Meet elders from Alaska Arctic Refuge: This coming Wednesday, May 31st, Adams State Campus/Carson Auditorium/7:00 PM

Filed under: Breaking News |

This is a unique opportunity to learn first-hand of the issues facing the Alaska National Arctic Wildlife Refuge, from Gwich’in tribal elders whose traditional homelands have been part of this landscape for Millennia.

This Southwest tour to Alamosa is being sponsored by The Sierra Club, Conejos Clean Water (CCW) and San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council (SLVEC).

The Arctic Refuge is one of the world’s last untouched wild places.

Now it’s facing the greatest threats in decades.

Come learn about this incredible place and the work to protect it.

Hear from members of the Gwich’in Nation who have traveled from the Arctic to raise the alarm and join the effort to save the Arctic Refuge.

While the Refuge may seem distant, what happens there will echo on public lands and in communities across the West.

Decisions made now could forever alter the wild we leave our children.

The Film: The Refuge a part of the Granted Series by Patagonia

This  20- minute long film explores the relationship between the Gwich’in Nation, the Alaska Native People living next to what is now known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Porcupine Caribou herd which is the basis for their subsistence and culture.

The Gwich’in people have been fighting to stave off oil development in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge, the birthing ground for the Porcupine Caribou Herd, or to the Gwich’in people “the sacred place where life begins”. The film explores this long-fought battle.

The Gwich’in Steering Committee

The Gwich’in Steering Committee was formed in 1988 in response to proposals to drill for oil in the Sacred Place Where Life Begins, the coastal plain of the  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Time and time again, the Gwich’in Steering Committee has presented testimony in front of the U.S. Congress, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, and public hearings. Without this testimony many would not know that this is a Human Rights issue to the Gwich’in. Find out more by going to: http://ourarcticrefuge.org/

Additional Support from: Patagonia, Alaska Wilderness League, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and Friends of Nevada Wilderness

Biographies of participants

Bernadette Demientieff is the Executive Director for the Gwich’in Steering Committee. She represents the Gwich’in nation from both sides of the border in the U.S. and Canada. Bernadette was born and raised in Alaska. She is Gwichyaa Zhee Gwichin and her family is from Old Crow YT Canada and Fort Yukon Alaska. She takes her culture and traditions very seriously, and although she was disconnected for awhile she’s finding her identity as a Gwich’in women. Bernadette values her way of life and everything she learns she passes on to her children. She has always stood for protecting the very sacred coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the porcupine caribou herd, and the Gwich’in way of life. “Our identity is not up for negotiation,” Bernadette says. “We must stand united to protect the indigenous communities throughout the world.”

Jeneen Frei Njootli is an Indigenous artist from the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation. Her people’s home territory is located in the Northwestern corner of Canada’s arctic. Currently based between Old Crow, Yukon and unceded Coast-Salish territories in Vancouver, Frei Njootli frequently does community-based projects and workshops. She is the co-creator of the ReMatriate Collective, which focuses on positive representation of Indigenous women in media and their right to visual sovereignty.

James Nathaniel Jr. is a Board Member of the Gwich’in Steering Committee.  He graduated from the University of Alaska/Interior Aleutian Campus with a degree in Tribal Management and the Tanana Valley College with a degree in Drafting Technology. After receiving his education, he took a position with the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments (CATG) in Fort Yukon, Alaska. He went back home to Chalkyitsik to work for the Tribe and was later assigned to the Tribal Administrator position in Chalkyitsik. His experience in environmental planning/cleanup, including protecting our pristine waters and land, was instrumental in his interest to serve on the Gwich’in Steering committee.

For more information contact Isabelle Goodman, isabelle.goodman@sierraclub.org

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