Alaska Native leaders react to Biden’s executive orders

January 28, 2021
Arctic Iñupiat leadership
Arctic Iñupiat leadership

POINT HOPE, AK – President Joe Biden has issued a flurry of executive orders that will have considerable economic impacts on the indigenous people of Alaska. His moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has eliminated economic development for the only private landowner in the Refuge – Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation. He also ordered a halt to oil and gas permits for federal lands, immediately impacting the industry’s ability to continue work in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). These actions will have a significant effect on jobs and the economy of our state and region.

In the days before taking office, President Biden promised to unify the country. Then, in his first order of business, promptly alienated Alaska and other states that rely on energy development to keep the lights on in their communities. While Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat (VOICE) applauds the concept of unity, accomplishing it means working together. What we’re seeing instead are outside influences making decisions for our state and region without any consultation. This is precisely the type of unilateral approach to policy that VOICE was created to challenge.

“The president’s actions hinder Alaska’s growth and potential, and significantly hamstring the sustainability of our rural Native communities. Since oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay 50 years ago, the Iñupiat have had to balance our cultural and subsistence needs against the economic realities of modern life. The North Slope of Alaska has a singular economy in oil and gas, and we entertain jobs and opportunities with the industry because nobody else is providing them,” said VOICE President Sayers Tuzroyluk. “We are eager to hear the Biden administration’s plan to replace the economy that it’s brought to a standstill, and look forward to working side-by-side with the President to create new, sustainable solutions.”

“I grew up having to find fuel to keep warm and hunt to feed my family. Our people struggled to survive if the animals didn’t come our way. Only recently have we been exposed to first-world conveniences. Our children and grandchildren have grown up with the internet, schools in our communities and running water – this is a different life from mine,” said Rex A. Rock Sr., VOICE Chairman of the Board. “We cannot turn back the clock. We formed a home rule government to tax resource development in our region to provide for our communities and create a modern life for our people.”

“When it comes to ANWR, we’re talking about policies based on environmental singlemindedness. They might sound good sitting in D.C., Seattle or New York, but what we’re dealing with locally and regionally is the federal government preventing Alaska Natives who live inside the Refuge from managing their own lands,” said Matthew Rexford of Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation. “Unfortunately, Biden’s promise to grow the economy for all Americans was made without due consideration for residents of the Arctic, and certainly without input from the residents of Kaktovik, Alaska. This is a fundamental human rights issue – we have the right to develop our lands but are being prevented from doing so.”

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