The Gwich’in Steering Committee is looking for an Executive Assistant and an Outreach Coordinator

April 19, 2021

Executive Assistant Job Announcement

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The Gwich’in Steering Committee seeks a full-time executive assistant to support our team in Fairbanks, Alaska. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

The ideal candidate has excellent office and computer skills and a proven ability to work well with coworkers and outside partners.

Job Responsibilities

The executive assistant reports to the Executive Director and is responsible for general office duties, including: (1) answering phones; (2) filing and retrieving records, documents, and reports; (3) making travel arrangements for staff and board; and (4) processing correspondence. This person will also serve as a point of communication with our partners to restore protections to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while also tracking latest developments towards that broader goal. The executive assistant must also be able to lift up to 30 lbs. and deliver and pick up documents in Fairbanks.

Qualifications

We seek candidates who have knowledge of general office practices and procedures. Strong candidates will have:

  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite—Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint.
  • Ability to meet deadlines in a fast-paced, quickly changing environment.
  • Proactive approach to problem-solving.
  • Excellent verbal and written communications skills.
  • Attention to detail and accuracy.
  • Ability to make appropriate decisions quickly and under pressure.
  • Quick and enthusiastic learner.
  • Humility, good humor, and ability to foster and work within an environment of kindness and respect.

Hourly wage of $17 – $20 per hour, depending on experience. The Gwich’in Steering Committee is an equal opportunity employer.

How to Apply

Email cover letter, resume, and references to Ashley Boyd at aboyd@trustees.org. Include the subject line: GSC EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT.


 

Outreach Coordinator Job Announcement

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The Gwich’in Steering Committee seeks a full-time outreach coordinator to support our team in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The ideal candidate is Gwich’in and has excellent communication and diplomacy skills and a proven ability to work well with coworkers and outside partners.

Job Responsibilities

The outreach coordinator reports to the Executive Director and is responsible for:

  • Travel to Gwich’in Nation villages and build relationships with local partners.
  • Provide training to Gwich’in People to be ambassadors to others about the Gwich’in way of life.
  • Undertake social media advocacy for Gwich’in Steering Committee platforms and website.
  • Outreach to Indigenous partners and potential partners in the Lower 48.
  • Travel to Lower 48 Indigenous partners to build and strengthen reciprocal relationships with and educate them about Gwich’in issues.
  • Travel to Washington, D.C. with the Executive Director to meet with congressional allies about legislation and Gwich’in issues.

Qualifications

We seek candidates who have excellent outreach, education, and relationship-building skills. Strong candidates will have:

    • In-depth understanding of the Gwich’in Steering Committee fight to protect their way of life and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and commitment to this work.
    • Courtesy and diplomacy in all communications.
    • Proven ability in public speaking and educating partners.
    • Proactive approach to problem-solving.
    • Excellent verbal and written communications skills.

Hourly wage of $20-24 per hour depending on experience. The Gwich’in Steering Committee is an equal opportunity employer.

How to Apply

Email cover letter, resume, and references to Ashley Boyd at aboyd@trustees.org. Include the subject line: GSC OUTREACH COORDINATOR. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

Gwich’in Steering Committee Statement on Directional Drilling

February 23, 2021

The Gwich’in Steering Committee has learned that one of the new holders of a lease in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may extract oil from the Coastal Plain by drilling directionally into the land from state land. As the Coastal Plain is the sacred land of the Gwich’in and the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, the Gwich’in Steering Committee opposes all forms of development and calls on Regenerate Alaska and its parent company, 88 Energy, to halt its plans.

Any form of drilling in the Coastal Plain is dangerous, risky, and unpopular. The Gwich’in are united against any development of the Coastal Plain because the land is sacred and vitally important to the Porcupine Caribou, which sustains our communities. The lease program has been paused by the Biden administration because of its potentially disastrous environmental impacts, and is currently being challenged in the courts by four different lawsuits. Drilling in the Coastal Plain also has little public support, is being investigated by the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and all major U.S. and Canadian banks have pledged not to fund any development in the Refuge. 

Directional drilling from state land does not solve these issues or lessen the environmental impact of oil extraction on the region. Directional drilling presents many of the same problems as conventional drilling because it requires similar infrastructure: drill rigs, well pads, runways, roads, pipelines, and other supportive infrastructure. Because it has a limited range, directional drilling also relies on extensive seismic testing, which is extremely disruptive to the environment and harmful to plants and animals. There are also the same risks of spills or accidents that can devastate the local environment. Regenerate Alaska cannot avoid negative impacts on the Coastal Plain simply by beginning the destruction on state land.

