Environment | Opinion

Joel Reynolds: Saying goodbye to Native elder Bobby Andrew

Bobby Andrew, second from left, was an adamant opponent of the Pebble Mine in Alaska. Photo from Our Bristol Bay / Facebook

Joel Reynolds of the National Resources Defense Council pays tribute to the late Bobby Andrew, an Alaska Native elder who fought against the controversial Pebble Mine:
When he talked, people listened, because there was no denying his personal stake, his authenticity, his legitimacy in representing the people of Bristol Bay. He was a Yupik elder and a member of the Ekwok Tribe, longtime spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai, a life-time subsistence and commercial fisherman, born in Alegnagik, near Dillingham -- and he looked the part. The determined and immovable opposition of Alaska Natives to the Pebble Mine was reflected in his face - serious, resolute, even angry - and he was repeatedly featured in full page ads around the world as the face of the regional coalition against the Pebble Mine.

But Bobby Andrew didn't just look the part. He could talk chapter and verse about all aspects of the project or its impacts, and he wasn't afraid to have that conversation with anyone - a state official in Alaska, a federal regulator at the Environmental Protection Agency, a member of Congress on the Hill, or the CEO of a multi-billion dollar international corporation. And when he spoke, he did so not in anger but with conviction, a gentle firmness, and an easy smile that disarmed rather than threatened. Even his opponents couldn't help but like and respect him, because he was the genuine voice of Bristol Bay, unquestionably prepared to fight to the bitter end if necessary to oppose a colossal injustice.

Thanks to Bobby Andrew and the extraordinary coalition of diverse interests for (or with) whom he spoke so effectively, that scheme is on life support today. But terrible ideas like the Pebble Mine are hard to kill definitively, and, though Bobby has been gone for 40 days, his legacy remains in the steadfast and relentless commitment of his coalition partners, both in the region and elsewhere, to carry on the fight for as long as it takes.

From all of us at NRDC, thank you Bobby. We'll never forget you.

Get the Story:
Joel Reynolds: Saying Goodbye to Bobby Andrew, Defender of Bristol Bay (NRDC Blog 6/22)

Also Today:
Bobby Andrew, leading voice in anti-Pebble fight, dies at 73 (KDLG 5/13)
Bobby Andrew, Native leader who opposed Pebble mine, dies at 72 (The Cordova Times 5/15)
Andrew remembered as protector of Bristol Bay (The Bristol Bay Times 5/22)
Bobby Andrew, 73, laid to rest Saturday (KDLG 5/20)

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Robert Heyano: Alaska tribes committed to fight against mine (02/18)
EPA decision anticipated on mine opposed by Alaska Natives (2/16)
Robert Heyano: Alaska tribes battle mine to protect way of life (6/27)
EPA takes step that could block mine opposed by Alaska Natives (3/3)
EPA finds major risk in mine opposed by Alaska Natives (1/16)
Firm pulls out of controversial mine opposed by Alaska Natives (9/17)
New EPA leader visits controversial Pebble Mine site in Alaska (08/28)
New leader of EPA considers trip to Pebble Mine site in Alaska (8/2)
Opinion: Pebble Mine brings development to Native villages (07/22)
Callan J. Chythlook-Sifsof: Native subsistence under threat (06/28)