“We are caribou people. Caribou are not just what we eat; they are who we are. They are in our stories and songs and the whole way we see the world. Caribou are our life. Without caribou we wouldn’t exist”. ~ Sarah James
In pursuit of profit for people in the industry, the BLM has been working for about a year to lease some of the most pristine land left on earth to oil and gas companies for fracking and drilling.
“The animal that has most come to symbolize the Refuge is the caribou. The Porcupine Caribou Herd, at nearly 170,000 strong, migrates throughout the Refuge and northwestern Canada. Pregnant females come to the unprotected coastal plain of the Refuge to give birth in late May and early June. They will birth as many as 40,000 calves in this same location each year. The annual migration of this herd is the reason the Arctic Refuge is sometimes called “America’s Serengeti.”
— Gwich'in Steering Committee
The Gwich'in have been fighting oil development in their home for decades. They formed the Steering Committee in 1988 to speak with one voice against the industry.
While I don’t have much ground to stand on considering I’ve never been to the AWR, I do descend from the reindeer people of Scandinavia, the Sámi. So in a way I also feel I owe the caribou a debt: they collaborated with my ancestors for one another’s survival. Maybe without them, I also would not be here. This is an important mindset to practice in a world where everything is so indirect. It’s important to feel our direct connection with landscapes, even thousands of miles away—because the rare metals in the screen you’re reading this on were probably mined out of the ground in China.