Women of Color Lead and Engage More Than 250 Activists in Defense of the Arctic

Momentum is building in the Pacific Northwest. While the Trump administration has remained bullheaded in their attempts to appease the fossil fuel industry at all costs, a strong resistance movement has emerged here to push back against dangerous policies that threaten our climate and communities.

Last month, I had the opportunity to take part in a powerful journey around the Northwest to highlight the pressing threat to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Gwich’in people who depend on this place for their food security and way of life.

Along with renowned activist, cyclist, and filmmaker Miho Aida, environmental educator Jessica Sanchez, and two representatives from the Gwich’in Nation -- Myra Thumma of Venetia and Virginia Peter of Fort Yukon -- I traveled from Bellingham to Portland to draw attention to the Trump administration’s push to open the Arctic Refuge up for oil and gas drilling, and the impact this dangerous plan would have on the Gwich’in. The journey was also supported by two Doris Duke Conservation Scholars, Lilli Garza and Mayra Garcia, who are stationed at the Seattle office for the summer.

The journey began in Bellingham, with stops in Seattle, Olympia, Centralia and Portland. Miho and Jessica traveled by bicycle, logging over 262 miles behind the saddle. At each stop, the crew hosted public screenings of Miho’s award-winning film, “The Sacred Place Where Life Begin: Gwich’in Women Speak.” Each screening was followed by a Q&A and discussion about how activists can get involved to help protect the Arctic Refuge.

In between film screening stops, the Gwich’in made sure to stop by the Lummi Reservation, where they were able to connect over both Tribes’ shared opposition to fossil fuel development. The crew also paid visits to the offices of Washington’s Arctic Refuge champions, Senator Maria Cantwell and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

For the Olympia to Portland leg of the journey, Miho and Jessica joined the iconic Seattle To Portland Ride, hosted by Cascade Bicycle Club, which includes close to 10,000 riders every year. While biking in 97 degree heat, Miho and Jessica had an opportunity to engage fellow cyclists in defense of the Arctic Refuge.

The tour was a huge success and a phenomenal experience! Through this tour, led by women of color, we were able to engage more than 250 activists throughout the Pacific Northwest and strengthen the movement fighting back against the Trump administration’s reckless policies.

I left the tour feeling inspired and hopeful. Standing with the Gwich’in, we will keep up the fight to defend the Arctic Refuge.


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