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Weekend Watch: Welcome to Gwichyaa Zhee

Len Necefer's new film highlights the importance of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is under threat. Certain members of Congress want to open it up to oil and gas development. Not only would the project harm the wildlife and sacred landscape, it would destroy the Gwich’in people’s way of life.

Len Necefer, Navajo member, founder of Natives Outdoors, and former Department of Energy employee, connected with the Gwich’in to showcase just how vital the land is for providing a rich and bountiful existence for them and for all visitors to the Arctic. And he links their experience to the reduction of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah in the 12-minute film presented by filmmaker Greg Balkin, The Wilderness Society, and Patagonia.

“There are 160 birds that nest in Arctic Refuge every year and they go to five different continents, so people in five different continents have connections to the refuge,” Necefer says, in the hopes that audiences will understand the commonalities of these struggles, be inspired to stand with the Gwich’in, and consider how their backyards might one day be in jeopardy.

Currently, there’s a bill in the U.S. House to protect the refuge. Bernadette Demientieff, one of the women in the film, testified in the House Natural Resources committee earlier this week, Necefer said.