This morning, Juneau Empire published an op-ed penned by the Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat (VOAI), a non-profit organization that represents 20 out of the 28 Iñupiat entities across the North Slope, condemning the letter signed by so-called scientific experts calling on the Obama Administration to rule out Arctic offshore oil and gas development entirely in the future.
In the op-ed, VOAI president Sayers Tuzroyluk, Sr. denounced the scientists, who “failed to consult with us — the Iñupiat of the region — the very people they claim to be fighting for” before opposing Arctic drilling. Mr. Tuzroyluk emphasized that outsiders often neglect or ignore the fundamental fact that Native communities depend on oil and gas development: He writes, “we cannot be expected to survive without a stable, fully-functional economy, and the region is heavily-reliant on revenues from oil and gas development.” He continues, “We cherish our traditional subsistence practices above all else, and also understand the need for modern, responsible development of the oil and gas resources our region is blessed with.”
Commenting, Arctic Energy Center spokesperson Lucas Frances said,
“As the Department of the Interior finalizes its offshore oil and gas leasing program, VOAI’s piece provides a reminder that Alaskans– who live closest to oil and gas development and who best understand the needs and priorities of the region – ought to be consulted and their perspectives must be part of the discussion. . As VOAI explains, Alaska Natives have thousands of years of traditional knowledge and experience caring for the land, sea and animals in the Arctic, and this expertise should inform Arctic energy policy going forward, just as it has informed the long history of safe and responsible oil and gas development in the Arctic.”