Gwich’in and Inupiaq Meet to Discuss Arctic Refuge

Published December 6, 2018

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Today, on the 58th anniversary of the designation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an historic meeting took place between members of the Gwich’in people and officials from the city of Kaktovik to discuss the shared the Gwich’in and Inupiaq connections to the Arctic Refuge coastal plain, the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd.

The Gwich’in Steering Committee and others are marking the occasion by hosting a “Keep It Wilderness” celebration at 6:00 p.m. at Pioneer Park Exhibit Hall, to include traditional food, music, art and several guest speakers.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, issues the following statement:

“Like the Inupiaq, who depend on the Arctic waters and the whales that live there, the Gwich’in have lived in Alaska for thousands of years. We have lived along the migratory route of the Porcupine caribou, dependent on these animals and the Arctic Refuge coastal plain where they birth their young. The Arctic Refuge coastal plain is not just a piece of land with oil underneath. It is the heart of my people and our food security. Our very survival depends on its protection. I am very happy to have the opportunity to sit down with representatives of the city of Kaktovik and share how we can support one another through this rushed Arctic Refuge drilling process.”

From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

The Arctic National Wildlife Range was established in 1960 to preserve unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values. In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) re-designated the Range as part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and provided four purposes that guide management of the entire Refuge: to conserve animals and plants in their natural diversity, ensure a place for hunting and gathering activities, protect water quality and quantity, and fulfill international wildlife treaty obligations.

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