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February 8, 2002

Inupiat Eskimos question religious opposition to ANWR development –Presbyterian

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Inupiat Eskimos from the North Slope of Alaska questioned the validity of Presbyterian leader Dr. Tom English’s generalization that Presbyterians are opposed to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to energy exploration.

Most Presbyterian residents in ANWR — the Inupiat Eskimos — support development.

In a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill, thousands of miles from the North Slope, clergy and lay people joined The Wilderness Society and Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) as they expressed their theological and religious reasons for opposing Arctic drilling, and their solidarity with the Gwich’in Indians. “ANWR is not a religious issue and whoever coordinated this press event clearly does not know the difference between worshiping the faith and worshiping our Lord and God. That is not the will of God,” said Eve Ahlers, Inupiat Chairwoman of the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) from Kaktovik, Alaska and Presbyterian.

Today, Kaktovik is home to 260 residents, most of whom are Inupiat Eskimos whose families have lived in the region for centuries.

The Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation supports legislation to open the Coastal Plain of ANWR to oil and gas development. <br

The Inupiat of Kaktovik and the North Slope of Alaska are predominantly affiliated with Presbyterianism.

KIC President Fenton Rexford explained, “The Inupiat people are the aboriginal environmentalists of the North Slope of Alaska, not the Gwich’in.”

Continuing, “We would not support a measure that would harm our traditional way of life. We will continue our work in Washington, D.C. and put this behind us.”

The recent position announcement of the Presbyterian Church USA sparked a series of calls to the national office from Inupiat Eskimos across the North Slope of Alaska.

The great granddaughter of Dr. Roy Ahmaogak Sr., and Manager of Shareholder and Government Relations for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation Tara Sweeney commented, “My great grandfather was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1947.

He traveled by dogsled across the Arctic coastline preaching the gospel and translated the New Testament from English into our Native Inupiaq language.

He also founded the Ulugniq Presbyterian Church in Wainwright, Alaska. Religion has no place in this debate and I will pray for the souls of the staff at The Wilderness Society so that God will forgive them.”

SOURCE:


Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation

CONTACT: Christy Moran of Qorvis
Communications, +1-202-496-1000,
for
Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation

Copyright (C) 2002 PR Newswire. All rights reserved.

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