The only federally recognized tribe in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge issued harsh words in response to the recent announcement from President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding oil and gas development in the Arctic.
The village of Kaktovik, which has a strong subsistence culture, is unhappy with President Biden. The village wants responsible oil drilling in ANWR and believes it should have been consulted before the president issued a joint statement with Canada.
Last week, Biden and Trudeau said they would work together to ‘safeguard the Porcupine caribou herd calving grounds,’ citing the governments’ prior lack of consultation with the region’s indigenous tribe. The two men were referring to the Gwich’in, which are not in the region where the drilling would take place, but do depend on caribou.
“Alaska Native tribes are sovereign governments recognized under the Constitution of the United States of America. Any federal actions that potentially impact our rights as promised under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act are to be done in concert with the tribal government potentially affected,” Kaktovik stated today.
“The Native Village of Kaktovik will always support the protection of our subsistence resources, but making decisions without tribal consultation often results in unintended consequences for indigenous people,” the village said in its press release.
“People live in ANWR too. The Iñupiat of Kaktovik have been here for as long as the caribou, but nobody is issuing statements promising to protect our sovereign rights. The government isn’t fighting to give us a voice about what can and cannot happen on our lands,” said Eddie Rexford, Sr., president of Native Village of Kaktovik.
“Tribal consultation isn’t a favor to indigenous people, it’s required by law. There was absolutely no attempt to communicate or work with the tribe,” Rexford said.
Kaktovik also is unhappy with the Biden Administration for suddenly halting oil exploration in ANWR this winter. The Department of Interior said that the Kaktovik Inupiat Corp missed a Feb. 13 deadline to catalog polar bear dens that would need protection in the area.
Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. released a letter from federal officials, which contradicted the federal government story and showed that the Department of Interior ran the clock out on the deadline, rather than the corporation.