The proposal of the Mescalero Apache Indians of New Mexico to host a nuclear waste storage facility raised difficult questions about political sovereignty, environmental justice, and democratic consent. While the proposal had numerous drawbacks and deserved to be opposed, many of the arguments used against it were conceptually flawed and paternalistic. Arguments decrying bribery of a poor community were particularly weak, while those criticizing targeting of Indian tribes by the United States government and coercion of tribal members by the Mescalero leadership had more merit. The core ethical arguments should be separated from the rhetoric so that policy makers, Native Americans, environmentalists, and industry leaders can better evaluate similar projects in the future.

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