Published February 12, 2019
WASHINGTON — Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, issues the following statement on the announcement that seismic exploration has been delayed for the Arctic Refuge coastal plain, and the introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives of the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act.
“The coastal plain is sacred to the Gwich’in people and critical to our food security and way of life. It is no place for heavy machinery and destructive seismic testing. We celebrate the delay of seismic testing, but this is not a final victory. The Gwich’in remain steadfast that seismic exploration and oil leasing can never happen on the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, and we will continue to fight until our lands and our way of life are safe.
The Gwich’in have a cultural and spiritual connection to the Porcupine caribou. Our Elders and our traditional knowledge tells us that taking care of the land keeps the caribou healthy and the caribou in turn keep our people healthy. The future of the caribou and the future of the Gwich’in are one in the same.
I am thankful to Representative Jared Huffman and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick for introducing a bill that will restore protections for the coastal plain. I hope all members of Congress will look deep inside themselves and support this bill. The Arctic Refuge is not just a piece of land with oil underneath. It is the heart of our people, our food and our way of life. Our very survival depends on its protection.”