As the Gwich’in Steering Committee stated in a letter to David Wall and Regenerate Alaska last month, going forward with any development is not only an unwise financial decision but shows blatant disrespect for the Gwich’in and other Alaska Native communities. The Gwich’in Steering Committee calls on Regenerate Alaska to halt all plans to develop the Coastal Plain, including those related to directional drilling, and to relinquish its leases. Doing so would show respect for the rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska and recognition of the serious material, reputational and human rights risks arising from development of the Coastal Plain.

Corporate Commitment to Protect the Arctic Refuge

February 17, 2021

The Gwich’in Steering Committee has engaged directly with global banks, financial institutions, energy companies and insurers to ask for policy to protect the Arctic Refuge and impacted Indigenous communities from the harms of fossil fuel development on the Coastal Plain.

We have compiled the lists below of major companies which have adopted policy or are in the process of creating policy to protect the Arctic Refuge, as well as companies which have no policy or stated commitments to the Refuge. Our engagement is ongoing. 

Updated 2/17/21.

INSURANCE INDUSTRY COMMITMENT TO PROTECT THE ARCTIC REFUGE

  • AXA (France) – “French insurer Axa SA has prohibited insurance of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic regions since 2018, and that includes the wildlife refuge in Alaska. A two-year grace period for existing contracts to expire has now passed.” – 11/19/20
  • AXIS (Bermuda) – “Axis won’t underwrite new insurance or offer facultative reinsurance contracts, nor provide investment support for projects involved in exploration, production or transportation of oil and gas in the refuge.” – 1/15/21
  • Swiss Re (Switzerland) – “We can therefore confirm that Swiss Re will abstain from providing re/insurance or investment support for projects related to exploration, production, or transportation of oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge protected area.” – 12/10/20

INSURANCE COMPANIES WITH NO COMMITMENT TO PROTECT THE ARCTIC REFUGE

  • AIG (United States)
  • Allianz (Germany)
  • Aviva (United Kingdom)
  • Chubb (United States)
  • CNA (United States)
  • Generali (Italy)
  • Liberty Mutual (United States)
  • Lloyd’s (United Kingdom)
  • Markel (United States)
  • Munich Re (Germany)
  • QBE (Australia)
  • RLI (United States)
  • SCOR (France)
  • Sompo (Japan)
  • Talanx (Germany)
  • The Hartford (United States)
  • Tokio Marine (Japan)
  • Travelers (United States)
  • WR Berkley (United States)
  • Zurich (Switzerland)

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS WITH POLICY TO PROTECT THE ARCTIC REFUGE

