Pushing Back: Pebble Mine & the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Picture of Lisa J. Watt

Lisa J. Watt

Director of the Indigenous Leadership Program

Salmon in Katmai National Park by Russ Taylor, National Park Service. A curious caribou along the Hulahula River by Danielle Brigida.

In addition to the briefing recording below, you will find a range of supplemental resources to deepen your understanding of the ways Alaska Native Communities have fought back against threats to their homelands.

Pushing Back: Pebble Mine & the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Thursday, February 16, 2023

American Indian tribes and Alaska Native communities have harnessed their unique status as governments to pull levers that have challenged and influenced federal decision-making around environmental regulation and industry. In the far north, the Gwich’in people have pushed back against oil drilling in an unprotected area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for nearly four decades. Their goal? To protect the land and caribou on which their lives depend. For the 15 Indigenous communities in southwest Alaska who know the salmon, watersheds, and lands around Bristol Bay as their home, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay successfully knocked back the proposed Pebble Mine and protected the most productive salmon fishery in the world and their ways of life.

What toll did these decades-long fights have on these Indigenous communities? What was at stake? What mechanisms were the tribes able to use to help move the dialogue and shift outcomes? What does the future hold?

“[Protecting the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the coastal plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] is not a conservation issue to the tribes. This is a human rights issue. It’s a subsistence issue. It’s a way of life issue. It’s a cultural issue.”

— Dr. Charlene Stern

Watch a recording of Pushing Back: Pebble Mine & the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, held on Thursday, Feb. 16. Download the transcript here.

Making a difference

In honor of our speakers, we encourage you to support the following organizations.

Anchorage, AK

Albuquerque, NM

About the speakers

Alannah Hurley
Executive Director, United Tribes of Bristol Bay

Ms. Hurley has worked extensively in community development and is deeply committed to environmental justice. As the executive director of the UTBB, she leads a tribally chartered coalition of 15 federally recognized tribes working to protect the Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq ways of life and the pristine Bristol Bay watershed and the life it sustains.


Charlene Stern
(Gwich’in Athabaskan)
Technical Advisor, Arctic Village Council, Venetie Village Council & Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government

Charlene Stern was born and raised in Interior Alaska and is an enrolled tribal member of the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government. For over two decades, Dr. Stern has been engaged in tribal efforts to protect the birthplace and nursery grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd from the threat of oil and gas development in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She holds a bachelors degree from Western Washington University, a masters degree from the University of New Mexico, and a PhD from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dr. Stern previously served as an appointee to the International Porcupine Caribou Management Board and currently serves as a technical advisor to three federally recognized Gwich’in tribes.


Matthew N. Newman
Senior Staff Attorney, Native American Rights Fund

Mr. Newman is a senior staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund. Based in the Anchorage office, he has worked closely with both the United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Gwich’in communities in their campaigns to protect their homelands. Mr. Newman’s areas of expertise include Indigenous land rights, land use, and natural resources, with a focus on environmental permitting.




Recordings and resources from the first of four virtual briefings about Indigenous leadership with Bobbie Conner and Ron Allen presenting.



Recordings and resources for the final of four virtual briefings on Indigenous Leadership with Dave Tovey and Robert Miller presenting.



Recordings and resources from the third of four virtual briefings on Indigenous Leadership with Nicole Borromeo and Joe Nelson presenting.

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