Tribes urge protection of ancient villages

Tribal groups are calling on the state of Alaska to protect culturally important ancestral Native villages bordering on Cook Inlet by adding conditions to any permit allowing for port development in conjunction with a proposed mine.

The comments from United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., and SalmonState in a letter to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources were prompted by concerns that geotechnical drilling at the site of a proposed industrial port at the ancestral Amakdedori Village could put at risk graves, cultural resources and important subsistence sites.

The port near Amakdedori Creek, which drains into Kamishak Bay on the western shore of Cook Inlet, some 190 miles southwest of Anchorage, is part of the latest plan by backers of the Pebble project in Southwest Alaska, for ships to transport ore from the mine to foreign smelting facilities. The port site, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notes in its Pebble project environmental impact statement data, would include shore-based and marine facilities to ship concentrate, freight and fuel for the project. Other port facilities would include fuel storage and transfer facilities, power generation and distribution facilities, maintenance facilities, employee accommodations and offices.

UTBB wants the state to minimize potential impacts to Anakdedori and three other ancestral villages near the proposed Amakdedori port by adding conditions to any permit issued for the port, including protocols if graves are disturbed, having cultural advisors from Kokhanok and Igiugig present during the exploration work, using radar rather than drilling, and using human remains detection dogs.

During hearings this past spring at Igiugig and Kokhanok, several people testified about the cultural importance of the area, and historic patterns of subsistence activity there.

“The state of Alaska cannot allow a foreign mining company to dig up the land that has sustained our people since time immemorial,” said Robert Heyano, president of the UTBB board. “Now is the time for Alaska to say no and protect our culture, history and way of life for future generations.”