Alaska tribes unite against mining projects, like Pebble
Tribes from opposite ends of the state are coming together against mining projects, like Pebble.
United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SAITC) signed a memorandum of agreement Wednesday that says the two groups will:
- share information about mining developments in their respective regions
- notify each other of public comment opportunities
- work together on actions that benefit either or both groups
- sign joint letters and resolutions in response to mining projects
The two tribal groups are based hundreds of miles apart -- from Bristol Bay in Southwest Alaska to the Southeast panhandle -- but at a joint reception Wednesday evening, they came together in the same room as one community. Culturally, the differences between Southeast and Southwest Alaska are remarkable, but when it comes to mining projects, Alaska native tribes in the two regions say they feel the same.
"We're at a critical time in history when Alaska Native people are at a crossroads. We either risk everything that we hold sacred, or we support these development projects that can devastate everything," said Alannah Hurley, executive director of United Tribes for Bristol Bay. "With the new federal administration, with the heightened threat that our people are facing, it definitely has helped us to unify."
"This is a government-to-government relationship with the United States, and so you can see the tribes are joining and 'pardon the expression', demanding a voice at the tab," said Fred Olsen of SAITC. "We're not against mining but we just want it done right."
For its part -- Pebble Partnership says it wants that too.
"We want to do mining right, that's the whole point of the industry. Industry in Alaska has a very successful 20 year plus track record," said Mike Heatwole, a spokesperson for Pebble Partnership.
The company says it has offered tribes a seat at the table, as part of an advisory committee for the project.
"As you know, they joined others in refusing that opportunity," Heatwole said.
By joining together, the tribes' opposition is louder than ever.
"To my knowledge, this is history in the making," said Hurley.
The two groups say any mining project that threatens their way of life, in any form, will never be acceptable. Hurley and Olsen say they hope to gather support from other tribal organizations around the state.
Heatwole says Pebble Partnership plans to file for a permit on a smaller scale project, unveiled earlier this month, by December.
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