Gwich’in Nation Chiefs and Leaders fly to Washington DC after sacred lands are opened to oil and gas development

July 1, 2022

In what is believed to have been the largest Gwich’in gathering in Washington, D.C. 17  representatives from 7 villages from Alaska and Canada arrived on May 14th, 2022, for a week of meetings with Congressional leaders and white house officials to advocate for the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 

Representatives of the Gwich’in Nation, including Tribal Chiefs, Elders, Tribal youth and appointed designees traveled to Washington, D.C.,  meet with the Biden administration and members of Congress to discuss a path forward to repeal the oil and gas drilling program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge an area they consider very sacred.

This four-day trip highlighted the cultural and spiritual importance of the Arctic Refuge for the Gwich’in Nation, and that current drilling program mandated by the 2017 Tax Act is a violation of their human rights. ​

The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge — known as “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit, ‘the Sacred Place Where Life Begins” — is the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. The Gwich’in have a spiritual and cultural connection to these lands and to the caribou. Drilling for oil on these sacred lands threatens not only the lives of the caribou, but the very existence of the Gwich’in way of life. Protecting the Porcupine Caribou Herd is vital to the spirituality and  human rights of the Gwich’in people including their food security.

In 1988 the gwich’in nation gathered for the first time in over 150 years, since than they gather every two years to reaffirm thier commitemnt to protect the calving grounds of the porcupine caribou herd. A vow thier ancestors made thousands of years ago and one they intend to honor. 

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