Here in Maine, we are finally moving toward recognizing the inherent rights of Indigenous people and we must continue doing so across the nation. For decades, the Gwich’in Nation has helped to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska from oil and gas drilling, yet their way of life and hundreds of species remain in jeopardy. The Refuge needs permanent protection, and it’s time for Congress to act.

The Arctic Refuge is among the most wild, unique, and beautiful places in North America. It contains habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife, including polar bears, Dolly Varden, numerous migratory birds, and the Porcupine Caribou Herd.

Gwich’in people have had an intimate connection to the Porcupine Herd for tens of thousands of years — taking the caribou for meat and hide, incorporating references into songs and dances, and spiritually acknowledging the caribou as a source of life.

Given the undeniable importance of caribou to the Gwich’in, drilling in the coastal plain of the Refuge, which serves as birthing grounds for the caribou, is an unconscionable breach of human rights.

A long-term solution is needed to protect this special place and the people whose livelihoods depend on it. I hope Maine’s congressional delegation will do their part in supporting permanent protection of the Arctic Refuge.

I lived in the Yukon Territory and Alaska for 10 years and have seen first hand how beautiful this country is. My sled dogs are from Gwich’in descent and are called Yukon huskies. I hope this country can be protected from further development.


Polly Mahoney


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