Washington, DC - The Navajo Nation joins leadership from Indian Nations and Native American organizations in opposing proposals to drill for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Proponents of a measure supported by the House of Representatives to begin oil exploration in what has been coined the nation’s “last remaining wilderness” hold that this pristine wilderness may hold enough oil to address the nation’s energy challenges.
Opponents include scientists, environmental groups, wildlife advocates and Native American communities. They hold that oil exploration stands to threaten the caribou herds, which are a food source, important to Native culture and religion along with other wildlife. Developing ANWR will take ten years and will probably not result in enough oil to fuel current consumption for six months.
Michelle Brown-Yazzie, Esq., Executive Director for the Navajo Nation Washington Office pointed out the importance of preserving ANWR in a statement she made from her office in Washington, DC earlier this week. “Native Americans have seen their lifestyles and religions challenged for generations. The Native peoples of Alaska have lived on this land for thousands of years and their traditional concerns should be taken seriously and respected.”
Yazzie went on to say that Indian Country can be very helpful in assisting in the development of alternative and renewable fuel sources. She added her concern that the existing oil pipeline in Alaska has a history of spills and there is the potential for enhanced drilling to result in the same. She also recognized the parallels between the Navajo struggle to preserve culture and the current challenges faced by the Gwitchin in Alaska. “The Navajo Nation Council in passing a resolution supporting the Gwitchin people in their fight to keep the oil and gas companies away from their lands, illustrates the Navajo people’s sensitivity to this issue and our first-hand recognition of the importance of preserving wildlife, undeveloped lands and the traditions that depend on them for our survival.”
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