David Smith Jr. opposes oil drilling within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He is worried about the harm that might come to the Porcupine caribou herd.
Nathan Gordon Jr., says development may be done responsibly, and that drilling and caribou can, and do, co-exist on the North Slope.
These are decades old arguments usually heard in Washington D.C. However, they’ve moved from hypothetical to pressing since Congress legalized oil growth within the northern slice of the refuge in 2017. The Donald Trump administration is pushing to let oil corporations bid on land there by the top this year.
And for Smith, that drilling would happen, primarily, within their backyard.
Smith and Gordon live in Arctic Village, an indigenous Gwich’in community of about 150 just south of the refuge. locals say the caribou herd that often gives birth within the refuge is essential to their lifestyle.
“When we get away, it is quite right now,” she says. Once development begins, “Where are we going to go?”
Speaking up against development could be intimidating here, Kayotuk stated. She is being accused of ignoring benefits from oil that might come to the village. “We’re not ignorant,” she says. “We just worth something different.”
From atop, the bluff on the end of the village, Gordon, the polar bear patroller, appears out over the Tundra to West, where the first oil development is likely. What does he will see on the horizon once that begins?
“Nothing,” he says. “You will not see a footprint out there.”