At Home in the Arctic Refuge: An Inupiaq Perspective

A guest post by Robert Thompson, Inupiaq resident of Kaktovik and wilderness guide

I would like to let people know why the preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is important to me. I’m an Inupiaq person who resides within the boundaries of the 1002 coastal plain area, where oil exploitation has been proposed. While many aspects of our culture have been lost through the adaptation to new ways, there is a very strong desire to retain certain core elements of our culture.

Hunting is one aspect of our culture that is essential to retain. Subsistence hunting is what defines us as a people. It gives us our identity. The hunting culture has sustained us for thousands of years. To be hunters we need our lands and ocean. It will not do to have a land that is filled with industrial activity and an ocean that has the threat of catastrophic oil spills that will disrupt the marine animals. This culture that has sustained us for thousands of years gives us our pride and self esteem.

If an Inupiaq man is able to provide for his family and community, it gives him a feeling of self worth. To derive this feeling from the ability to provide for a person’s family and community from the land is different than the larger society but the concept is universally understood. Self reliance, independence, self confidence, happiness: we derive all of this from our land. Our land should not be sold to the highest bidder for oil exploitation.

This is the land of my people and should be preserved for future generations to enjoy in its natural state. As we proceed into the modern era it becomes more and more important to retain that what gives us peace and tranquility. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is such a place. My people and all the people of the United States will be able to enjoy this land if we stop the oil companies from destroying it. I do not want to live in an oil field, nor do I want my future generations to.