Fairbanks, Alaska — The Gwich’in Steering Committee condemns the Trump administration’s issuance of leases of sacred lands in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a violation of their human rights and Indigenous ways of life.
“This administration’s decision to hand sacred lands to exploiters shows its commitment to continuing its cowardly assault on the Gwich’in Nation, even in its last days,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “But it changes nothing. Our ancestors protected these lands long before colonial exploitation. Our resolve is absolute. Our way of life is not for sale or up for negotiation. This is about our survival. It’s about future generations. It’s about the climate crisis and the health of the planet. Our strength comes to us through the courage and wisdom of our ancestors and elders, the promise and commitment of our youth, and the millions of allies around the world who stand with us to protect the Arctic Refuge.”
The issued leases resulted from a January lease sale that drew zero interest from major oil and gas companies and was a spectacular failure in terms of human rights, climate health, and promised revenue. The sale followed a disgraceful and unlawful process that disregarded Indigenous voices, science, and the law.
The Trump administration moved forward with its illegal leasing program despite an ongoing lawsuit led by the Gwich’in Steering Committee, commitments from all U.S. and Canadian major banks to not fund Arctic drilling, international concern about human rights violations, widespread public support for protecting the Arctic Refuge, and scientific consensus that Arctic drilling must stop to prevent continued climate suffering.