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Alaskan tribal people fears grave harm from GOP tax bill
The GOP's tax bill allows for oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and an indigenous tribe called the Gwich'in is deeply concerned.
By Rick Docksai
Contributor
Jan 12, 2018

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WASHINGTON D.C. — An indigenous tribe in northern Alaska fears that the tax bill that Congressional Republicans are finalizing will spell the end of their way of life. The Gwich'in, a population of 9,000 indigenous hunters and fishers, express concerns that a stipulation in the bill opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling imperils the caribou on which Gwich'in villages feed.

A Gwich'in steering committee traveled to Washington, DC, this week to plead for the wildlife reserve. Bernadette Dementieff, the committee's executive director, said that caribou are 80% of her people's food and their main source of material for clothing, and that any major decline in the caribou population would put her people's very survival in doubt.

"We are fighting for our way of life right now," she said."This is a sacred place and we will be wiped out if there is drilling there. We live off the land and this is our garden. Take that away and we starve."

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a roughly 9.3 million-acre area in northern Alaska that has been at the center of conservation-vs.-development debates for 30 years. Several Republican-sponsored proposals to open it to drilling failed until the recently approved GOP tax bill, which allows for two lease sales for oil and gas drilling within part of the Refuge.

It happens to be the same part of the Refuge where the region's 170,000 caribou head each spring to give birth to and nurse their calves. Scientists have warned that development here would be severely disruptive to the caribou.