  • ABN AMRO (Netherlands) – “ABN AMRO prohibits direct finance for Arctic oil and gas exploration, production, and supporting services.” Via BankTrack.
  • Bank of America (United States) – “Bank of America Corp. said that it won’t provide project financing for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic after facing opposition from environmentalists.” Via Bloomberg News.
  • Bank of Montreal (BMO Financial Group) (Canada) – “BMO intends to exclude direct finance for exploration and development projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). It does not mention infrastructure, the policy is restricted to the ANWR and the bank only expressed its “intention” to exclude project finance.” Via BankTrack.
  • Barclays (United Kingdom) – “Barclays will not directly finance oil and gas projects in the Arctic Circle, including but not limited to the ANWR. Its policy does not mention infrastructure. Barclays does not provide any financing to companies primarily engaged in oil and gas exploration and production operations or plans in the Arctic Circle, including but not limited to the ANWR.” Via BankTrack; see full policy.
  • BBVA (Spain) “BBVA prohibits financing for Arctic oil and gas exploration and production projects. The policy does not prohibit infrastructure like pipelines and terminals. Therefore, the policy does not qualify for a full exclusion.” Via BankTrack.
  • BNP Paribas (France) – “BNP Paribas excludes from its financing and investments activities any financing to oil and gas projects located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” In addition, “BNP Paribas only prohibits financing for offshore Arctic oil and gas exploration and production projects, as well as pipelines and LNG terminals related to offshore Arctic oil and gas only.” Via BankTrack; see full policy.
  • CaixaBank (Spain) – “CaixaBank prohibits any project-related financing ‘involving oil and gas exploration or production in the Arctic region.’ This policy does not cover infrastructure in the region.” Via BankTrack.
  • CIBC (Canada) – “CIBC will not directly finance companies that are involved in exploration or development related to oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).” Via BankTrack; see full policy.
  • Citigroup (United States) – “Citigroup does not provide project-related financing for oil and gas exploration and production in the Arctic Circle. Its policy does not mention infrastructure.” Via BankTrack; see full policy.
  • Commerzbank (Germany) – “Commerzbank prohibits project financing related to the extraction of oil and gas in the Arctic. The policy does not mention infrastructure.” Via BankTrack.
  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Australia) – “Commonwealth Bank prohibits project finance for oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic. There is no prohibition on pipelines, LNG terminals in the Arctic, or other infrastructure.” Via BankTrack.
  • Crédit Agricole (France) – “Crédit Agricole prohibits oil projects in the Arctic, but the exclusion does not cover gas. Crédit Agricole prohibits financing to companies whose main activity is linked to oil projects in the Arctic or infrastructure projects mainly dedicated to the transportation of oil produced in the Arctic.” Via BankTrack.
  • Credit Suisse Group (Switzerland) – “Credit Suisse will not finance offshore or onshore oil or gas projects in the Arctic region. This includes upstream exploration, development and production, as well as midstream and downstream operations.” Via BankTrack; see full policy.
  • Deutsche Bank (Germany) – “Deutsche Bank will not finance new oil and gas projects in the Arctic region (Arctic region being defined based on a 10°C July Isotherm boundary, meaning the area does not experience temperatures above 10° C).” Via BankTrack.
  • Goldman Sachs (United States) – “Goldman Sachs prohibits financing for new Arctic oil projects onshore and offshore, including exploration. Financing for gas projects, as well as for infrastructure related to Arctic oil and gas, are not covered by this policy.” Via BankTrack; see full policy.
  • JPMorgan Chase (United States) – “JPMorgan Chase prohibits financing for ‘upstream, midstream or downstream greenfield oil and gas development in the Arctic.’” Via BankTrack.
  • Morgan Stanley (United States) – “Morgan Stanley does not directly finance new oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Its policy does not mention infrastructure.” Via BankTrack.
  • National Australia Bank (Australia) – “NAB prohibits financing for ‘oil and gas projects within or impacting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.’ This is considered a weak exclusion policy.” Via BankTrack.
  • Natixis (France) – BankTrack description: Natixis prohibits direct finance for Arctic oil exploration and production. This does not cover infrastructure.” Via BankTrack.
  • NatWest Group (formerly RBS) (United Kingdom) “RBS’s commitment excludes lending to oil exploration and production projects in the Arctic or Antarctic, but does not cover underwriting such projects, nor does it cover gas in the region.” Via BankTrack.
  • Royal Bank of Canada (Canada) – “RBC will not provide direct financing for any project or transaction that involves exploration or development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). RBC does not mention infrastructure in this policy, and does not rule out financing projects in the rest of the Arctic region.” Via BankTrack
  • Santander (Spain) – “Santander’s prohibition on direct financing for the ‘development, construction or expansion of oil and gas drilling projects north of the Arctic Circle’ includes associated infrastructure.” Via BankTrack; see full policy.
  • Scotiabank (Canada) – Scotiabank prohibits “direct financing or project-specific financial and advisory services for activities that are directly related to the exploration, development or production of oil and gas within the Arctic Circle, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Via BankTrack; see full policy.
  • Société Générale (France) – “Société Générale prohibits financing for all Arctic oil exploration and production projects, as well as for ‘infrastructures exclusively dedicated to the transport or storage of […] Arctic oil.’ This policy does not cover Arctic gas. Société Générale prohibits financing for companies that get a majority of their revenue from Arctic oil or have a majority of their reserves in the Arctic region.” Via BankTrack.
  • Standard Chartered (United Kingdom) – “Standard Chartered’s prohibition on direct financing for “new or existing Arctic exploration and/or production activities” also covers Arctic-related infrastructure.” Via BankTrack.
  • TD bank Financial Group (Canada) – “TD will not provide new project-specific financial service for exploration, development, or production of oil and gas within the Arctic Circle. It does not mention infrastructure.” Via BankTrack.
  • UniCredit Group (Italy) – “UniCredit prohibits financing for Arctic oil extraction projects, onshore and offshore, and Arctic offshore gas extraction projects only, as well as “pipelines and other infrastructure SOLELY related” to onshore and offshore Arctic oil or offshore Arctic gas. UniCredit requires new and existing clients to get ≤25% of their revenue from onshore and offshore Arctic oil and/or offshore Arctic gas. For existing clients above that threshold, they must have a plan to get below that threshold, to be evaluated annually.” Via BankTrack.
  • Wells Fargo (United States) “Wells Fargo prohibits direct financing of ‘oil and gas projects in the Arctic region, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,’ without further specificity on what that covers.” Via BankTrack.
  • Westpac Banking Corporation (Australia) – “Westpac does not provide project finance for oil and gas exploration in high risk frontier basins such as Arctic and Antarctic refuges. Only exploration mentioned in its policy.” Via BankTrack; see full policy.

