of Dene elders from Northwest Canada traveled to Hiroshima to meet with survivors and descendants of survivors of the atomic bomb dropped some fifty years earlier. Some of the uranium used to kill more than 200,000 people in Japan had been mined and transported by Dene men, many of whom died years later from radiation-related disease. The six Dene elders came from where the earth had been torn up to the place where earth and sky were ripped apart like never before. They came to Hiroshima to apologize and to recognize the shared radioactive reality between people touched by the detonation of the bomb and those who unwittingly touched the materials that would make such a weapon. Nobody from the Canadian government was present, none among those who had exploited the miner’s bodies and their home lands and willingly aided the construction of the atomic bomb ever made the journey.
The reinscribed path of the Dene elder’s trip illuminated the radiated lines connecting settler colonial resource extraction and Western imperial warmaking. Theirs was an act of unexpected mapping, connecting two nodes of a much larger and largely obscured sphere of ongoing and purposefully scattered atomic apocalypse. What does it mean to ask forgiveness for something that was forced upon you?
By Ilya Milstein — I love his detail and his titles. In order: “A Library by the Tyrrhenian Sea,” “The Minimalist,” and “On Exactitude in Science.”