So, where did this distrust of the Federal Government in the West, come from? Is there any real truth to it. Could the seeds of that distrust have been sown years ago when settlers in the American west saw how the federal government treated the native American Indians, and and what happened to them? Yes, certainly a possibility.
Nez Pierce Chief Joseph with family
On the other hand, distrust of the federal government in the American West seemed to come into full bloom following the federal governments Nuclear Testing in the Western Nevada desert. Later, the term, “downwinders,” was adopted signifying the people who lived “downwind” of atomic tests. Tests were usually conducted when the wind was blowing east or northeast in order to avoid fallout over more densely populated areas to the south and west, including Las Vegas and southern California and such fallout often blew right over Southern Utah.
During his term as Utah governor, Scott Matheson brought to the forefront of public awareness the problems faced by Utahns as a result of the nuclear testing. At the 1979 hearings he presented some 1,100 pages of testimony concerning the AEC cover-up and other research. All this was done before Matheson himself developed terminal cancer. His personal conclusion in 1986 was: “I am still angry about the way this issue was handled by the federal government. It points to a continuing need for governors to be vigilant concerning both short-term and long-term impacts of federal decisions on their residents. If citizens in a state are to be sacrificed for the ‘national interest,’ then, at the very least, those citizens need to be fully informed and protected as much as possible.”
Since then, distrust has seemingly progressed from bad to worse, first with the federal governments’ proposal to develop the MX missile system in the West during the 70’s. In more recent years, there have been ongoing friction and battles related to wilderness, national monuments, endangered species, and the latest escalation seems to have a lot to do with the federal government’s increasing militarization of its regulatory agencies, and ever increasing show of force.
At this point, it appears that the whole evolution is on track to come full circle, with the federal government once again starting to treat the current inhabitants of the American West much as it did the early native American Indians. How long will it be until we are forced off the land and onto reservations? Has it already happened, and most people don’t even realize it? It’s something to think about.