Polar bears over people, environmentalism over economies

In the name of climate change initiatives President Obama has, over the course of his presidency, marginalized the voices of the Arctic Iñupiat while destroying our ability to develop a stable economy in Arctic Alaska. He has used our region as a platform to launch conservation efforts that further his own political agenda while discriminating against the needs of our people.

On December 20th, President Obama released a statement and a presidential memorandum – both tied to a partnership with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau to “embrace opportunities and confront challenges in the changing Arctic.” The announcements and corresponding executive orders, however, accomplish neither.

Instead, his actions represent the administration’s continued failure to acknowledge the people of the Arctic who once put much faith in his Arctic strategies. Alaska Natives have worked hard to become meaningful contributors to policy issues affecting our people, only to find out our voices have once again not been heard.

When Obama visited Alaska in 2015, he vowed to work with indigenous Natives and with the state of Alaska towards realistic solutions for the future sustainability of our villages. We are still waiting on tangible initiatives to deliver on this promise.

The White House statement talks about developing “a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem.” However, for the president to infer this will be accomplished through “low-impact shipping, science-based management of marine resources, and free from the future risks of offshore oil and gas activity” gives us no realistic hope of developing a sustainable economy.

As members of the Arctic community, we have consistently expressed the need for investment in research, infrastructure, and other capabilities that complement the existing economy of our region. Like that of our Canadian Inuit family, our economy is directly tied to resource development. However, through recent executive actions, Arctic resource development has been taken off the table with blatant disregard to local needs and input.

His executive orders have effectively squashed any opportunities for continued development of our region, along with the possibility of federal investments in search and rescue, climate change adaptation, community development and oil spill response – to name a few.

The December 20th announcement was not totally unexpected, of course, as the president has a long history of turning his back on our people and failing to keep his public promises. His actions are much more consistent with an agenda built upon creating a personal legacy instead of working towards a “strong, sustainably and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem.”

While the president’s proclamations appease the environmental community, they are realistically just another lynch-pin in the undoing of the economies of both the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic. The northern people are under assault and are being asked to atone for and bear the costs of climate change for the majority of the global population that live below the Arctic Circle.

In a matter of days, Obama will be sitting in his new office on 24th Street in Washington D.C. – the World Wildlife Fund headquarters building – still pretending his Arctic agenda aligns with Native Alaskans. But for those of us who live in the Arctic, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that his eleventh-hour actions benefit the environmental groups more than they do us – the people directly affected by selfish decisions made on his watch.

Midnight executive orders are fairly routine for soon-to-be ex-presidents, and outgoing administrations have a history of making decisions that stink when it comes to the greater good of the people. That said, and political wrangling aside, most Americans fail to recognize the real losers in this process. Today, the losers are us – the Iñupiat – along with our families, our neighbors, our communities, our region and state.

Native Iñupiat have been consistent in our pleas for more economic opportunities in the Arctic. By the president’s very admission, “those consulted have expressed a strong desire for real and long-term opportunities to build strong families, communities and robust economies,” he said.

If President Obama truly wants Arctic communities to succeed, it sure doesn’t seem like it. His actions throughout his presidency, and especially on his way out the door, are a true disservice to our people.

It’s unfortunate that, despite the best efforts of the Alaska Native community, our voices continue to be ignored. Our region has once again been used as a tool for elevating Obama’s personal environmental record while sticking it to the people who live here.

Sayers Tuzroyluk, Sr.

President, Voice of the Arctic Inupiat

Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat (VOAI) is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization established to provide direct input from the Inupiat people in matters of Arctic policy. VOAI’s membership includes 20 of the 28 entities from across the North Slope including tribal councils, municipal governments and Alaska Native corporations.

Help Offered: For a Healthier You

Many of us see the New Year as an opportunity for a new beginning—a chance to make positive changes in our lives. We might want to break bad habits or make changes to become more healthy, like exercising, healthy eating, or meditating.

New Year’s resolutions can be hard to keep. Breaking old habits and establishing new ones is challenging. Our lives pull us in many directions at once, and it’s hard to find the time, energy, and knowledgeable help to work on personal improvements. However, making positive life changes is much easier with the right assistance.

Take advantage of the essential health benefits, including preventive health services, that are offered for most health plans purchased through HealthCare.gov to achieve your goals for a healthier lifestyle. Preventive health services may be available with no copays, coinsurance, or deductibles on your marketplace plan.

Smoking and other tobacco use have repeatedly been shown to contribute to a variety of diseases. Cessation interventions for tobacco users are among the preventive health services, as are alcohol misuse screening and counseling, obesity screening and counseling, and diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease. Immunizations, which can help us live longer and healthier lives, are also included. Screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, and several other diseases and forms of cancer are also included in these preventive services, as is depression screening.

All this help, and more, is available from HealthCare.gov plans, but first you need to enroll.

Open Enrollment for 2017 health insurance coverage only runs through January 31, 2017. In Alaska, visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 to enroll. The Alaska Primary Care Association (APCA) or the United Way of Anchorage can assist you with enrollment. APCA’s enrollment assistance is available at Get Covered Alaska or by calling 1-844-PLANSAK (1-844-752-6725). United Way of Anchorage can provide assistance by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-478-2221.

Make 2017 the healthiest year ever for you and your family. Break that procrastination habit, and use your new health insurance to help make the positive changes you’ve been longing to make. You can do it with the right help! Get your friends and family involved in your new healthier lifestyle. Let’s all have a healthier and happy New Year!

Susan Johnson, Regional Director

US Department of Health and Human Services

Region 10

Protect subsistence and water resources

The single issue for shareholders to consider in permitting the Donlin Creek gold mine development to move ahead is the continued protection of subsistence and water resources being used continuously. Shareholder dividends and Corporation profits are not the primary considerations. The protection of the culture with subsistence and water resources are the main issues to consider.

More shareholders can express their opinion on this matter and persons expressing an interest in retaining their Calista board of directors seat or seeking one can let the shareholders know what their position on the gold mine is. The shareholders can then vote either way.

The shareholders who do not express their opinion can do so by voting in or writing in the candidate of their choice and thus relay this message to the entire board of being either for or against the gold mine development.

Gilbert Keywehak

Mount Pleasant MI