Indigenous peoples call for moratorium on Arctic oil drilling

Indigenous peoples call for moratorium on Arctic oil drilling
A sign posted in Kiruna, Sweden during the Arctic Indigenous Peoples Conference last week sends out a straight forward message.Photo: Greenpeace.

More than 40 indigenous groups from the circumpolar world, including two permanent members of the Arctic Council, signed a declaration last week calling for a moratorium on Arctic oil development without their consent.

In a “Joint Statement of Indigenous Solidarity for Arctic Protection,” individuals from organizations in every Arctic jurisdiction, from Scandinavia to Yamal, Alaska, Greenland and Northern Canada, called for a halt to exploration and extraction of both offshore and onshore oil in their territories without explicit consent from indigenous peoples.

“The Peoples of the North will no longer be bought with dimes and cents to stand silently by while the oil companies destroy our native land. Our culture and history cannot be bought off and replaced with pipelines and drill rigs,” the statement reads.

“Our way of living defines who we are and we will stand up and fight for our nature and environment. Too many have been reduced to depend on the generosity of the oil companies.”

The statement makes three demands: a ban on all offshore oil drilling in the Arctic shelf, a moratorium on onshore oil drilling in the Arctic and the need for consent from all indigenous peoples when developing industry in the North.

The declaration is signed by several individuals from the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta, including Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam and Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus, who also serves as international vice-chair of the Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC), a permanent participant of the Arctic Council.

Along with the AAC, fellow Arctic Council participant, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, also signed the declaration.

Erasmus, along with others from Canada’s North including elders Francois Paulette and Besha Blondin and young activists Kiera Kolson and Eriel Deranger, attended the Arctic Indigenous Peoples Conference organized by Greenpeace in Kiruna, Sweden before the start of the Arctic Council meetings on May 12-13.

The second such conference aimed to connect indigenous communities from around the Arctic.

Both the Inuvialuit Regional Corp. (IRC) and Gwich’in Tribal Council in the NWT said the agreement doesn’t speak for them and that they are in favour of sustainable development.

The IRC is currently engaged with both the territorial and federal governments on an agreement for offshore and onshore oil and gas in the Beaufort region. The agreement will decide matters of resource royalties and rules oil and gas companies must follow.

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