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Resolution in support of The Gwich’in Nation 
by Elder Activists for Social Justice of the Conscious Elders Network

 

We, Elder Activists for Social Justice of the Conscious Elders Network, stand with the Gwich'in Nation in their efforts to protect their sovereignty, culture, lifeways, and sacred sites as well as the living Earth upon which we all depend.

 

As the world faces the need to move forward from a fossil fuel based energy economy we support the Gwich'in People in their stance to refuse drilling for any amount of oil that might be found in the 1002 Area of The Arctic National WildLife Refuge.

 

We support the Gwich’in stance that any threat to the Porcupine Caribou Herd, is a threat to their way of life and that drilling for oil in the 1002 area poses such a threat. We endorse the idea that this subject now transcends the traditional environmental arguments of old. This is expanded beyond an issue of wilderness vs development.

 

At a time when climactic balance worldwide trembles before the power of Man and his technological sophistication there is no corner of this planet unimpacted by human activity. There is no wilderness remote enough to be unaffected by human activity on the streets of San Francisco, Berlin, London, Moscow, and Beijing. The young people learning to dress caribou in Arctic Village and Old Crow, the young people on the streets of Oakland struggling to rise above a culture of inner-city violence, the young people of affluent backgrounds fortunate enough to be entering university worldwide, youth in American high schools once protected now facing the realities of a shrinking and violent world culture are coming to realize that what affects one now affects all.

 

As an older generation embracing the fragility of a brief human lifespan, we give what we have left to support the fresh realizations which must come forward to ensure that these young people and their children’s children have a planet that is inhabitable.

 

With this motivation, we address the ideas that Olas Murie, Howard Zanister, Bob Marshal and others brought forward when the creation of the Arctic Refuge and the modern idea of wilderness were first conceptualized. The term “untrammeled” as presented in the Wilderness Act of 1964 begins to look like a romantic artifact existing as a concept of mind not quite immersed in the reality of lands that are largely still wild and hold significant resources some of which cannot be measured in monetary terms

 

These lands, being inhabited and utilized for countless generations by cultures which have understood the interdependence of all life are not rendered less than wilderness through the presence of humanity. These lands supporting complete populations of animals including healthy predators that are interwoven with this human presence are rendered something more, something beyond our current recreation dominated concept of wilderness.

 

These lands so revered by those early preservationists were seen as a laboratory set aside to study nature in ecosystems of wholeness. We are indebted to these wonderful forward-thinking individuals for the fact that these lands and other lands as well exist today in conditions as unexploited as they are. Yet in 1964, struggling with themselves to unite scientific abstraction with romantic conceptualization they unwittingly circumscribed the reality of Wildness by creating Wilderness as law. Characterized by such phrases as these they wrote; “where man is a visitor who does not remain.” and  “hereby recognized as an area where the earth and it’s community of life are untrammeled by man” They never reached a satisfactory legalized ideology to explain the ancient presence of the Gwich’in and other cultures. They remained challenged, perhaps confused, by the presence of human habitation in lands that they saw as pristine.

 

We as Elders seeking full understanding of the world we inhabit suggest that the above is true because the Gwich’in as a people and an intact subsistence culture realize something deep and essential that we do not. For countless generations, the Gwich’in have lived on, of and from this very land where those writers camped and traveled as a way of developing such concepts. We suggest that the inability of these great thinkers to reconcile the presence of human culture, culture with prehistoric roots deep into this “untrammeled” land, with their own idea of wilderness rests in some form of wisdom that we may have forgotten. We suggest that in surrendering the small profit and economic gain available through development in the 1002 area thus assuring the survival of the Porcupine Caribou herd and preserving the Gwich’in way of life we extend the opportunity for finding a deeper fuller knowing that Olas Murie and his friends began in a century that has now expired. We see this opportunity as a sacred heirloom legacy left for those coming generations who will have no choice but to forge a deeper, fuller, more expanded understanding of what it means to be human on this small planet.

 

The truth is; there is no wilderness or community of life yet “untrammeled by man”. Our exploding population and ravenous energy appetite have affected every tundra habitat, every river canyon, every mountaintop. By embracing the Gwich’in and other native cultures, not as tourist destination curiosities, or living anthropology for scientific scrutiny but as holders of realization that can only arise from direct dependence on and immersion in intact ecosystems we leave the coming generations an opportunity to carry the study of “Wildness” forward.  We believe that the preservation of wildness is possible and that it must first be found in a human heart which recognizes its existence as inextricably woven into an ecosystem from which it can never be separate in a wilderness where it can never be a visitor. That wilderness ecosystem is our home planet.

 

Embracing these native cultures and the lands required to support them will leave far more than romantic fantasy. The youth of future generations will be forced to embrace the inevitable realization that we are all of one human tribe in which the actions of one affect the welfare of all.

 

As Elders, we recognize the escalating planetary crisis threatening our ecological and cultural well-being as an inevitable consequence of humanity's lost reverence for life. We see in leaving modern technological development absent from the 1002 area and the rest of Arctic Refuge and in preserving the Gwich’in way of life an opportunity to leave a legacy for the study of how such reverence might be cultivated as part of the educational efforts coming generations must face.  We see in these cultures a people who have faced the perils of modernity; institutionalized violence, soul-destroying addiction to intoxication, arrogant colonizing attitudes and yet are still capable of stepping forward with a voice that recognizes the interdependence of all that lives.

 

As the youth now arriving at the world embracing responsibilities of adulthood face all of these same issues in their neighborhoods and schools we Elders speak to the immeasurable value held by the courage necessary for the Gwich’in to step forward the way they do today. 

    

We choose to reimagine the future, by merging the “told” history of the United States with the untold legacy of our indigenous ancestors, insights from all wisdom traditions, and the discoveries of modern science. In this way, we will revive our sense of kinship with life and Earth, inspiring us toward compassionate life-affirming activism. We honor the wisdom and spirituality of Original Peoples, committed to effective care for the Earth and its inhabitants.

In particular, we support various bands of The Gwich’in Nation whose ancestral arctic lands sit astride an international border between Alaska USA and Yukon Territory Canada and are a significant component of the Circumpolar North.

 

Within our focus on social justice, we Elder Activists for Social Justice of the Conscious Elders Network, encourage each other to deepen our understanding of the sources of today's challenges, to shed our complicity, to ally with those who have suffered, and to do our part to change ourselves and the culture, so that Mother Earth and all her children of all her species can thrive again. We are examining how we have participated in the silences of our national narrative and exploring the various systems of domination and destruction that have persisted in our country and in our historical narratives

 

One Earth. One Humanity. One Future.

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