Jeffery Peter just returned from Washington, D.C., where the Vuntut Gwitchin man was part of a delegation that lobbied against opening up an Alaska refuge for oil exploration.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is touted to shrink taxes for American companies and drive millions of dollars back into the United States economy.
But tucked into the bill is a proposal to open up parts of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.
“Right now it’s just being pushed through as part of a tax bill where it’s not being debated on. It doesn’t need much scrutiny to pass,” said Peter.
The refuge has been closed to oil exploration since 1980.
The Gwitchin people in Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories have tried to keep it that way since it is the birthing grounds for the porcupine caribou herd, a herd that has shaped the Gwitchin for generations.
“It’s something we need to fight for because … we want the right to pass that culture on to future generations,” said Peter.