Alaskans Unite for Protecting the Arctic Refuge

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Guest Commentary

Published September 22, 2017

I’m writing to respond to “Arctic policy nonprofit voices support for ANWR development” (September 15, 2017). The article reported that the people who live in the Arctic are the ones that are undeniably the most affected by Arctic policy decisions and should be included in the debate. I agree.

The people in the north are talking about their homelands and what’s at stake – the future of the Gwich’in people. We are concerned about our food security and protecting it for our children and all future generations. The fate of the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the Gwich’in is intertwined, what befalls the caribou, will befall the Gwich’in.

We reviewed the survey results of VOICE and noticed that there were few responses received and many that were counted came from non-Native members of the community.

The Gwich’in have high respect and regard for the Inupiat people and we will not let the media turn us against each other with miscommunication.

We are all trying to protect our food security and care for our families. Drilling in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – the birthing and calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, will destroy our culture and way of life. The voice of the Gwich’in must be considered – our fate depends upon it.

We are taking the necessary steps to work together to protect our homelands. The future generations need healthy places to live and healthy animals to survive on.  None of this is possible without healthy ecosystems. This administration is expected to follow the law and to consider all the human rights implications of drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

With our climate changing and our food security at risk, this is not the best direction to go. The Indigenous peoples of the north are reaching out to each other, we are realizing that no one else has our best interest but us, and we must unite to protect our very existence and our way of life.”. – Bernadette Demientieff (Gwich’yaa Zhee Gwich’in)

“The rest of the world has started shifting their economies and plans away from oil. As the country with the largest per capita consumption rate of resources it is time for us to join the rest of the world in getting past oil. But oil politics are enmeshed in power politics, so the real questions have more to do with ‘who is sharing power?’. Luckily for us who are from villages, we know how to share resources. We had to learn that lesson before China was a nation and we will still be sharing and passing on our traditional northern ways long after this shift away from oil.” – Arlo Nasruk Davis  (Inupiaq)

“We, our whole livelihoods revolve around our ecosystem leaving no room to destroy what little left we have. The animals also have no room for any man made destruction. We are here to protect them, and them us. Our children need the same security we as children and adults have, culture is a fundamental element that should not perish with greed.” –Brandi Yeager,Yupik/Aluet

Alaskans are living in climate change, more and more Alaskans unite for protecting the Arctic Refuge.

Bernadette Demientieff is the executive director for the Gwich’in Steering Committee, she’s from Fort Yukon Alaska and stands strongly alongside her people to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the porcupine caribou herd and the Gwich’in way of life. Contact Bernadette Demientieff, Gwich’in Steering Committee, Bernademientieff76@gmail.com

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