Resolution 2020-05: Protecting the Sovereign Rights of Tribes to Self-Determination: Opposing Development in the Yukon Flats

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WHEREAS, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) is an Alaska Native tribal health and social services consortium established by the Interior Alaska tribes and tribal communities, to provide a unified voice in advancing
sovereign tribal governments through the promotion of physical and mental wellness, education, socioeconomic development and culture of the Interior Alaska Native; and

WHEREAS, Protection of the Yukon River Watershed is critical to every village in the TCC region; and

WHEREAS, The Yukon Flats Wildlife Refuge is a vital component of the Yukon River Watershed making up a complex network of wetlands, lakes and streams bisected by the Yukon River. The Refuge supports the highest density of breeding ducks in Alaska, and encompasses one of the greatest waterfowl breeding areas in North America; and

WHEREAS, The Yukon Flats is also critical habitat for Dall sheep, bears, wolves, wolverines and other furbearers, moose, caribou and salmon; and

WHEREAS, The continued practice of the traditional way of life by the Interior Alaska indigenous people is essential to the preservation of their physical, mental and spiritual well-being; and

WHEREAS, Doyon, Limited, a for-profit Native corporation, has entered into an agreement with Hilcorp to explore for oil and gas in the Yukon Flats Refuge without consulting the region’s sovereign tribal entities; and

WHEREAS, The Yukon River Salmon run is a critical food source that sustains all of the villages, and is central to our culture along the Yukon River and its tributaries, and is critically jeopardized by any pollution that could
ensue from oil and gas development in the Yukon Flats; and

WHEREAS, TCC recognizes that the risk to our way of life is substantial and immediate; and

WHEREAS, Infrastructure and development activities would alter the pristine nature of the landscape, destroy or modify habitats, alter wildlife behavior and movements (including migratory patterns}, and introduce invasive species and affect the composition, structure, and functioning of soil, water, air, and other abiotic features; and

WHEREAS, The positive and negative social and economic effects from oil development are unknown. Also unknown are the human health effects of oil and gas activities which are not well documented. Human health includes physiological, psychological, and social well-being and can be influenced by changes to both the physical and social environment; and

WHEREAS, We, the indigenous inhabitants of the TCC region, are the caretakers of the land, holding the land in trust for our grandchildren and all future generations.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Tanana Chiefs Conference Full Board of Directors opposes the exploration and development of oil and gas in the Yukon Flats; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Full Board of Directors supports its member villages, and commits to the protection of their lands, communities and environment; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Full Board of Directors request that Doyon, Limited, cease all oil and gas exploration and development without the express consent of the Tribes in the Yukon Flats; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Full Board of Directors direct staff to draft a tribal protocol for developers to follow when seeking to develop natural resources on or near traditional lands of the Interior tribes; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Full Board of Directors reaffirms TCC’s commitment to protect Tribal self-determination and recognize Tribes’ sovereign status.

Submitted by: Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government, Arctic Village Council and Venetie Tribal Council


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