Gwich'in people must be heard in Arctic Refuge debate

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Photo by Richard Murphy

Alaska Dispatch News

By Julian Roberts

"We wanted Secretary Jewell to know that, despite the rhetoric, many here in Alaska welcomed President Barack Obama’s announcement that the federal government’s final Comprehensive Conservation Plan would recommend that Congress designate the coastal plain and other areas of the refuge as wilderness – the highest level of protection for public lands.

During the Kotzebue meeting, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, which represents 42 Interior Athabascan tribes, clearly addressed support for protection of the refuge. This was immediately echoed by the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government. The Alaska congressional delegation was on the same panel as Jewell, and heard our views. Yet, Sen. Lisa Murkowski later stated on public radio that all Alaska Natives in the room had been aligned against the wilderness recommendation for the refuge. Her statement blatantly disregarded the truth. How could our voices so easily be set aside in this discussion?"

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