Tlingit Women’s Delegation Travels to Washington, D.C. to Protect Their Forest Homelands in Alaska
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, California (November 7, 2019) – From November 12 through November 15, 2019, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Indigenous Women’s Tongass Delegation from Alaska will be in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the protection of over 9 million acres of Alaska’s rainforest, and the continuation of the Roadless Rule, an important measure to protect Alaska's Tongass National Forest, which falls within the traditional territories of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Peoples.
Recently, the Trump administration published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), proposing the repeal of Roadless Rule protections across the Tongass National Forest, which would open 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.
The Tongass is the world’s largest remaining intact temperate forest, housing over 400 species of land and marine wildlife, and providing economic opportunity to thousands of residents. As parts of Alaska are warming at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the planet, maintaining an intact Tongass ecosystem is critical to providing climate change solutions for the U.S. and international climate efforts. Climate scientists agree, forests are critical for stabilizing the climate, sequestering carbon, and providing refuge for unique bio-diverse ecosystems.
The WECAN Indigenous Women’s Tongass Delegation will meet with Congress, committee staff, USDA, the Forest Service and participate in a public hearing on November 14th from 4:30 - 6:30pm at The Holiday Inn Washington Capitol to address current attacks on forest protections, their ancestral homelands, and the global climate. The November 14th hearing is the only public hearing the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service will hold outside of the State of Alaska on the proposed Roadless Rule exemption in the Tongass National Forest. View event details.
On November 14, in addition to the WECAN Indigenous Women's Tongass Delegation in Washington D.C., other Native Alaskan women leaders will represent the Delegation at a public hearing in their home of Hoonah, Alaska. They will provide testimony and statements in support of the Roadless Rule and the Tongass.
Quotes from Delegates who will be in Washington, D.C.:
“I am Tlingit of the Tongass Forest. I am proud also 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. Yes, we own the private property that our regional corporation, Sealaska continues to log with clear-cuts under State of Alaska laws, but they do not speak for us or for me, nor should any corporate voice on the Roadless Rule be considered by Alaska’s Congressional Delegation as representing me. I maintain my own supreme sovereignty within the authority of my own cultural Indigenous tribal laws. 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 part of the WECAN Tongass delegation going to Washington DC. 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 for thousands of generations as a steward of this land. We have been here since time immemorial our elders say, and I follow the footsteps of my ancestors. The women here are strong, they hunt and gather not just the men. The current Roadless Rule needs to be strengthened and not weakened in any shape or form, and it needs to be coded into permanent law. 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. This affects our cultural and Indigenous rights to protect Haa Aani, Our Homeland. 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
“With fires blazing throughout the Amazon to Sub-saharan Africa, we must protect global forests like the Tongass Rainforest of Alaska, to sequester vast amounts of carbon and mitigate the impact of climate chaos. For decades, industrial scale logging has been destroying the precious ecosystem of the Tongass, which has been called “America’s Climate Forest”, 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 Alaskan Indigenous women leaders and allies to say no to further devastation, and yes to maintaining the current Roadless Rule. Our natural forests are essential lungs of the Earth.” - Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder/Executive Director, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
Quotes from Delegates who will be giving testimony in Alaska:
“My name is Kashudoha Wanda Culp; I am Tlingit, Indigenous to the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska, a hunter, fisher and gatherer of Nature’s gifts. I am also the Tongass Coordinator for WECAN International, speaking out against the disproportionately negative effects on my community caused by corporate industrial dominance over state and federal governing to accommodate industry's mass taking of natural and public resources on Indigenous lands. Their money, power, and influence makes a sham out of the notion of ‘a government for the people by the people.’ It was the voice of the people in the 1980 and 90’s that rose loudly enough to result in the forest protection of the 2001 Roadless Rule. We are rising again to demand that not only do we want the no action on the Rule, but that we want the Roadless Rule to be codified into federal law. All Indigenous voices from the Tongass must be heard, and around the world Indigenous peoples must be included at the decision-making table when building the solutions to everyone's very survival.” - Kashudoha Wanda Culp, Tlingit, activist, artist and WECAN Coordinator in the Tongass
“My name is Rebekah Sawers, I live in Hoonah Alaska, a Village, a City, Tribal, Federal State municipality. I am here to ensure the highest use and respect of the land. 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. Our time as Indigenous women is now to make our voices heard! We cannot be defined as visitors in our own land, the original populations are being treated inequitably, and we need to be heard on equal grounds to industry. Our voices are not for statistical purposes only. We are Alaska Natives, owners of State of Alaska private property, rather than federal reservations as American Indians are. Though our substandard living conditions are comparable nationally, with no equal legal grounds, we are disparate, distinct in quality and diverse peoples, and should be recognized as such. I am here to protect the customary and traditional use of Lands and the Roadless Rule!” - Rebekah Sawers, Alaskan Native Yupik, mother, daughter and aunt
"I am Kasyyahgei. I am part of the ecosystem of our home, the Tongass National Forest. We, the Tlingit people, face many negative impacts again if the roads are placed. We need the Roadless Rule. And, it is not just for us, carbon sequestration of this forest must be a part of the bigger picture for the entire world. We want the trees standing!” - Ernestine Hanlon-Abel, Tlingit, Master weaver, and old-growth advocate
The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
www.wecaninternational.org - @WECAN_INTL
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.