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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

In Memoriam: Russell Jim


Yakama Nation Elder Russell Jim passed away at the age of 82 on Saturday, April 7, 2018. 

He dedicated his life to giving Native American tribes a forceful voice in nuclear waste cleanup decisions at the Hanford site. Jim was a passionate advocate for achieving rigorous environmental standards and protecting the Columbia River. He spent 37 years managing his tribe’s Environmental Restoration and Waste Management program.

Jim was instrumental in explaining the Yakama Nation’s relationship to the environment, particularly the Columbia River and the effect the Hanford site has had on his people. In AHF’s 2003 interview with Jim, he described that before World War II, “We lived in harmony with the area, with the river, with all of the environment. All the natural foods and medicines were quite abundant here.”

He continuously advocated for the protection and safety of the environment and people. He explained, “The Yakama Nation’s position is that we are neither pro-nuclear nor anti-nuclear. We are pro-safety for all people. We are going to continue our efforts as best as possible until people begin to understand what needs to be done here, not just for the Yakama people, but for all people of the future.”

His passing is felt within the Yakama Nation and Washington State community. Tribal chairman JoDe Goudy issued a statement on his death, “Mr. Jim was a man of few words, yet when he spoke he always had a lesson to share as a great leader of our way of life. He was passionate about our environment, the strongest advocate for righting the wrongs of the dark history of Hanford, and a faithful carrier of our Yakama culture and traditions.”

Russell Jim will be deeply missed.

For more on Russell Jim please see our 2003 interview.