Voices of Alaska: Zinke’s message brings hope to Arctic Iñupiat

  • By SAYERS TUZROYLUK SR.
  • Wednesday, June 7, 2017 9:58am
  • Opinion

This week, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke spent time visiting our region in Alaska’s Arctic. Throughout his trip, Zinke remarked about the potential of our state, the central role Alaska Natives must play in realizing that potential, and the need for government to “get out of the way” and allow local peoples to chart their own course. We couldn’t agree more.

Alaska Natives have become disheartened by pledges of consultation only to read about decisions affecting our region in national newspapers; statements advocating for economic opportunity in the Arctic while closing our region with the stroke of a pen; and agendas driven by the effects of climate change in the Arctic without regard for the people most affected by them.

We’ve grown weary of Presidents, environmentalists and special interest groups doing things “for us.” In reality, their actions are often self-serving of their agendas and we are nothing more than a prop in their campaign. As Secretary Zinke pointed out, it is the people of Alaska and the Arctic that are the real resource, not the polar bears that fund global environmental campaigns or the massive resource potential of our lands and waters. We are worth protecting, and we appreciate the actions by the Secretary to finally give us a seat at the table. After all, it is our table.

We also appreciate Secretary Zinke taking the time to listen to us about the needs of our people. What we need is balance, consultation, jobs, a stable economy and a healthy environment. Most of all, we need and deserve the ability to drive policies and activities in our region instead of outside interest groups and policy makers in Washington D.C. driving it for us.

Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat (VOICE) was established to advocate for increased collaboration on activities in our region – like the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) – reasonable regulations and mitigation measures, and maximum control over our subsistence way of life. Too often, groups have attempted to act “in our best interests” without recognizing we are fully capable. We can and do speak for ourselves on behalf of our people, region and future generations of Iñupiat.

It is in our best interest to have a healthy environment and a healthy economy. We will not be victims of climate change but we will also not allow our people to return to the harsh way of life before the momentous discovery of Prudhoe Bay. The Iñupiat are an adaptive people. We are and will continue to evolve to our environment and the opportunities and challenges it brings.

We want a sustainable future, and have always held that resource development and environmental protection can and do co-exist. After all, we’ve been orchestrating this balance since the discovery of oil in our backyard decades ago. We cannot afford to ignore the benefits that resource development provides us. From jobs, schools, local governments, infrastructure investments, Alaska Native businesses and scientific research to simple amenities such as running water and fuel for our whaling boats – we recognize that modern and innovative resource development literally powers our region.

As one of his last actions in Alaska, Secretary Zinke spoke about the importance of collaboration and consultation with Alaska Natives, and signed Secretarial Order 3352 providing for clean and safe development of energy resources in Alaska and beyond, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily prevent development, and constrain job growth and economic development.

Thank you, Secretary Zinke, for your commitment to restoring trust among Alaska Natives and for taking concrete steps toward allowing decisions in our region to be driven by the local people. VOICE looks forward to working with you and the U.S. Department of Interior over the next four years to improve consultation, co-management and science-based action in the Arctic.

Sayers Tuzroyluk Sr. is president of the Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization established to provide direct input from the Iñupiat people in matters of Arctic policy. VOICE’s membership includes 20 of the 28 entities from across the North Slope including tribal councils, municipal governments and Alaska Native corporations.

More in Opinion

teaser
Opinion: The mobs widening America’s divisions

We’ve just been forced to deal with stark disagreements on a daily basis like never before.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Now is not the time to leave Alaskans out in the cold

Now is the perfect time for legislators to get in touch with their constituents and to act in their best interests.

New direction for the Tongass will help grow businesses, a sustainable economy

Now is the time to chart a new course for Southeast’s future.

Anselm Staack (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s fiscally irresponsible and deceptive plan

Constitutions are about broad policy objectives and legal boundaries — not about the day-to-day.

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s first act as governor was unconstitutional

That’s according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.