Canku Ota logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


September 8, 2001 - Issue 44


pictograph divider


Woman Touring U.S. Lobbying Against Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


 by Stephen Siegfried Silver City Daily Press Staff

In a legend of the Gwich'in people, the land that is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the place where all life began.

Bobbie Jo Greenland, a Gwich'in woman who was interviewed by the Daily Press last week, is traveling the United States bringing a message from her people opposing plans by the Bush administration to drill for oil and natural gas in the refuge, home to the caribou herds that provide subsistence to the ancient culture.

"The fate of the refuge is the fate of the Gwich'in Nation," Greenland said, lobbying for the U.S. Senate to vote down a House bill passed last month proposing opening the refuge to oil explo-ration.

Greenland said the lives of the Gwich'in are dependent on the refuge's caribou herd, as they have been for centuries.

"The health and productivity of the porcupine caribou herd is vital to the cultural survival of the Gwich'in people," Greenland said. "America saw the devastation when the buffalo were nearly wiped out.

"The coastal plain of the refuge is the core birthplace and nursery for young caribou. The Gwich'in consider this area sacred; in our language they call it 'Vadzaith googii vi dehk'ot gwanlii,' which means the sacred place where life begins."

Greenland said it is the belief of her people that a part of the Gwich'in heart is in the caribou.

"When our people marry, they are dressed in the hide of the caribou. They are in our ceremonials. We pray for them," Greenland said.

But the value of the herd isn't only ceremonial to the 7,000 tribal members, who rely on the caribou for food.

The refuge reportedly harbors 200 species of animals, including polar and grizzly bears, wolves and mil-lions of migratory birds.

"Certain areas must remain sacred ... especially now as we see so much natural land being forever destroyed for economic gain and short-term prosperity," Greenland said.

The issue is about the "basic inherent fundamental rights of the Gwich'in people" who live along the Alaskan-Canadian border "to con-tinue to live their ancestral way of life," Greenland said, adding, "in no case should a people be deprived of their own means of subsistence."

The energy bill proposed by Bush would open about 2,000 acres of the refuge to exploration.

"The administration would like to tell us this is a soft footprint," said Steve Capra of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, who accompanied Greenland during stops across the state and into Arizona.

Capra said that while the area of exploration may sound small compared to the overall size of the refuge, it is broken up into smaller, uncontiguous parcels.

"That means connecting roads and pipelines and lots of infrastructure. Allowing this essential, eternal wilderness to be exchanged for a short-term supply of oil is unac-ceptable. Drilling in the refuge will have no discernible long-term im-pact on the price of fuel and will not decrease our dependence on foreign oil," Capra said.

Studies indicate oil from the refuge would supply no more than 2 percent of the nation's demands, Capra said.

"In fact, if the refuge were America's only source of oil, the amount of recoverable oil would sustain America's consumption for less than six months. The wilderness and cultural values of the Arctic Refuge coastal plain are too precious to give away as a temporary bandage for our need for oil.

"America does need a sound national energy policy, but we simply can't drill our way to lower prices or energy independence," he said.

House Bill 2436, or the En-ergy Securities Act, was passed Aug. 1 by the House. The bill has been forwarded to the Senate, where it must be approved by the Energy and Resources Committee before being introduced on the floor.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman chairs the committee. Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Democrats on the committee, said this morning that the senator does not support oil and gas drilling in the refuge.

"He's from an oil and gas drilling state, and the senator believes there's enough potential for hydrocarbon drilling elsewhere (in the lower 48 states)," Wicker said.

Sen. Pete Domenici is also a member of the committee. Personnel from his energy staff did not return a phone call by press time.

pictograph divider



pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


Canku Ota logo


Canku Ota logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.