Friday, May 19, 2017

O'odham Welcome Gwich'in to O'odham Land as Gwich'in Begin Arctic Refuge Tour

Four O'odham women greeting Gwich'in with strengthening ancient song. Photo by Molly Cu"k Ba:ak

O'odham Welcome Gwich'in to O'odham Land

Article by Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Ofelia Rivas, O'odham, welcomed Gwich'in to O'odham land as the northern relatives began their Southwest Tour to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
O'odham women greeted the Gwich'in delegation with a strengthening ancient song.
Greeting Gwich'in, Ofelia said, "Your ancestors and my ancestors are greeting each other as we are, and we all stand here united in their effort for survival."
"The ancestors maintained our way of life for us to be here."
"We understand your work to bring awareness and form a unity to continue our unique cultures and sacred lands. Much respect and strength."
Ofelia extended the welcome at the Screening Room in Tucson on Thursday night, when the new film "The Refuge -- Patagonia," was shown.
Members of the Gwich'in Nation, who have relied on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for survival for millennia, are traveling from the Arctic across the desert Southwest.
"The Arctic Refuge is one of the world's last untouched wild places. Now, much like public lands across the Southwest, it's facing the greatest threats in decades. To raise the alarm, the group will traverse four states in just over a week, showing the new Patagonia film The Refuge, and finding common ground with communities that depend on public lands," Gwich'in said.

About the Delegation:
Bernadette Demientieff is the Executive Director for the Gwich'in Steering Committee. She represents the Gwich'in nation from both sides of the border in the U.S. and Canada. Bernadette was born and raised in Alaska. She is Gwichyaa Zhee Gwichin and her family is from Old Crow YT Canada and Fort Yukon Alaska. She takes her culture and traditions very seriously, and although she was disconnected for awhile she's finding her identity as a Gwich'in women. Bernadette values her way of life and everything she learns she passes on to her children. She has always stood for protecting the very sacred coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the porcupine caribou herd, and the Gwich'in way of life. "Our identity is not up for negotiation," Bernadette says. "We must stand united to protect the indigenous communities throughout the world."

Jeneen Frei Njootli is an Indigenous artist from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. Her people's home territory is located in the Northwestern corner of Canada's arctic. Currently based between Old Crow, Yukon and unceded Coast-Salish territories in Vancouver, Frei Njootli frequently does community-based projects and workshops. She is the co-creator of the ReMatriate Collective, which focuses on positive representation of Indigenous women in media and their right to visual sovereignty.

James Nathaniel Jr. is a Board Member of the Gwich’in Steering Committee.  He graduated from the University of Alaska/Interior Aleutian Campus with a degree in Tribal Management and the Tanana Valley College with a degree in Drafting Technology. After receiving his education, he took a position with the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments (CATG) in Fort Yukon, Alaska. He went back home to Chalkyitsik to work for the Tribe and was later assigned to the Tribal Administrator position in Chalkyitsik. His experience in environmental planning/cleanup, including protecting our pristine waters and land, was instrumental in his interest to serve on the Gwich’in Steering Committee.

The Gwich'in Southwest Tour continues to protect their homelands. They continue on to Phoenix  and then Nevada, Utah, Colorado and more states.

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