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Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland departs the stage after delivering remarks at an event commemorating the delivery of the Red Road Totem Pole to the Biden Administration on July 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Native Organizers Alliance)

Dear Auntie Deb, Don't Sell Us Out: Be the Voice That Has Long Been Silenced

In 2020, you wrote a letter in objection to the Willow Master Development plan. Yet, in 2021 you supported the project with President Biden after public pressure from Senator Lisa Murkoski.

Siqiñiq Maupin

With endearment, I address you Secretary Deb Haaland as an auntie, as my Indigenous relative. As you visit Alaska, I would like to offer a different opinion than many may give. I am an Iñupiaq community member, mother, and human. I am also the director of a small Iñupiaq led organization but I am not writing with that hat on. I am, as a constituent, requesting this administration keep its word. To protect our most vulnerable and transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Our best interest is to have drinkable water, edible healthy fresh food, and lives that are not riddled with the trauma of the climate crisis and health effects.

The Willow Master Development plan is a massive fossil fuel project that would result in emissions that would essentially nullify any efforts the Biden administration makes to keep Earth’s temperatures below 1.5 Celsius. Your election to congress was based on progressive stances including climate change. In 2020, you wrote a letter in objection to the Willow Master Development plan. Yet, in 2021 you supported the project with President Biden after public pressure from Senator Lisa Murkoski.

Recently NOVA came out with an hour-long episode, “Arctic Sinkholes,”exploring the devastating effects of climate change.Around 70 methane deposits are currently in Alaska with the possibility of each one exploding. Villages around the state are being washed into the ocean. Traditional ways of storing food are no longer viable and our permafrost is melting at exasperated rates. Lastly, top scientists are chaining themselves to buildings stating we are heading towards a climate disaster.

Meanwhile, ConocoPhillips reported their fourth-quarter 2021 earnings of $2.6 billion. The same company that recently had a major gas leak near an Inupiaq community, Nuiqsut. ConocoPhillips could not answer how it happened or how to get it under control in a timely manner. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation(ASRC), who controls much of the resource development in the Arctic Slope, top executives' personal incomes are in the millions mostly due to oil and gas revenue. Two oil giants with a narrative the Biden administration seems to support, that we must go on with business as usual.

Inupiaq politics are complex, many of us want extraction on our lands, especially individuals who stand to greatly benefit. But no one wants cancer in their 20’s, or their child to have lung issues. No one signed a paper agreeing to benzene in the air that may cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation, and, at high levels, unconsciousness. No one told us the price we would pay for oil and gas in our backyards.

We understand the nuance of politics, Murkoski wants the Master Willow Development Plan and she makes a big difference in the republican party for Biden. But we, the people, are those who should have their best interest served. Our best interest is to have drinkable water, edible healthy fresh food, and lives that are not riddled with the trauma of the climate crisis and health effects. Be the voice of those unheard, support a Just Transition today.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
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Siqiñiq Maupin

Siqiñiq Maupin is a co-founder of Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic.

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