Native village leaders push back on anti-Pebble push by Native Congress president


The Pebble Project is nothing if not controversial. Even among Native tribes in the region where the copper and gold mining venture is being considered.

In January, several Northwest tribes signed a “Bristol Bay Proclamation” demanding that the U.S. government halt the permitting process for the Pebble Mine in Southwest Alaska.

Also signing the proclamation was Fawn Sharp, who is the president of the National Congress of American Indians.

Now, a letter from another group of Alaska tribes says they are actually supportive of the permitting process. Their letter, sent to President Sharp, objected to the proclamation opposing mineral development near their lands, and asked for consultation in the future before she takes such a stance.

“We want you to know of our sincere disappointment and frustration that you have chosen to engage in the Pebble issue without the
courtesy of contacting us,” wrote Brad Angasan, on behalf of Alaska Peninsula Corporation and Lisa Reimer, on behalf of Iliamna Natives Limited.

“Apparently, you have taken information provided to you by others from our region who do not speak for those of us in communities closest to the proposed Pebble Project.

“For years, we have fought to have our voices heard in the debate about whether or not a mine a Pebble should be allowed to proceed through the permitting process and for years we have had to put up with organizations from outside Alaska taking positions without affording us the basic courtesy of hearing our views about this issue,” the tribal leaders wrote.

“The fact that our colleagues in the indigenous community would take an action against us without consultation is particularly disappointing. We have been engaged in the Pebble issue for nearly fifteen years. We have concerns about a mine near our communities, yet we also have concerns about the significant lack of economic opportunity for our people. We have put up with so-called regional and tribal organizations that tell the world that they speak with a united voice on the Pebble issue. Let us be clear – this is simply not the case,” the letter continued.

The letter acknowledges the permitting process has not been perfect, but also notes the people of the region have benefited from the exploration and environmental studies, and many have worked for the project or subcontractors to the project. That economic development is a welcome opportunity for their communities, where there are few jobs.

“We have taken it upon ourselves to learn about mining and to be informed about the range of issues we should be focusing our attention upon. We are participating in the federal NEPA review process to learn and to be heard. We want to know if a mine can be developed while protecting the salmon and subsistence resources that are important to our people. We also want a seat at the table with the proponent to ensure our voices are heard,” the tribes wrote.

“The economic and infrastructure opportunities generated by a mine at Pebble could be life changing for many in our communities. We have very few year-round job opportunities in our communities.

“Most do not participate in the commercial fishing industry that largely benefits coastal communities in other parts of our region. The cost of living in our communities is staggeringly high. We cannot afford to let an opportunity like Pebble pass us by without fully evaluating it. To do anything less would be irresponsible,”

The letter requests the president of NCAI to contact the tribal leaders and consult with them in the future before signing proclamations that impact their land and their economy.

NCAI is in the middle of its winter meeting in Washington, D.C. Among speakers on the agenda are Tara Sweeney, head of Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Congressman Don Young.


  1. A breath of fresh air on the Pebble issues…..A mine will one day be put in operation in this area and cooler heads being heard along the process of getting it done right are certainly needed…..Donlin Gold seems to be a bit further along the process of becoming a real project and for those of us outside that process it appears to be going forward well. Both Mines are going to become great Alaskan assets one day soon providing great jobs and brighter futures for Alaskans.

  2. I need to do a deeper dive into a law passed back in the 70’s by Don Young allowing empty ships to come and go to Alaskan territories freely. In other words they pay no fees or taxes. Makes me wonder how empty those/these ships really were/are? Maybe one of your reporters can dig into it?

  3. In years past, the Church, supported by the government, did all they could to brain-wash us out of being Native, to assimilate us. One would think that we would have become wise to that process. Now we have China, through environmentalists, brain-washing us, co-opting us, to help them obstruct and delay our country’s mineral and energy self-sufficiency.

    In his book, The Tipping Point – “The Law of the Few” is, as Gladwell states:
    1) “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts”.
    NRDC and other environmentalist NGO’s first sought out and isolated the local “mavens”, those rare individuals who know a lot of people and can connect them for a cause. Some of these local mavens were carefully cultivated, and indoctrinated into their agenda.

    2) “The Stickiness Factor refers to the specific content of a message that renders its impact memorable.”
    After many years of trial and error, enhanced by extensive research into what motivates people, the environmentalists had perfected their art, developing formulas for almost any situation, any cause. They learned how to boil any issue down to bullet points which would stick in memory.