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS WITH NO POLICY TO PROTECT THE ARCTIC REFUGE

  • ANZ Bank (Australia)
  • HSBC (United Kingdom)*
  • ING (Netherlands)*
  • Intesa Sanpaolo (Italy)
  • Mizuho (Japan)
  • MUFG (Japan)
  • Nordea Bank (Finland)
  • Société Générale (France)*
  • SMBC (Japan)
  • UBS (Switzerland)*
*These banks have Arctic policies that currently do not cover the Arctic Refuge and should be strengthened.

First North American insurer confirms it will not support destruction of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

January 15, 2021

AXIS Capital’s announcement follows recent flawed, rushed and likely illegal Arctic Refuge lease sale

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA – AXIS Capital—one of the world’s leading insurers with $25.6 billion in assets and offices across North America—confirmed in a letter to the Gwich’in Steering Committee that it will not underwrite new insurance or facultative reinsurance contracts, or provide investment support, for projects covering the exploration, production or transportation of oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is the third international insurance firm, after AXA and Swiss Re, to make such a commitment and the first North American firm to affirm they will not support destructive development of the Arctic Refuge.

“We believe climate-related risks are among the most serious issues facing the world today. We also recognize the importance of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the [Gwich’in] and your families, as well as our planet,” wrote Conrad Brooks, general counsel and corporate secretary for AXIS Capital.

The news comes in the wake of a flawed, rushed and unlawful lease sale in the Arctic Refuge, which saw such little interest from oil and gas corporations that the State of Alaska jumped in at the last minute and spent over $12 million in taxpayer money to purchase leases at rock bottom prices. Of the 11 tracts leased, nine were won by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state corporation with a history of mismanagement and possible corruption that largely ignored the concerns of Alaska Natives who overwhelmingly spoke out against their plan. The other two leases were purchased by Knik Arm Services, LLC, a year-old company that, like AIDEA, has no history of development, and Regenerate Alaska, Inc., a subsidiary of Australia-based 88 Energy.

AXIS Capital’s announcement is yet another sign that insurers and investors still consider oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge too great a financial and reputational risk, which may make it difficult for any leaseholders to find development partners. AXIS Capital’s decision is also a result of a continued insurer outreach campaign led by the Gwich’in Steering Committee and its Indigenous, social justice and environmental partners.

The Gwich’in have a cultural and spiritual connection to the Porcupine Caribou Herd, and the herd relies on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge as its birthing and calving grounds. That’s why the Gwich’in call the coastal plain where drilling is proposed ‘Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit’ or ‘the Sacred Place Where Life Begins.’

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, said, “Destruction of the Arctic Refuge is a direct attack on the rights of the Gwich’in Nation. The Creator blessed us with this land so we could care for it and protect it as we have done for thousands of years. The recent lease sale ignored all our concerns and dismissed the climate crisis, but the commitment from AXIS today show’s that other companies agree with us and respect us. We need more companies to stand with us, respect our human rights and our way of life. We cannot let the destruction of the Arctic Refuge happen – not today, not ever.”

Organizations working to prevent drilling in the Arctic Refuge have warned corporations that pursuing oil and gas in the refuge is fraught with uncertainty and exposes them to unnecessary reputational, legal, human rights and financial risk. Two-thirds of voters oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge, and four active lawsuits challenge the legality of the sale. The United Nations also has issued two inquiries expressing grave concerns about the impacts of the project on the human rights of the Gwich’in. Additionally, President-elect Biden and his nominee for the Department of Interior, Deb Haaland, have been adamant supporters of the Arctic Refuge and could take immediate action to halt all oil and gas activities when they enter office.

Despite public opposition to drilling in the Arctic Refuge, the Trump administration completely ignored numerous concerns about the impact of oil development and did not adequately consult with Alaska Native Tribes. The Administration opened more of the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas leasing with a controversial provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The three International insurance firms join more than two dozen global banks, including the six largest U.S. banks and five largest Canadian banks, that have taken positions against investing in oil and gas development in the region. The Gwich’in Steering Committee and its allies will continue to pressure insurance companies, including Liberty Mutual and AIG who have yet to comment, to ensure the sacred calving grounds are protected.

