Indigenous Women’s Delegation Advocates to Protect Tongass Forest Homelands in Alaska
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, California (August 6, 2020) – In the midst of a global health pandemic and climate crisis, Indigenous women will advocate for the protection of their communities and defense of their homelands. On August 12th, a third Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Indigenous Women’s Tongass Delegation from Alaska will meet with Washington, D.C. legislators virtually to advocate for the protection of over 9 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, and the continuation of the Roadless Rule, an important measure to protect the Tongass.
Currently, The 2001 National Roadless Rule is undergoing a federal process to exempt millions of acres of old-growth forest in Alaska. In 2019, the Trump administration published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), proposing the repeal of Roadless Rule protections, opening the region to industrial logging and mining interests, enabling further clear-cutting of old-growth forests, and threatening the livelihoods of Indigenous and local communities in the traditional territories of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Peoples. In response to the DEIS, citizens nationwide submitted over a quarter million public comments. Of the recorded deemed unique comments, 96 percent supported keeping the Roadless Rule in place.
Since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have linked increased deforestation practices to zoonotic disease outbreaks, such as the novel coronavirus. Additionally, research has found that logging in the United States is a lead driver of carbon emissions, propelling the U.S. efforts to address the climate crisis farther away from the targets laid out in the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement.
As “America’s Climate Forest”, the Tongass is one of the last remaining intact temperate forests, housing over 400 species of land and marine wildlife, and providing economic opportunity to thousands of residents. Climate scientists agree, in-tact old-growth forests are necessary for stabilizing the climate, sequestering carbon, and providing refuge for unique bio-diverse ecosystems.
The WECAN Indigenous Women’s Tongass Delegation is meeting with law-makers in anticipation of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which is set to be disseminated sometime this year by the United States Forest Service. Since 2016, WECAN has been working with Indigenous women living in the Tongass to advocate for protections for the Tongass, and now to ask legislators to endorse the new Roadless Area Conservation Act. The Delegation will meet virtually with Congress and committee staff to address the current attacks on forest protections, their ancestral homelands, and the global climate.
The Indigenous Women’s Tongass Delegation includes: Wanda Culp, Tlingit, WECAN Tongass Coordinator; Rebekah Sawers, Yupik, student and WECAN Tongass Representative; Adrien Nichol Lee, Tlingit, President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 12; and Kari Ames, Tlingit, Alaska Native Voices Cultural Heritage Guide. The delegation is joined by Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN.
For more information and background please see the following links:
Read full Delegate biographies here.
Members of the media are encouraged to reach out with any questions and interview requests.
“My name is Kashudoha Wanda Loescher Culp; I am Tlingit, Indigenous to the Tongass Forest in Southeast Alaska, a hunter, fisher and gatherer of Nature’s gifts. I am also the Tongass Coordinator for WECAN International, speaking out in protection of the lands our families depend upon since time began. We support the current Roadless Rule and its protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, Tlingit territory. The Roadless Rule was a two-decade battle against corporate logging industries who continue to negatively impact our tribal communities and influence state and federal governance to accommodate the industry's mass taking of natural and public resources on Indigenous lands. We are rising again to demand that the Roadless Rule stay intact and the forest stay protected. Our very cultural existence derives from the land and we are joining the calls from indigenous women around the world to protect our sacred Mother Earth!” Kashudoha Wanda Loescher Culp, Tlingit, activist, artist and WECAN Tongass Coordinator
“My name is Rebekah Sawers, I live in Hoonah Alaska and am calling for support of the Tongass National Forest and the Roadless Rule. I am part of the WECAN delegation to represent my daughter and her father’s people. He is a Raven Coho of the Tlingit people, or Luxnax.adi. It is important that our daughter grows up in the wild Tongass forest such as my husband did. We are people of the land, we are people of the trees, we speak for the trees and we are part of this ecosystem and we need to protect it. As Indigenous women we are speaking for our families, future generations, the land, the animals, and all beings who rely on the Tongass. Our time as Indigenous women is now to make our voices heard! Our trees are growing back stronger because of the Roadless Rule, and we cannot allow the repealing of this rule, it is time to heal and protect the old-growth forests that we call home. We need to keep our Tongass National Forest Standing!” Rebekah Sawers, Yupik, student and WECAN Tongass Representative
“I am Tlingit of the Tongass Forest. I am proud to be a voice and representative of the Tongass Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network – WECAN International, and the current president for Hoonah’s Alaska Native Sisterhood. As People of the Forest, People of the Sea, we must speak out on behalf of our children’s grandchildren to protect this land we call home and the climate. This is so much more than a timber sale, it's about our community, our Tlingit culture, and our way of life. The Roadless Rule is the biggest success for the state of Alaska in conserving our forests. Impacts from industrial logging operations of the last century by all actors, disproportionately and negatively impacted the land and waters we Tlingit have sustained successfully throughout time. As most Alaskans agree, I want the Roadless Rule to remain.” Adrien Nichol Lee, Tlingit, President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 12 and keeper of cultural Tlingit education
“I am an Indigenous women of the Tlingit Nation of the L’uknaxh.ádi, the Coho Salmon Clan under the Raven moiety from the Frog House. I am deeply rooted to this land. We have been here since time immemorial our elders say, and I follow the footsteps of my ancestors who, for thousands of generations, have stewarded and protected Haa Aani, Our Homeland. We must keep the Tongass out of the hands of the Trump administration who is seeking to remove protections. In the Tongass, there are innumerable fish and game populations, and unparalleled recreational and business opportunities. Fishing and tourism are billion dollar industries, which Southeast Alaska economies are based upon. I am a strong Tlingit woman here to stand for the Tongass, and be the voice for the Aas Kwaani, the Tree People. This is our way of life to fight for our Indigenous rights as Human Beings that live by the Forest and Tide, the Tlingit.” Kari Ames, Tlingit, Alaska Native Voices Cultural Heritage Guide and keeper of traditional life-ways
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to the global assaults on forests taking place from the Amazon to the Congo Basin to Southeast Alaska, where the current Trump administration is looking to destroy our best defense against future pandemics and the climate crisis, the Tongass National Forest. For decades, industrial scale logging has been destroying this precious ecosystem, and disrupting the traditional life-ways of the region’s Indigenous communities. As attempts are made to strip down remaining protections and open more of this ancient forest to logging and mining, the solutions and voices of those standing at the frontlines could not be more important. WECAN stands with the Indigenous women leaders of Alaska and echoes their calls for the protection of their traditional homelands, tribal communities, and our global climate. Our natural forests are the essential lungs of the earth. Protect the Tongass and Stand with the Roadless Rule.” Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder/Executive Director, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
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The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is a 501(c)3 and solutions-based organization established to engage women worldwide in policy advocacy, on-the-ground projects, direct action, trainings, and movement building for global climate justice.