This is a letter, dated September 15, 2020, to Corri Feige, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
Dear Commissioner Feige:
The undersigned Tribes write to you with serious concerns over the impacts likely to unfold from the construction and operation of the proposed Donlin natural gas pipeline, and to request you engage Tribes in a meaningful dialogue that reflects our centuries-old connection to the land, water and resources that will be impacted by the pipeline and the mine.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has recognized its original Right-of-Way (ROW) decision on the Donlin Pipeline was cursory and failed to follow Alaska constitutional mandates.
DNR now recognizes it must consider the cumulative and reasonably foreseeable impacts from the proposed Donlin pipeline. We applaud DNR for recognizing the need to take a hard look at the pipeline’s impacts, including its impacts on Alaska Native ways of life.
As you know, the proposed pipeline will span over 315 miles, from the shores of Cook Inlet to the banks of the Kuskokwim River. Across this vast area, the pipeline will cross hundreds of fish streams, and open-up important subsistence hunting and fishing areas.
Due to the significance of this decision to our Tribes and our subsistence lifestyles, we hereby request DNR hold public hearings so all Alaskans have the opportunity to see and hear concerns about the pipeline. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made public hearings more challenging, DNR certainly possesses the capacity to hold public hearings online if needed.
Additionally, we request DNR to engage government-to-government consultations with our respective Tribal governments. As you know, DNR must adhere to Executive branch mandates, including the following:
● Administrative Order No. 186: “…the State of Alaska recognizes and respects the governmental status of the federally recognized Tribes within the boundaries of Alaska” and it is State policy “to work on a government-to-government basis with Alaska’s sovereign Tribes.”
● Administrative Order No. 300: “It is the policy of the State of Alaska to recognize Alaska Tribes’ sovereignty by interacting and engaging with Alaska Tribes on a government-to-government basis.”
● 2017 Attorney General Opinion: “The law is clear. There are 229 Alaska Tribes and they are separate sovereigns with inherent sovereignty and subject matter jurisdiction over certain matters.”
As our nation and our state continue to grapple with the historic inequities indigenous people continue to suffer today, we hope you agree it’s vital for you and DNR to engage in real, meaningful dialogue over this massive pipeline project.
Michael Hunt, Sr., Kotlik Traditional Council, President; Roberta R. Murphy, Chuloonawick Native Village, President; Henry Hunter, Orutsararmiut Native Council, Chair; Chief Gary Harrison, Chickaloon Native Village, Chair and Traditional Chief