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Venetie, AK– On April 25 tribal leaders from Fort Yukon, Venetie, and Arctic Village gathered to confirm their opposition to oil and gas development on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. During this day-long meeting tribal members and leaders stood up and spoke out on how extremely important it is for the Gwich’in people to use their voices and speak up during the recently announced Environmental Impact Statement process.
They discussed the direction that was given to them by Elders, and that they will fight to protect the caribou that define the Gwich’in people. They will fight every step of the way, despite recent action by the Department of the Interior to expedite the lease sale process.
Last December, legislation authorizing oil and gas leasing on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge was passed into law, as a component of tax reform. Since then, the Trump administration has indicated that they will try to hold lease sales as soon as next year. Last week, the Interior issued a Notice of Intent to develop a coastal plain leasing EIS, and opened a 60-day comment period.
The Gwich’in people have been fighting a 30-year battle to protect the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, and they will continue to oppose any and all attempts by the Trump administration to allow oil and gas development on the coastal plain.
Steve Frank, Tribal Chief, Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director, Gwich’in Steering Committee, and Tonya Garnett, Executive Director, Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government made statements in opposition of the proposed drilling.”Everyone should stand up against this attempt to drill the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain, because it’ll affect our lives, create pollution, and continue to add greenhouse gas to our air,” Franks stated. He continued, saying “It’s gambling with our caribou, because these decision makers don’t know the effects of climate change. Throughout history decision makers have tried to take things away from us – our religion, our language, our land – and today they are playing around with our lives by threatening our caribou.”
“Protecting the caribou herd is our main priority; they sustain our way of life. We will continue to stand strong in unity and strength against any destruction to the calving grounds of the herd. It humbles my heart that other tribes in Alaska have been reaching out to the Gwich’in to stand in solidarity and to ask how they can help protect the coastal plain. I have faith that Alaska Natives people will make a strong stand against this injustice and violation of our human rights,” Said Demientieff.
Garnett reminds that “In 1988, when the threat of oil development became a reality, our people gathered to speak on it. Our Elders at that time provided direction to the people to protect the Porcupine caribou herd and their calving grounds. We carry that message today. We have fought for 30 years to protect our way of life and we will continue to do so.” Garnett continued “This is our livelihood and our lifeline. We have a basic human right to continue to live our way of life as we have done since time immemorial. We are caribou people and we will always be. This is for our future generations to come.”