The Gwich’in Steering Committee was formed in 1988 in response to increasing threats to open the Sacred Place Where Life Begins, the coastal plain (also known as 1002 area) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to leasing for oil. Recognizing that this threat to the caribou calving grounds was a threat to the very heart of our people, the elders called upon the chiefs of all villages from Canada to Alaska to hold a traditional gathering, Gwich’in Niintsyaa, in Arctic Village for the first time in over a century. In this meeting, we addressed the issue with a talking stick in accordance with our traditional way, and came to the unanimous agreement that we would speak with one voice against oil and gas development in the birthing and nursing grounds of the Porcupine River caribou herd. Over the past 15 years, the Steering Committee staff, board, and volunteers have succeeded at a grassroots level to educate the public and decision-makers on why the “coastal plain” of the Arctic Refuge must be permanently protected as wilderness. We feel strongly that a major part of our achievements are a direct result of the continuing wisdom and guidance provided to us by our elders. The Gwich’in people stand united in our continued efforts to protect the “1002 area” from oil and gas development.
Please explore this site to learn more about the Gwich’in Culture, our relationship with the caribou and the land, and our struggle to preserve Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins), the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
A Moral Choice for the United States
The Human Rights Implications for the Gwich’in of Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Gwich’in Steering Committee report concludes that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would violate the human rights of the Gwich’in people because of the impacts drilling would have on Gwich’in subsistence, culture, and way of life. The report was prepared on behalf of, and under the auspices of, the Gwich’in Steering Committee along with the Episcopal Church and Professor Richard J. Wilson, Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University. The public interest law firm Trustees for Alaska coordinated the preparation of the report.