Old Crow, Yukon Territory, Canada -- Home of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation
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The caribou and the people are as one, and the culture is completely tied to it. In their mythology, the Gwich'in were derived from a heart shared with caribou, so each will always know what the other is doing. "The Gwich'in of northern Canada and Alaska have lived in their Arctic homeland since the last ice age. ... There is direct archaeological evidence that the Gwich'in have depended upon the Porcupine Caribou Herd for at least 12,000 years. They still depend upon the caribou for their subsistence needs as well as their cultural survival.--ccp"

caribou on the tundraThe Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is the home of the Porcupine Caribou Herd's calving grounds, located in the Northen coastal plain. This coastal area referred to as ANWaR or the 1002 lands by the oil companies, is to the Gwitchin Vadzaih googii vi dehk'it gwanlii - or "sacred place where life begins," and is *exactly* where the U.S. Republicans want to drill for the *possibility* of oil. "It would be like drilling in a hospital nursery," states Norma Kassi, Gwich'in spokeswoman. President Bush's family is closely tied to the oil industry, and the Vice President, Dick Cheney, is closely tied to Haliburton, the oil drilling company in Alaska. The Alaskan Governor is on the side of the Republicans and thinks that the Vuntut Gwitchin could learn to change their lives to be like the Inupiats in Prudoe Bay. He also thinks that the Gwich'in people are only holding onto a romantic notion of their culture, fueled by some radical environmentalists. He has no idea what is at stake, and doesn't care about the Canadians.

Therefore, the Gwich'in and their supporters have had to try to fight the issue themselves, by going to Washington D.C. and to make as much of a case as possible.

In August 2002, the Caribou Commons Project from Yukon, held a trek across America, The Walk to Washington D.C. for the Arctic Refuge. Led by Ken Madsen, it was kicked off in Seattle with the support of the Canadian Consulate General in Seattle and several other leaders. I was lucky to be involved, even if in a small part, with the kickoff event. The walk ended last November in D.C.

photos from the DC Walk
Tammy Josie and Sandra Newman, Myself and Chief Joseph Linklater, Norma Kassi
Click on picture to view the photos from the kickoff

Gwich'in such as Sandra Newman -- a former Old Crow Counselor, Norma Kassi -- a Consultant in Whitehorse (from Old Crow), and Sarah James (from Arctic Village) -- Gwich'in Steering Committee, have been speaking out to a global audience to raise awareness, but it is a slow process. When people realize that its not an environmental issue to protect a few caribou, but a cultural issue for 10,000 Gwich'in, to save their entire way of life, they may just begin to understand--just a little bit.

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In their own words . . .

Audio: Protection of the Caribou Caribou Calving Grounds Sandra Newman, Old Crow

Shockwave Movie: "Land of the Gwich'in" by Amy Sherts. Narrated by Norma Kassi, Old Crow / Whitehorse (Shockwave plugin required)

Video: CBC - "Locked Horns: The Fate of Old Crow", featuring Steven Frost, Old Crow

Article: "Save This Sacred Place" by Chief Joe Linklater, Old Crow, and Faith Gemmill, Arctic Village, AK, for The Washington Post; 1.17.01

Article: "Plight of the Caribou People" by DeNeen L. Brown, The Washington Post, featuring Chief Joe Linklater and Sandra Newman, Old Crow; 9.16.01

Article: "YUKON: 'The Caribou and Our People Are One" by DeNeen L. Brown, The Washington Post, featuring Chief Joe Linklater, Sandra Newman, Charlie Peter Charlie Sr., Old Crow ; 9.10.01

Article: "Human Rights vs. Oil-- A CorpWatch Interview with Sarah James" ; 4.27.01

Article: "Sarah James leads Alaska's 'Caribou People' in defense of their way of life" by Bert Gildart, The Christian Science Monitor (doesn't open in Netscape); 3.19.02

Article: "Arctic drilling could threaten caribou people, pastor says" by Joretta Purdue, United Methodist News Svc., featuring Rev. Trimble Gilbert, Arctic Village, AK; 5.22.01

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Being Caribou
On April 8, 2003, two Canadians joined the Porcupine Caribou Herd for 5 months on a journey from Old Crow to the sacred calving grounds in the Artic refuge. "Heuer said they wanted to come back with fresh images and tales of the caribou that would reach beyond statistics of oil barrels to be gained or the number of caribou potentially affected. More than anything, the couple wanted to present the public with the "face of the caribou." The 60 minute film about Being Caribou will be broadcast in the Fall of 2004. Read more

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Caribou / Calving grounds

blue bullet Caribou Coordination
blue bullet Caribou Commons Project
blue bullet Porcupine Caribou Mgmt. Board
blue bullet Gwich'in Steering Committee

  General Information:
blue bullet Caribou in the Arctic Refuge
blue bullet The Gwich'in of Alaska and Canada
blue bullet Being CaribouFive months on foot with an Endangered Arctic Herd

Caribou are also known as reindeer.  Click for more about caribou


blue bullet Gwich'in Country Topographical Map!
Created with geographynetwork.com's satellite imagery server and 4 other hard maps. I appoligize for any errors.
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caribou range
Detailed map of calving grounds and Gwich'in country from Conservation GIS Center

blue bullet Yukon Territory Map

blue bullet Being CaribouFive months on foot with an Endangered Arctic Herd
(QuickTime plugin required)

blue bullet NPR - Radio Expeditions: Following the Porcupine Caribou

blue bullet "Under the Arctic Sun: Gwich'in, Caribou, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge" — Ken Madsen, Caribou Commons Project

blue bullet "Caribou Commons" CD, featuring Wildlands and Matthew Lien.

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Take Action !

blue bullet Send a message to Congress.
More information
blue bullet Purchase the "Caribou Commons" CD.
This purchase supports the Caribou Commons Project, the Porcupine caribou herd and the Gwich'in.
blue bullet Purchase the "Arctic Refuge: A Gathering of Tribes" CD.
This purchase supports the Gwich'in Steering Committee and the Alaska Wilderness League.
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