Statement by Bernadette Dementieff, Executive Director, Gwich’in Steering Committee:
“For us, protecting this place is a matter of physical, spiritual and cultural survival. It is our basic human right to continue to feed our families and practice our traditional way of life. Oil exploration in the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain would be a human rights violation. Our identity is not negotiable.
For decades, the Gwich’in Nation has defeated harmful proposals in Congress that would threaten the Coastal Plain; the birthplace to the Porcupine caribou herd and 190 other species, including migratory birds. This area is known to us as ‘Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit’ – the sacred place where life begins.
The very existence and identity of the Gwich’in is under threat. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a sacred place. We want to continue to live our cultural and traditional life with the Porcupine Caribou Herd.”
NOTE: Many years ago when I worked at the Pequot Times, the Pequot’s DC offices contacted me about this and said they would educate the Senators and Congress on the devastation to tribes and the environment if drilling occurred in the Arctic. I sent them everything I had on the potential disaster this would cause. Apparently all bets are off with this breaking news. LT