From the CBC archives: 'Deline and the bomb'

Today is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and a CBC radio documentary, pulled from our archives, details the tenuous connection of the people of Deline, Northwest Territories, to the terrible event.

2008 radio documentary details connection of Dene people of Deline to Hiroshima atomic blast

Archival footage shows a barge, loaded with bags of uranium, on the shores of Great Bear Lake. The Dene people of Deline were hired to carry the uranium, which they believe was used in the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima. (CBC)

August 6, 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the first of two atomic bombs used against Japan in the second world war. The target: Hiroshima, a city of a 340,000 people on the country's southern coast, more than half of whom were killed or injured in the blast.

It's an anniversary that is remembered — and mourned — across the world. But the Dene people of Deline, Northwest Territories, feel a profound, particular connection with that terrible event.

Port Radium, a mine on the shores of Great Bear Lake, near Deline, produced uranium from 1942 to 1960. At its mining peak, 300 people lived at the mine site.

That included 25 families from Deline, who were hired to carry uranium — without any protective gear.

"Deline and the bomb," a 2008 CBC radio documentary produced by Dave Miller, delves into the people of Deline's feeling of responsibility for the events of Hiroshima.

The Dene of Deline believe that it was from their uranium that the bomb was built — uranium that they unwittingly carried to boats, before it was shuttled across the lake and down south.

That belief is supported by local prophets, whose visions uphold the connection with Hiroshima.

However, expert Robert Bothwell, a professor of history at the University of Toronto and official historian of the mine, says that the community's link to the atomic bomb is more slender than the locals realize.

Bothwell stands on historical research, while the locals in Deline stand on faith — and, as the documentary shows, the two aren't easily reconciled.

"Deline and the bomb" first aired on CBC North's Trail's End on August 6, 2008.


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