I am writing in response to the recent op-ed “Alaskans support opening the ANWR coastal plain.” I was present at the Fairbanks hearing that the authors characterize as “disrespectful… portray(ing) Fairbanks in a poor manner… (and) disrupt(ing) open and fair debate.”
The official format of the meeting was an affront to the democratic process, neither open nor fair, and deliberately designed to lessen the voice of the community. The meeting was scheduled with only five days notice. There were no translators present. Comments could only be made individually in writing or privately to a stenographer, literally behind a black curtain.
After Bureau of Land Management representatives finished their presentation, frustrated community members insisted they be heard. For the remainder of the evening, the community, in an orderly and just manner, allowed for first elders, then other Alaska Natives, then other community members to share their concerns publicly.
We did not “derail open and fair debate;” rather, we created an environment in which the voices of the people could be heard.
I am proud of my community for calling out the injustice of this process and raising the voices of elders and Native peoples and those most affected by what happens in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Sarah Furman
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