Native Groups Sue MMS Over Chukchi Sea Lease Sale

From:    Faith Gemmill
To:      ‘Faith Gemmill’
Date:    Thursday, January 31, 2008, 4:16:54 PM
Subject: FW: Alaska Natives join Lawsuit over Chukchi Lease Sale
Files:   Final AK Native Press Release – Chukchi Sea Lawsuit.doc

Please Distribute Far and Wide!!!!

For Immediate Release
January 31, 2008

Contact:

Jack Schaefer, Native Village of Point Hope, 907-368-2235

Steve Oomittuk, City of Point Hope, 907-368-2537

George Edwardson, ICAS, 907-852-3746

Faith Gemmill, Redoil, 907-750-0188

Native Groups Sue MMS Over Chukchi Sea Lease Sale
Elders Resolution Prompts Region-wide Lawsuit

Point Hope, AK – Today the Native Village of Point Hope, the City of Point
Hope, the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS), and the Resisting
Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL) Network filed a
lawsuit to fight the Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193. Minerals Management
Service (MMS) plans to hold the lease sale on February 6, 2008.

The Point Hope Elders Advisory Council, the traditional Inupiat leaders of
the Native Village of Point Hope, a federally recognized tribal
government, recently passed a resolution supporting a legal challenge to
prevent offshore oil and gas activities in the Chukchi Sea.

“We support a legal challenge to MMS for holding Lease Sale 193 and we
encourage others to follow us. As the traditional leaders of Point Hope,
we ask all Inupiaq people to join us in our opposition to leasing the
Chukchi Sea to oil and gas exploration and development. Help us protect
our garden and the way of life we all share,” said David U. Stone, Sr.,
President of the Point Hope Elders Advisory Council.

The City of Point Hope, the municipal government for the community
established in 1966, has joined the lawsuit.

“The people of TIKIGAQ [traditional name for the people of Point Hope]
have hunted and depended on the animals that migrate through the Chukchi
Sea for thousands of years. This is our garden, our identity, our
livelihood,” said Steve Oomittuk, Point Hope City Mayor. Without it we
would not be who we are today. Even at this present day and time the
animals from these waters shelter, clothe, and feed us. We would be
greatly impacted if anything happened to our ocean and the animals that
migrate through the Chukchi Sea. We oppose any activity that will endanger
our way of life and the animals that we greatly depend on,” said Oomittuk.

The approximately 30 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)
Chukchi Sea 193 lease area include core habitat for polar bear and Pacific
walrus, and encompasses the migration route of the bowhead whale, which
the Inupiaq people of the North Slope have subsisted on for thousands of
years.

North Slope residents are frustrated that MMS has ignored their concerns
through government to government consultation and other public meetings.
They believe litigation is the only choice still available to them to
avoid oil and gas leasing in the Chukchi Sea and hopes other Inupiat will
also file suit.

“The Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope is the regional tribal
government for eight villages on the North Slope. We have a responsibility
to our people to stand up against threats to our whaling culture and to
protect our way of life. An oil spill in the Chukchi Sea could devastate
the bowhead whale migration and other animals we have subsisted on for
thousands of years. MMS continues to ignore our concerns. The elders have
spoken and told us to fight this and we will do so through this lawsuit,”
said George Edwardson, President of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic
Slope (ICAS).

The REDOIL Network is an Alaska Native grassroots organization with
members of the Inupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Tlingit, Gwich’in, Eyak and Dena’ina
Athabascan tribes, that resists unsustainable fossil fuel development.

“The REDOIL Network has joined in the lawsuit to support the Inupiat and
their subsistence rights which are threatened by proposed offshore
development in the Chukchi Sea. The Inupiat right to continue their way of
life as they have for generations should be upheld in this decision
instead of being compromised for multi-national oil company profits” said
Faith Gemmill, REDOIL Campaign Organizer.

“We’ve hunted and fished in the ocean since time immemorial. We have always
believed that we own the ocean and that it is our garden. We can’t afford
to stop our religious, cultural and subsistence activities that depend on
the ocean. The ocean is what our history and upon which our culture are
based,” said Jack Schaefer, President of the Native Village of Point Hope.
The Alaska Native organizations are being represented by Earthjustice, a
nonprofit environmental law firm in Juneau, Alaska. Several conservation
groups have joined the Alaska Natives in their lawsuit.

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