Welcome to Gwichyaa Zhee

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The story of unwanted energy development in the Arctic Refuge is not new - it’s a common theme that has impacted indigenous communities both in Alaska and the Lower 48. Over the last 50 years, communities in interior Alaska have been fighting a battle to protect their ancestral homelands just as communities in and around the desert southwest have been working to protect their heritage with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

We have witnessed the impact on communities and the land as the protections for both of these places have been removed to expedite their development by extractive industries. Their stories run parallel; when the protections on these lands are removed it is the indigenous communities that are on the frontline to protect these places.

This film explores the connection of threats faced to Bears Ears National Monument and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge through stories and perspectives of the Diné (Navajo) and Gwich’in communities. Led through the eyes and experiences of Len Necefer, we’ll follow his journey in Gwichyaa Zhee (Fort Yukon) as he meets with various members of these communities who are fighting to protect their land. By sharing his own stories and mementos from home, we begin to understand how similar these two communities are, and how they’re not alone in their struggles. As we move through this story and learn about the Gwich’in people, bigger questions remain.  What happens to these communities, land, and cultures they support when protection is lost? And how do we, as viewers, understand the commonalities of these struggles to value and take steps to protect our own backyard?


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MEET THE CREW

LEN NECEFER - Co-Director + Founder of NativesOutdoors

GREG BALKIN - Co-Director + Editor Wondercamp

BERNADETTE DEMIENTIEFF - Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee

MICHAEL S. PETER - Second Chief of Gwichyaa Zhee

AARON MIKE - Assistant + Founder of Pangaea Mountain Guides

Additional support from

THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY

PATAGONIA

GWICH’IN STEERING COMMITTEE