Daazhraii Johnson: Protecting the sacred place where life begins

Caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikipedia

Princess Daazhraii Johnson, the former executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee, discusses the importance of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska from development:
The Alaska delegation would have us think that all Alaskans are "outraged" by the wilderness recommendation and has responded in the media using the language of a "declaration of war." This language connotes the ecology of violence both against our Mother Earth and is related to the high rates of violence that we experience as Alaska Native women. There is a direct correlation, and part of the problem is that we are not creating a culture of caring for one another but instead a divisive and hostile culture. We need to recognize that we are interconnected to one another and are a part of our environment -- not separate, but equal constituents of our planet.

A birthing ground is no place for a battlefield. Each summer up to 40,000 calves from the Porcupine caribou herd are born and nurse on the coastal plain of the refuge. As a mother, I am acutely aware of the conditions we must maintain from womb to birth to ensure the health of mother and child and also that birthing space is sacred. What is sacred anymore in this world? Where is our civility, our humanity as we address these issues? Do we not have a moral obligation to future generations to do all we can to work toward leaving behind a more vibrant, thriving planet that will sustain human life?

Let us not forget that two years of public hearings took place across our state to collect public testimony on the Arctic Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan. At a hearing in Anchorage, 2-to-1 were in favor of wilderness, and in Fairbanks, 60 percent were in favor of wilderness for the coastal plain of the refuge. How do these voices get discounted? This recommendation comes from the Alaskan people and is not just the decision of those in Washington, D.C. No words from Washington can address all the deep and painful challenges my people face today, or the damage that has been done to our land and our culture. But protecting the Sacred Place Where Life Begins -- once and for all -- would be a hopeful first step.

Get the Story:
Princess Daazhraii Johnson: A birthing ground like ANWR is no battlefield (The Alaska Dispatch News 1/31)

Other Opinions:
Gov. Bill Walker: ANWR wilderness call violates Statehood Compact and ANILCA (The Alaska Dispatch News 1/31)
Darby Stanchfield: Let's protect ANWR forever (The Alaska Dispatch News 1/29)

Also Today:
Little change in ANWR management, but Alaska leaders have strong opinion (The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 2/1)
Alaska legislators ponder pushback after White House move on ANWR (The Alaska Dispatch News 1/28)

Related Stories
Mark Trahant: Obama administration steps up for environment (1/28)
Editorial: Wildlife refuge in Alaska deserves stronger protections (1/27)
Obama to seek stronger protections for wildlife refuge in Alaska (1/26)

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