Contact: Mary Coyle, 924-1964 or
Michael Padilla 277-1816

April 19, 2001

Resident from Alaska’s Arctic Village to speak at UNM April 27

Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.Sarah James, a Gwich’in from Alaska’s Arctic Village, will discuss the threat of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would pose to her culture, Friday, April 27 at the University of New Mexico in Dane Smith Hall, room 125 from noon to 1:30 p.m.

James will speak on behalf of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, which she founded in 1988 to establish Gwich’in cultural survival as a major issue in the debate over oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

James will discuss the key role the New Mexico congressional delegation plays in deciding the fate of the Refuge. Each member of the delegation sits on a committee involved in federal energy policy.

Known as the “People of the caribou,” the Gwich’in have lived for more than 20,000 years in the Arctic, along the Porcupine caribou route. The caribou, which travel every year to the Arctic Refuge coastal plain to calve, are their primary source of food, clothing and shelter. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge would disrupt the life-cycle of the caribou, leaving the Gwich’in without this sustenance.

“I want to teach people of all nations the importance of caring for our mother earth for future generations,” James said. “I want to pass the experience, the wisdom, and the knowledge of our elders for the survival of future generations.”

The event is free and open to the public and is sponsored by New Mexico Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

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