Among Inupiat Eskimos an 'injustice'
Facebook Twitter Email

No one promotes quite like Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska).

The leading proponent of opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development, Murkowski has cited numerous reasons for allowing oil and gas drilling in what some environmentalists call the American Serengeti. Reducing foreign (read: Iraq) dependence on oil, creating jobs (read: more for Alaskans) and ensuring national security (read: it sounds good) are his chief claims.

But his piece de resistance is not a video showing that ANWR is ugly. Some say that's Secretary of Interior Gale Norton's forte.

Murkowski's strength comes from his pictures of Inupiat Eskimos.

Inupiat children playing in snow. "We have pictures of the local community hall with kids on a snowmobile," he said on the Senate floor yesterday.

Inupiat elders walking in snow. "I don't think there has been enough attention given to the plight of these people who, as any other aboriginal people, are ensured certain rights under our Constitution, and those rights have not been granted them," he said.

Kaktovik, the Inupiat village on the North Slope, in snow. "Nobody shovels the snow here," he said.

And once, a stark white picture of just snow. (Look closely, there's an Inupiat.) "To suggest that somehow this land is untouched is totally unrealistic and misleading," he said.

For Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a long-time member of the Indian Affairs panel, every argument advanced by both sides of the controversy pales in comparison to what he calls the largest "injustice" of all. Without Congressional authorization, Inupiats are being denied their rights to use 92,000 acres of land, he charges.

Well, no one knows for sure. Tests wells were drilled before former Secretary of Interior James Watt passed the land -- and its mineral resources -- onto two Inupiat-owned corporations but the results are a closely held secret.

Nevertheless, development is heavily supported among Inupiats, who stand to gain if jobs are brought to the region. And if oil is found in those 92,000 acres, there are even greater financial benefits.

But opposition from Democrats, environmentalists and other Alaska Natives, mostly the Gwich'in Nation who depend on caribou in ANWR, is strong. Recognizing the debate, Murkowski yesterday suggested there might be some sort of compromise.

"We think there should be some provision in the ANWR proposal to allow the Native residents of this area to have access," he said.

Read: stay tuned.

Relevant Links:
Oil Issues in ANWR, US Fish and Wildlife -
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Pro-Development site -

Related Stories:
Norton's Arctic jobs figure doubted (3/12)
ANWR drilling could be a bust (3/11)
Safety of oil pipeline questioned (3/11)
ANWR filibuster supported (3/7)
Senate takes up energy bill (3/6)
Energy bill faces Senate debate (3/5)
Gale Norton: I'm not lying (3/5)
Campbell: Drill ANWR (3/4)
Editorial: Norton's fraud (3/1)
Inupiats want anti-ANWR funding stopped (2/28)
For or against, Inupiats tied to off-shore drilling (11/2)
Inupiats press for oil drilling in ANWR (10/26)
ASRC supporting anti-drilling complaint (10/26)
'Attack' on Gwich'in decried (10/24)
Norton admits ANWR 'mistake' (10/23)
Norton staff rewrote Arctic drilling data (10/19)
Arctic drilling debate continues (10/15)
Bush promotes ANWR as home security (10/12)
ANWR spared in defense vote (10/3)
House approves limited Arctic drilling (8/2)
Bush makes last-ditch pitch for Arctic drilling (8/1)
House panel approves Arctic drilling (7/18)
Gwich'in Nation blind-sided by Norton visit (6/15)
Norton: Indian Country won't get ripped off (5/24)
Alaska Natives square off over Arctic drilling (5/18)
Campbell: Alaska Natives support drilling (4/25)
Gwich'in Nation: We Come from the Caribou (4/4)
GOP Senators unveil drilling proposal (2/27)