In this undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an airplane flies over caribou from the Porcupine Caribou Herd on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)

Canada ignores Iñupiat in opposing ANWR development

I am Kaktovikmiut, born and raised in Kaktovik, Alaska, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Generations of my ancestors have inhabited this land, surviving and thriving off the resources it provides us. The recent news that Global Affairs Canada is using our Native caribou subsistence resources to fight oil and gas drilling in my backyard is not only disappointing, it’s hypocritical and insulting to my community of Kaktovik that has been vocal in its support of ANWR exploration and development.

When looking at historic wintering areas for the Porcupine caribou herd, it varies widely but mostly occurs in Old Crow Flats, Kandik Basin and Eagle Plains in the Canadian Yukon. It’s interesting, then, that Global Affairs Canada hasn’t likewise rejected resource development activities in those areas of their own country to “conserve the Porcupine caribou herd’s habitat.” In fact, Canada has already drilled 59 oil and gas wells in the herd’s migration area. Here in Kaktovik, we have noticed that the herd’s movements have become more sporadic over the past several decades and we cannot always count on them spending time in our area.

These changes are reflected in Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports showing shifting calving trends (Porcupine Caribou News, summer 2017.) In the 2017 calving season, the herd calved from the Sadlerochit Mountains in Alaska to Babbage River in Canada, a range south and east of any likely development.

As far back as 2004 the Porcupine herd has not used the northwest section of the 1002 area for calving. Several studies focusing on the nature of the relationship between the Central Arctic caribou herd and infrastructure at the Prudhoe Bay oilfield west of the 1002 area show that “caribou frequently were more abundant than expected in the intervals close to infrastructure” (Cronin et al, 1997), and that survival rates of calves birthed near development did not differ significantly from survival rates of calves birthed away from infrastructure disturbances (Arthur and Del Vecchio, 2009).

In fact, the Central Arctic herd has grown exponentially over the four decades since Prudhoe Bay has been operational. We Iñupiat have been clear in our consultation with Alaska’s delegation in Washington, the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Interior that protection of the Porcupine caribou herd and the ecosystem that has allowed us to thrive for generations is of critical importance. This has been at the forefront of all conversations regarding exploration and development in our homelands.

I am extremely dissatisfied with the announcement that the Canadian government — which has gained so much through the development of its own natural resources — chooses to oppose our right to do the same. Like the Gwich’in, we rely heavily on caribou as a resource to feed our families. Collectively, we need to shift our focus away from black and white extremes and towards finding a middle ground where drilling can be done in the most environmentally conscious way.

Glen Edwin Solomon

Kaktovik, Alaska

ANWRCaribouoil and gas

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read