Contact
Tim Woody, (907) 223-2443, tim_woody@tws.org

Lloyd’s new policy on Arctic energy exploration falls short

January 6, 2021

letterhead

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA (December 18, 2020) – Lloyd’s of London recently released its Environmental, Social and Governance Report, which asks Lloyd’s member companies to no longer provide new insurance cover for coal-fired power plants, thermal coal mines, tar sands and new Arctic energy exploration. The insurer committed to phase out its fossil fuel coverage by Jan. 2022, lacked specifics on whether the policy would apply to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and made no mention of fossil fuel production or transportation. Indigenous Peoples and allies noted that, while Lloyd’s announcement was a positive development, it is not enough and further highlighted the ever-growing gap between U.S. insurance companies and their global peers on climate action.

The announcement from Lloyd’s is a step in the right direction,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director for the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “However, it is not enough. As Indigenous Peoples, we are living in ground zero of climate change while fighting to protect our sacred lands and our ways of life. People need to understand that the land, the water and the animals are what makes us who we are. We honor what the Creator blessed us with and will stand united to protect it. We don’t only feel attacked by climate change, but we feel attacked by our very own government as well. A government that is not honoring their own founding fathers’ laws and policies. Our human rights are being violated not only by our government but also by corporations and people that are not educated on Indigenous issues.” If Lloyd’s met with the Gwich’in Steering Committee and made a public commitment, it would join insurers AXA and Swiss Re and more than two dozen global banks in committing to not support drilling in the Arctic Refuge. This includes the United States’ six largest banks—Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup—and Canada’s five biggest banks.

“We urge Lloyd’s to join AXA and Swiss Re to exclude themselves from any Arctic Refuge energy development or exploration immediately and show the world that they respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples whose lives will forever change if drilling is to occur,” Demientieff added. 

Organizations working to prevent drilling in the refuge have warned corporations that pursuing oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge is fraught with risk and exposes them to unnecessary reputational, legal and financial risk. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge is an unpopular proposition in the United States. Two-thirds of votersoppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge, which is consistent with the long-held, popular, and bi-partisan support for permanent protection of the Arctic Refuge. More than 300 businesses also recently called on oil and gas corporations to not drill in the refuge. In addition, there are four active lawsuits questioning the legality of the sale, and the United Nations has issued two inquiries expressing grave concerns about the impacts of the project on the human rights of the Gwich’in.

Despite public opposition to drilling in the Arctic Refuge, the Trump administration ignored numerous concerns about the impact of oil development and did not adequately consult with Alaska Native Tribes. The Administration opened more than 1.5 million-acre of the coastal plain to oil and gas leasing with a controversial provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and is now rushing forward with a plan to hold a lease sale on Jan. 6, just weeks after the 60th anniversary of the Arctic Refuge’s founding. 

The Gwich’in Steering Committee and its allies have requested a meeting with Lloyd’s and noted that they will continue to pressure insurance companies, including Liberty Mutual, and oil companies to ensure the sacred calving grounds are protected.

Insurer Swiss Re takes stand against Arctic Refuge drilling

December 17, 2020

letterhead

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA (December 11, 2020) – The Swiss Re Group—one of the world’s leading insurers—has confirmed in a letter to the Gwich’in Steering Committee that it will not provide coverage or investment support for projects related to exploration, drilling or production of oil or gas in the Arctic, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is the second such international insurance firm, after AXA, to make such a commitment.

“We do not associate ourselves with projects that violate the right of Indigenous peoples, such as the right of free, prior and informed consent,” Swiss Re stated in the letter.

The insurer further noted that it does not support businesses or projects that do harm to ecologically sensitive areas in compliance with its Sustainable Business Risk Framework. This includes areas protected under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature like the Arctic Refuge, which is a category IV National Park.

The Gwich’in have a cultural and spiritual connection to the Porcupine Caribou Herd, and the herd relies on the coastal plain as its birthing and calving grounds. That’s why the Gwich’in call the coastal plain ‘Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit’ or ‘the Sacred Place Where Life Begins.’

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, said, “This land is sacred; it’s an area where life begins for many different animals. Protecting our land, water and animals is about our basic human rights. We have deep gratitude for those who stand with us during these uncertain times. We need these companies to stand with us, respect our human rights and our way of life. We are not asking for anything but to live and thrive off the land our Creator blessed us with.”

