A Tale of Two Tribes
Two Inuit tribes — the Inupiat and the Gwich’in — live just 150 miles apart, but when it comes to the debate over oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a vast ideological gulf separates them. A few hundred Inupiat live in Kaktovic, the only town inside the borders of the refuge; about 150 Gwich’in live in Arctic Village, just outside the refuge’s southern border. The Inupiat say opening 1.5 million acres of the 19-million-acre refuge to drilling is critical to their survival, while the Gwich’in say it would destroy their community and way of life. (The Inupiat have a stake in the oil, so drilling could lead to an influx of cash into their community; the Gwich’in, meanwhile, survive off the land, especially the caribou that calve in the part of the refuge where the drilling would take place.) Members of both tribes have come to Washington, D.C., to plead their cases, and advocates and opponents of drilling alike have tried to leverage the opinions of native groups to bolster their cause.