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From the Editor: ‘The Original Environmentalists and Resource Developers’

Editor's note: Every year in September Alaska Business Monthly reviews Alaska Native Corporations. We’ve been doing this for about 20 years, which might seem like a long time to some—it really isn’t. This year, we’re doing it again, and one of the stories in our special section is about the 100 year anniversary of the Alaska Native Brotherhood. One hundred years might seem like a long time to many—it does to me, but it really isn’t.

The many thousands of years Alaska Native peoples have been here is a long time—a really long time. In my research for this month’s special section I was most impressed by a speech NANA Regional Corporation Inc. President and CEO Marie Greene gave two years ago via video conference to the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s 11th General Assembly in Greenland. I’m sharing the last few paragraphs with our readers—it’s a powerful message for all.

—Susan Harrington, Managing Editor

 

...In our region, we are being pulled—on all sides—by the politics of global warming, development, and conservation. NGOs and people from all sides of the political spectrum are coming to our region. Their message is the same: “We know what is best for this place; we know what is best for your people.”

We must tread carefully in our engagement with these groups. Our ICC Chair, Jimmy Stotts, has also counseled us in this regard. He points out: “the Inuit are being told to scale back our industrial development when we did not contribute to global warming.” He has warned us against forming partnerships with environmental activists because they are also opposed to subsistence activities, like whaling, seal and caribou hunting, and fishing, which form the cornerstone of our cultural identity.

We must heed his words and proceed with caution. Any mistake we make in this engagement can be costly and may—in the long run—limit our ability to make decisions about our lands—to determine our destiny. I am concerned that these groups are working to create a political and economic environment where we must turn to them for permission, approval or partnership. They insist that we need to be protected from ourselves —— and they are dividing us.

We must remember we are all tied together by a common bond. We share common values. We share common languages, cultures, and kin. Our peoples are the first peoples of our nations. We must work together. We must not allow anything, or any group, to drive wedges between our tribes and our corporations—to pit village against village, region against region, country against country, or brother against brother.

As the Arctic becomes more accessible to the Outside world, as the world moves closer to our borders; into our waters; over our lands—we must work together to protect them. We must stand together. We face strong Outside influences and we will need each other when this storm comes. If we are united, we will succeed. I urge us, as Inuit peoples of the North, to make a pledge to consult not only with our own peoples but with each other. To make every effort to work through our differences so we can face the world in the strength of unity. We must remind the rest of the world who we are. We must remind them of our strength, resilience and adaptability. We must remind them that we are the original environmentalists and resource developers—we will determine—together—how to use our lands to benefit our people and protect our subsistence resources and cultures. We will have a place at the table in all decisions that affect our lands.

We will show the world that though we speak our different languages—we are one people—we are the Inuit—and this land is ours.

Quyaanna—Thank you and God bless you.

—Marie N. Greene, June 28, 2010

 

This "From the Editor" column first appeared in the September 2012 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.

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