Organizations working to prevent drilling in the refuge have warned corporations that pursuing oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge is fraught with risk and exposes them to unnecessary reputational, legal and financial risk. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge is an unpopular proposition in the United States. Two-thirds of voters oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge which is consistent with the long-held, popular, and bi-partisan support for permanent protection of the Arctic Refuge. In addition, there are four active lawsuits questioning the legality of the sale and the United Nations has issued two inquiries expressing grave concerns about the impacts of the project on the human rights of the Gwich’in.

“This rushed plan to auction off our sacred lands for oil drilling disrespects our human rights, ignores public opinion and denies the crisis of climate change. Our children’s future is not up for negotiation,” added Demientieff.

Despite public opposition to drilling in the Arctic Refuge, the Trump administration completely ignored numerous concerns about the impact of oil development and did not adequately consult with Alaska Native Tribes. The Administration opened more than 1.5 million-acre of the coastal plain to oil and gas leasing with a controversial provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and is now rushing forward with a plan to hold a lease sale on Jan. 6, just weeks after the 60th anniversary of the Arctic Refuge’s founding.

Swiss Re now joins AXA and more than two dozen global banks, including the six largest U.S. banks, that have taken positions against investing in oil and gas development in the region. The Gwich’in Steering Committee and its allies will continue to pressure insurance companies, including Liberty Mutual, and oil companies to ensure the sacred calving grounds are protected.

Prayer Vigil for the Porcupine Caribou Herd Friday December 18th

December 16, 2020

4pm Ak time, 6pm Mt, 8pm Est. 

Special guest representing the American Indian Movement & Society of Native Nations, who have been partnering with the Gwich’in Steering Committee on many national and local events. Navajo actor of The Revenant(2015), Arthur RedCloud.

American Indian Movement, Gwich’in Steering Committee, and Society of Native Nations are hosting a prayer vigil for the pregnant Porcupine Caribou who will soon begin their journey to the calving grounds in the Arctic Refuge where they will have up to 40,000 claves in up to a two week period. 

Starting from Gold Heart Plaza, we will march to 60 Hall St. at the Gwich’in Steering Committee offices.

We are asking you to join us in lighting a candle in prayer no matter where you are. Tag our page and write #standwiththegwichin.

Tag facebook; Instagram and Twitter :Gwich’in Steering Committee, Society of Native Nations and American Indian Movement Of Central Texas.

Gwich’in Seek Immediate Remedy to Protect their Human Rights

November 20, 2020

Fairbanks, AK – Following the Trump Administration’s call for nominations for oil and gas leases in the sacred calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, the Gwich’in Steering Committee filed a Request for Precautionary Measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The IACHR is a regional human rights body that works to promote and protect human rights in countries located in the American hemisphere, including the United States and Canada. 

After a rushed approval process, the U.S. is opening up the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas exploration and development that will lead to immediate and long-lasting repercussions in violation of the human rights of the Gwich’in. Giving urgency to the IACHR petition filing, it is nearly impossible to cancel the lease sales once they are finalized. 

“The imminent oil and gas development will cause serious and irreparable harm to the Porcupine Caribou Herd and our way of life. We are caribou people and the caribou are essential to our health, identity, spirituality, culture, and our very survival,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “We urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to issue precautionary measures to prevent the desecration of the Porcupine Caribou Herd’s sacred calving grounds, which we call ‘Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit’ (‘the Sacred Place Where Life Begins’). A threat to the Coastal Plain is a threat to the Gwich’in way of life and is a violation of our human rights.”

The petition, filed November 20, 2020, seeks to prevent “imminent, serious and irreparable harms in violation of the Gwich’in’s rights to health and well-being, religion, culture and subsistence, judicial protection, clean environment, and free, prior, and informed consent.”

Remedies sought include canceling the impendiong lease sale, prohibiting seismic exploration, and passing legislation for the permanent protection of the Coastal Plain. Additional remedies include ensuring that the U.S. honors its responsibilities to Indigenous Peoples as well as its obligations under the U.S. – Canadian Agreement On The Conservation Of The Porcupine Caribou Herd.

“Oil and gas drilling in this sacred area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a violation of our Indigenous and human rights. The very fact that we depend upon this essential migratory species whose range spans international colonial borders that have been unilaterally placed within our territory, depicts the multi-national effects to our people from any impacts to the Porcupine Caribou Herd.” Shared Grand Chief Ken Smith of the Gwich’in Tribal Council in the Northwest Territories of Canada. 

