Native Alaskan Tribes Disagree Over Bush's Oil Proposal

July 22, 2001

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

On July 22, 2001, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution featured an article on the differing views of the Gwich'in Indians of Arctic Village and the Inupiat Eskimos of Kaktovik on Bush's proposal to drill for oil in Alaska. Gwich'in Indians rely on caribou for sustenance, and hold caribou and the land as sacred. Drilling for oil threatens both; tribal leadership sees it as a matter of human rights. In 1971, the Inupiat yielded their tribal claims to land for a cash settlement and title to some land and undelying oil. Drilling would bring important revenue for the Inupiat of Kaktovik. "But they can't process the oil until Congress approves drilling in the refuge... 'Oil is important for our young people, for education and health care,' says Isaac Akootchook, 78, a Presbyterian minister and former whale hunter... While Akootchook favors oil development on the refuge's coastal plain, he opposes offshore drilling in the Beaufort Sea, as oil companies also have proposed, because he fears that oil spills would harm the fish, whales and seals Kaktovik's residents eat."