Alaska Natives Protest Development Projects
ANCHORAGE - Alaska Natives from across the state rallied in Anchorage today in protest of resource development projects they say threaten the environment, their lifestyles and even their lives.
The event sprang from an international movement of indigenous peoples called “Idle No More.” Started in Canada to protest legislation loosening environmental regulations there, the movement spread to the United States and Latin America today.
"It is a cry for all to uphold sovereignty, de-colonize ourselves, protect mother earth, honor treaties, protect water, ensure food security and food sovereignty" said Faith Gemmill, a Gwich’in from Arctic Village.
“A human being, I'm trying to understand, what makes a human being with a different color think that's more of a human being than I," said Lee Stephan, an Athabascan chief from Eklutna.
There were many grievances, including the potential for drilling in ANWR, military waste left on St. Lawrence Island, the potential for developing the Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay.
But Shell's recent drilling program in the outer continental shelf provided fodder for fresh outrage.
"If we don't take a stand, if we don't take a stand now, we're going to go hungry for our food. No matter what race you are, we all depend on the ocean," said Mae Hank, an Inupiat from Point Hope. "The ocean feeds every country, every human being."
Added Allison Warden, an Inupiat from Kaktovik, "it was a like a sign when those drilling things got grounded on the way up and on the way down. And there's no clean way to clean up the ocean, right? There's no way to clean up underneath the ice."
There was no clear action plan articulated during the rally. But participants said this will not be the only manifestation in Alaska of “Idle No More.'”
"Because this movement is just starting,” Gemmill said. “It's just starting. There is an awakening. Just starting, now."
Rally participants also expressed concern about climate change, with one predicting that millions of people ultimately will drown as a result of melting ice.