“In its reporting of proposed drilling, the U.S. government acknowledged numerous adverse impacts to the physical environment, biological resources, and social systems in Alaska. Despite this, they have embarked on the most aggressive development plan possible without adequate consultation of the Gwich’in,” said Carla Fredericks, Director of First Peoples Worldwide, which is supporting the Gwich’in Steering Committee in the petition process. “The IACHR petition asks for remedy while development is being fast-tracked so as to avoid the destruction of lands and endangerment of people that occurs all too often for Indigenous communities during and after industrial extractive projects.”

The IACHR petition is one of a number of available international instruments activated to protect the Gwich’in from drilling in the Arctic Refuge. A report was filed for the Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. human rights record. The review took place on November 9, and concluded with the U.S. reaffirming support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Gwich’in Steering Committee also filed a petition with the UN Commission to Eliminate Racial Discrimination, which led to an official investigation into the U.S. commencing in August

Other actions opposed to drilling in the Arctic have included litigation from the Gwich’in Steering Committee and allied organizations, policies from more than two dozen international banks including five of the six major U.S. banks to ban project-level financings for any project in the Coastal Plain, shareholder engagement with insurance companies, and passage of the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act by the U.S. House of Representatives. A majority of the U.S. public oppose oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

In a statement about the formal CERD query to the U.S., Demientieff said, “Almost all international human rights conventions recognize the Gwich’in people’s fundamental rights to our culture, health, nutrition, and subsistence. Securing permanent protection for the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd is about our human rights, our way of life, and our very survival.”

#  #  #

Contact: 

Bernadette Demientieff, Gwich’in Steering Committee, bernadette@gwichinsteering.com

Shannon Jowett, First Peoples Worldwide, shannon.jowett@colorado.edu

Executive Director Bernadette Demientieff Featured in Diversity in Action

November 19, 2020

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Gwich’in Steering Committee Leads 76 Organizations in Telling Insurers to Oppose Destruction of The Sacred Calving Grounds

November 19, 2020

TO: AIG, Allianz, Aviva, AXIS, Chubb, CNA, Generali, Liberty Mutual, Lloyd’s, Markel, Munich Re, QBE, RLI, SCOR, Sompo, Swiss Re, Talanx, The Hartford, Tokio Marine, Travelers, WR Berkley, Zurich

We, the Gwich’in Steering Committee and the undersigned organizations representing nearly 9 million members and more than $47 billion AUM, oppose any efforts to develop oil and gas in the remote and intact Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. We ask oil and gas companies, the banks that fund them, and insurance companies to stand with the Gwich’in Nation by not initiating any oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge.

Specifically, we ask your company to:

  • Not insure or invest in the exploration, production, or transportation of oil and gas in the ArcticRefuge;
  • Adopt a formal policy to prohibit new insurance products or the extension of existing insurance contracts to cover the exploration, production, or transportation of oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge, including surety bonds, commercial multiple peril insurance, and reinsurance;
  • Avoid financing oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge by ruling out investments in companies involved in Arctic Refuge development and those that do not have policies prohibiting their own involvement in the Arctic Refuge; and
  • Make these new policies and announcements open to the public.

We are also writing to your fellow leaders in the global oil insurance market and the Alaska insurance market. Timely action is necessary as the United States government recently finalized plans to sell oil leases in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge and oil companies will soon be searching for new insurance coverage for their planned development.

We urge you to listen to the voices of the Gwich’in and other Indigenous Peoples who depend on the Arctic Refuge and its resources to sustain their communities, culture, and way of life. The Gwich’in have a spiritual and cultural connection with the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the Herd relies on the Coastal Plain as their birthing and calving grounds. The Gwich’in refer to the area as “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” or “the Sacred Place Where Life Begins.” Drilling threatens the health of the Herd, which in turns, threatens the Gwich’in existence and way of life. This is why the Gwich’in Steering Committee formed in 1988 to act as the unified voice of the Gwich’in Nation in opposition of oil and gas development in the calving grounds. This is not just about animals and culture but also our human rights.

There are many other Tribal Nations who depend on the land, air, water, and animals that would be impacted by this development. Plans for oil and gas drilling threaten this rich pageant of wildlife. Beyond being the calving grounds for the Porcupine Caribou Herd, the Coastal Plain is the most important denning site for polar bears in the United States. Additionally, 42 fish species and over 40 land and marine mammals call the Refuge home. And over 200 resident and migratory bird species rely on the Refuge, which serves as a seasonal home for birds traveling from every U.S. state. Oil and gas drilling is not worth severely disrupting this delicate ecosystem capable of supporting such a vast diversity of life.

