Vuntut Gwitchin delegates rally for legislative protection of Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit under Biden

June 1, 2022
Old Crow, Yukon

Gwich’in leaders were in Washington D.C. last month advocating for the protection of Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit (the Sacred Place Where Life Begins) – the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the critical calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd.

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation representatives included Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, Elder Lorraine Netro, and Caribou Coordinator Liz Staples. The Gwich’in delegation also included leaders from Alaska and Northwest Territories, including Gwich’in Tribal Council’s Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan, designee for Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik, as well as Teetl’it Band Council Chief Wanda Pascal and youth representative Shenise Vittrekwa.

They met with the offices of key members of Congress, who will need to restore protections to the Refuge legislatively, and key advisors to the White House, including the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Secretary of the Department of Interior, the White House National Climate Advisor, and officials within the U.S. Department of State, whose support is critical to ensuring protections are restored.

The delegation delivered the unified message that Congress must restore protections to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this year, urging the use of ‘budget reconciliation’ to repeal Trump’s Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Program which enables oil exploration in the Refuge.

Following the 2020 election of President Joe Biden, a budget reconciliation bill was identified as the best opportunity to restore protections to the Refuge. However, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin refused to support Biden’s bill, known then as the Build Back Better Act, over concerns about costs.

Passing a budget reconciliation bill that restores protections to the Refuge may be possible before November’s midterm elections, which could change the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.


As I travel back to our community of Old Crow, I acknowledge all the work of those who came before us; our ancestors, our partners, and all those who have never given up. To those I travelled alongside with, I say Haii’. Your support and ongoing commitment to the work of protecting the ancient Porcupine caribou is so very important at this critical time. Now it is up to Congress to do the right thing so that the caribou will be protected for future generations of our Gwich’in Nation.

— Elder Lorraine Netro

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the beating heart of an ancient ecosystem that supports one of the last great land mammal migrations on earth. We, Gwich’in, call it Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit – the Sacred Place Where Life Begins. This powerful and beautiful name is a reminder to us that we must always work to protect this sacred, life-giving place. 

— Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, Vuntut Gwitchin Government

Gyde Shepherd (he/him)

Communications Manager
Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation

(613) 804-4273


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