Heroes

Ever heard of the Gwich'in people? One member is afraid they won't last another 2 generations.

He's one of the last few hundred speakers of the Gwich'in language.

True
Sierra Club

Trimble Gilbert is one of the few remaining speakers of a language that UNESCO rates as "severely endangered."

He lives in a tiny town near the Arctic Circle in Alaska, close to the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. The town, population 152, is called Arctic Village.

Gilbert is a Gwich'in Athabascan elder and one of the last few hundred speakers of the Gwich'in language.


Listen to his story here, accompanied by beautiful images of his native land:

When Gilbert was born, the Gwich'in were still a highly nomadic people.

He was born in 1935. The Gwich'in were still largely nomadic through the 1950s, traveling seasonally with their food sources.

Gilbert shares, "At the time I was born, I remember how my family and the Gwich'in people lived. They took care of animals and held them in high respect. They also took care of the land."

Image via Sierra Club.

The Gwich'in people span a wide area across northern Alaska and Canada, encompassing over a dozen communities. For example, some live near the lakes of Old Crow, Yukon (Vuntut Gwitch'in), whereas others are in the flats of Fort Yukon, Alaska (Gwich'yaa Gwich'in). Today, crossing the U.S.-Canadian border isn't nearly as simple as it used to be.

"Everywhere they traveled on the land, they would not kill animals without reason."

As a nomadic people, the Gwich'in have always relied heavily on animals and the land for survival. Gilbert explains, "They would not kill animals without reason." Their relationship with the land was based on mutual respect.

The Gwich'in people live close to the land and have been fighting for many years to protect it.

Even today, Gwich'in people continue to hunt caribou as the caribou migrate near their home, across the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Image via Sierra Club.

But the land that sustains the herds of caribou — and in turn sustains the Gwich'in culture — has been part of an oil development conversation for decades.

A recent Al Jazeera profile of Arctic Village adds context to Gilbert's words:

“Since the late 1980s, the Gwich'in people, who live in 15 villages that stretch from Alaska into Canada, have been deeply involved in a fight to stop the push for oil development on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

Nobody wants an oil disaster. But that's what drilling near Arctic Village could mean.

26 years ago, Gilbert's life was "touched by a shadow" when the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled 11 million gallons of oil off the coast of Alaska. While the spill was 500 miles south of Gilbert's land, he told People Magazine, "I keep thinking about what is happening to the native people there who live off the land."

"I keep thinking about what is happening to the native people there who live off the land."

Today, discussions are still happening that could mean more oil spills — closer to Gwich'in land — and more disruption of the caribou calving grounds.

Gilbert says, "If they destroy the land, it will be the end of the Gwich'in people."

The only way to truly sustain his people, Gilbert knows, is to put an end to the oil development projects near their land.

This is the only way the Gwich'in culture can "continue living beyond the next two generations."

"If they destroy the land, it will be the end of the Gwich'in people."

True
Firefox

This slideshow shows how you can protect your information.

View Slideshow

This week, viral photos from the first day of school in various Georgia counties showed students crowded together with few masks in sight. Schools in the same area had to shut down entire classrooms due to positive tests after the first day back, quarantining students and teachers for two weeks.

In these counties, students are "encouraged" to wear a mask at school, but they are not required. Mask-wearing is referred to as a "personal choice."

This week, a private Christian college in a town near where I live announced that is planning to resume in-person classes this fall. The school has decided that students will not be required to wear masks, despite the fact that the town itself has a mask mandate for all public spaces. "No riots. No masks. In person. This fall," the college wrote in a Facebook post advertising the school last month.

The supposed justification for not requiring students to wear masks is that it's a "personal choice," and that students have the freedom to choose whether to wear one or not.

That's a neat story. Except it is totally hypocritical coming from schools and school districts that have no problem placing limits on personal choice and freedom by mandating stringent dress codes for students.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Dole
True

As you sit down to eat your breakfast in the morning or grab an afternoon snack, take a minute to consider your food, how it was made, and how it got to your plate.

The fruit on your plate were grown and picked on farms, then processed, packaged and sent to the grocery store where you bought them.

Sounds simple, right?

The truth is, that process is anything but simple and at every step in the journey to your plate, harm can be caused to the people who grow it, the communities that need it, and the planet we all call home.

For example, thousands of kids live in food deserts and areas where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Around the world, one in three children suffer from some form of malnutrition, and yet, up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten.

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less
via The Hubble Telescope

Over the past few years, there has been a growing movement to fight back against some of the everyday racism that exists in America.

The Washington Redskins of the NFL have temporarily changed their name to the Washington Football Team until a more suitable, and less racist, name is determined.

The Dixie Chicks, a country band from Texas has decided to change their name to The Chicks to avoid any connotation with slavery, as has Lady Antebellum who now just go by Lady A.

(Although they stole the name form a Black woman who has been using it for over 20 years.)

Keep Reading Show less