Alaska is thawing at three times the rate of the rest of the world and the Arctic is ground-zero for the climate crisis. Any fossil fuel development in the region will only exacerbate the already disastrous impacts of climate change on local communities and the global environment. Indigenous knowledge and environmental data converge on the same story of changing weather patterns, thawing ground, and ripple effects on ecosystems near and far (see the Arctic Indigenous Climate Summit Report).

These changes are already affecting people who live in the area and the viability of the project – introducing unjust challenges to hunting and fishing access, affecting animal migration routes and timing of movement, causing massive pre-spawned salmon die-offs in interior Alaska rivers, causing Arctic villages to erode into the sea, and permafrost melt making infrastructure insecure. Numerous U.S. government studies demonstrate that the minimum levels for surety bonds required by the federal government are insufficient to cover the costs of cleaning well sites that are often left abandoned by oil companies. With the rapid changes taking place in Alaska, insuring oil and gas development is a very risky and bad business decision.

Pursuing oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge is increasingly fraught with risk. The environmental, social, and governance factors linked with oil and gas development exposes your company to unnecessary reputational, legal, and financial risk. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge is an unpopular proposition in the United States. Two-thirds of American voters oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge which is consistent with the long-held, popular, and bi-partisan support for permanent protection of the Arctic Refuge.

On the legal front, there are four active lawsuits challenging the Arctic Refuge leasing program. This includes a complaint filed by the Gwich’in Steering Committee and 12 other clients, a complaint filed by 15 States, a complaint filed by environmental groups, and a complaint filed by three tribal governments. In addition, a United Nations committee expressed grave concerns and called for an investigation of the United States. The push to drill in the Arctic Refuge suppresses our concerns and is a clear violation of our human rights, potentially in violation of your company’s own stated policies.

Recognizing the risks, 27 financial institutions, including five major American banks, have decided to not invest in oil and gas development in the Arctic. Recent polling shows that three in four voters support the financial institutions’ decisions.

Looking across the country and the world, there are Indigenous Peoples uniting and standing as one for our human rights. From the Arctic, to the tar sands, to the Amazon, Indigenous communities are demanding insurance companies make the right choice and support our struggle for Indigenous rights and our ways of life. We urge you to uplift and support these demands in the fight for climate justice. We urge you to stand with us and start protecting what we have left. Our future generations deserve to see the world as it was in the beginning, not just when we are done with it.

We ask that you make the policy changes listed above regarding oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its impact on Alaska Native communities. We ask that you respond to inform us about the actions you take regarding our requests.

We are happy to discuss further and can arrange a meeting so you can better understand our concerns.

We look forward to your response.

Signed,
Gwich’in Steering Committee
350 Colorado
350 Seattle
350.org
45North Partners
Alaska Wilderness League
Alaska Wildlife Alliance
American Packrafting Association
Arctic Audubon Society
Boston Common Asset Management, LLC
Braided River
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Yukon chapter
Center for Biological Diversity
Clean Energy Action
Clean Yield Asset Management
Climate Action Now!
Climate Hawks Vote
Divest Invest Protect
Domini Impact Investments LLC
Earth Action, Inc.
Earthjustice
Environmental Protection Information Center
Figure 8 Investment Strategies
First Affirmative Financial Network
First Peoples Worldwide
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges
Friends of the Earth Japan
Friends of the Earth US
Fundacja Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE
Fund Our Future
Glasswaters Foundation
Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights
Heartland Initiative
Indigenous Environmental Network
Indigenous Human Rights Defenders and Corporate Accountability Program
Information Network for Responsible Mining
Integrated Capital Investing
Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES)
Klamath Forest Alliance
Land is Life
Mercy Investment Services, Inc.
Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation Community Trust
Native Movement
NativesOutdoors
Natural Investments
NDN Collective
Northern Alaska Environmental Center
NorthFork Financial
Oil Change International
Oneida Nation
OVEC-Ohio Environmental Coalition
Patagonia
Pueblo Action Alliance
Rachel Carson Council
Rainforest Action Network
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council
Seeding Sovereignty
SHARE
Sierra Club
Sierra Club Foundation
Snowchange Cooperative
Swift Foundation
The Climate Museum
The Lands Council
The Morning Star Institute
The Wilderness Society
The Years Project
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Urgewald
Van Dam Scientific
Washington Wild
Wilderness Watch
Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)