    Environmentalists are claiming to be trying to help us save the salmon fishery of Bristol Bay. Meanwhile, those same environmentalists are trying to stop salmon fishing all along the West coast of America, to “save” the Orca whales. They’re trying to save the fish that they’re trying to prevent us from fishing for.

  4. State land. The mine is not of federal land. Salmon can be re-established elsewhere if some salmon spawning beds were lost. We can have both as long as things are done properly and we make sure that there is not a reduction in salmon runs. It is also important that they put the land back so it looks presentable, not just leave a mess.

    • I offered the Pebble Partnership a shot at using the non-reactive tailing as a base for topsoil, covering the otherwise barren land.
      The Pebble area is weather fractured rock, without enough surface area for anything higher than lichen and moss to extract nutrients.
      The non-reactive tailing is nothing more than sand, which could be sprayed over the rocks, into the crevices and cracks, and provide enough surface area for higher order plants to extract nutrients. It would become self-mulching very quickly.
      It would eventually act as a filter for whatever natural pollutants ocure in the area, and increase habitat for higher order fauna.
      In other parts of the world, Israel, China, huge areas of desert sand is being converted into fertile top-soil.

  5. Mrs Downing,
    Your article itself demonstrates your lack of understanding of this issue and our region. You state; “a letter from another group of Alaska Tribes says they are actually supportive of the permitting process.” In reality the groups who sent this letter are not tribes, they are corporations. You are highlighting a divide that has less to do with differences in what the people of the region want and a whole lot more to do with difference created with the implementation of ANSCA.

    Alaska Peninsula Corporation and Iliamna Natives Limited are NOT tribes and the two people quoted in your article have been long-time paid advocates of the Pebble Limited Partnership.

    As far as communities closest to the site- Nondalton is THE closest, and in partnership with a dozen other downstream Tribes reached out to NCAI for support. The fact remains that the vast majority of Bristol Bay’s residents and Tribes oppose this project and the permitting process is disregarding the best interests of ALL Alaskans interested in a fair fact-based process, including Senator Murkowski.

    SD, Thank you for your attention to our issue but please do a little more research before allowing yourself to be spoon-fed Pebble Propaganda.

    • “Alaska Peninsula Corporation and Iliamna Natives Limited are NOT tribes…”

      “With the Alaska Native Reorganization Act, an amendment of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the U.S. government formally recognizes Alaska Natives, as it had American Indian tribes in the earlier legislation. Federal funding will be available to villages if they abandon their traditional forms of government and adopt a city council–style government.”

      City councils are corporations. There’s 228 or so IRA/ANRA villages in Alaska. You saying that they’re not tribes, or part of tribes?

      Also, the vast majority of BB’s residents don’t dare voice support of Pebble. They can get ostracized, harassed, bullied, and all that. Even here in Anchorage I don’t dare put a “Mine Pebble” sticker on my Challenger, because I have a $500 deductible and can’t afford attracting vandalism.

      The traditional high-class clans are desperately clinging to their ancient authority and lions share of resources. The low-casts having good paying jobs are a threat to that.

      The “No-Pebble” gang live in an echo chamber, hearing only what they want to hear.

  6. I believe Pedro Bay village is the closest, and half the people support pebble, but the other half are the elites of the village with the money and the power to control the village council. Therefore the “village” says anti-pebble, but the regular people sing a different tune. I wonder if a vote in each village would really uncover the power of deception that the environmentalists manage to pull off? It’s a David and Goliath story. Who can fight the EPA, the Boombergs, the crazy Thundbergs and Hollywood simultaneously. The biggest sham is all the hypocritical commercial fisherman that make their millions holding the only permit passed from father to son over generations, in their massive aluminum mined boats, while working in the oil industry for 40+ years just to become an environmentalist sympathizer when it suits their retirement plans… Give me a break, there are real people with real families that need a real future.

  7. Passion runs deep on this issue, making desired consensus hard to achieve. The interviewees who spoke to Suzanne are expressing that they want to see a fair permitting process that addresses concerns. Yes they are interested in jobs, but no, they won’t commit to being absolutely in favor until they want to see what shakes out in terms of risk and how they propose to deal with that risk – I’m impressed with the wisdom and courage shown and the faithfulness of the reporting.

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