Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit

Worship and prayer for Protection of “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins)

I’ve been making new friends as the Decolonizing Quakers steering committee meets monthly. At our last meeting Cathy Walling, of Alaska Friends spoke movingly about the administration’s plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling.

The following is from an email message from Cathy. I have often said protection of Mother Earth flows from spirituality.

In these 30 days prior to the proposed lease sales on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain, Gwich’in and Iñupiat peoples are calling upon protectors to join in prayer and advocacy for protection of their sacred place. (link for advocacy:  Defend The Sacred AK (defendthesacredalaska.org)

In solidarity with this request, Alaskan Friends invite you to join us in 30 minutes of Worship and prayer for Protection of “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday beginning at 7:30am AK time  via zoom.  Any vocal and silent prayers during this time are most welcome. Please share with all who will appreciate the invitation to join in prayer and advocacy to Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!

The Gwich’in people are a tribe in the northern part of Alaska and Canada.  The Gwich’in people have relied on the Porcupine Caribou Herd for thousands of years, for food, cultural and spiritual needs. The Porcupine Caribou Herd migrates to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain every year to give birth. The Coastal Plain is sacred to the Gwich’in, it has been passed down from generation to generation that we must protect the special place for future generations, so that all the animals that live and migrate to this area will always be protected. This area is known to the Gwich’in as “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins).

Will you stand with us to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge-Coastal Plain, the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the Gwich’in Way of life?  Mashii’ choo!   –from the Gwich’in Steering Committee’s website homepage https://ourarcticrefuge.org

In  hope and gratitude for this prayer opportunity to connect our hearts and spirits,

Cathy Walling and Jan Bronson

Topic: Morning Worship for Protection of Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins)
Time: 07:30 AM Alaska
        Every week on Mon, Wed, Fri, 18 occurrence(s)

Please download and import the following iCalendar (.ics) files to your calendar system.
Weekly: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/tZEufuirpzwjE9E3CPbUAahK6HltAcsrBY3Z/ics?icsToken=98tyKuGtrTIrGd2SuRCCRpwMA4r4d-nxmGZEj_p4zzzVARVyYwvdYMpOJpN8A8ry

Those calendar events include the Zoom link.


“Let Love be the first motion.” – John Woolman

“It is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.”– Pope Francis in his message from the Encyclical Laudato Si’ “On care for our common home,” #146

Urgent Greetings to Friends Everywhere,

In the spirit of love for this land called Alaska and sensitivity to the interconnected web of all life that live here, we of the Alaska Friends Conference (Quakers), invite you to stand with us in solidarity with the Gwich’in people (see http://ourarcticrefuge.org/take-action/,) the Episcopal Church  and other faith groups in opposition to proposed oil exploration and development in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a region known as the “1002 Area” in our nation’s current legislative discussions. Our call rises out of respect and deep concern:

–  For the Sacred and vital sources of life.

–  For traditional cultures and people who strive to live in harmony with their natural surroundings.

–  For the negative impacts that our continued dependency on fossil fuels is having on our climate, our peoples (and native cultures disproportionately,) our life forms and our lands.

We ask Friends around the world to join us in prayerful support and urgent acts of advocacy.

Unlike other areas of the North Slope currently developed for oil extraction, the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) lies within an area known as ““Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit, “ (“The Sacred Place Where Life Begins”) to the Gwich’in People who have subsisted on the areas’ resources for thousands of years. The Porcupine Caribou Herd, the foundation of the Gwich’ins’ subsistence culture and way of life, uses this area for birthing and nursing their young. For the Gwich’in People, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was created in part because this area is Sacred.

We live in challenging times in Alaska; acutely aware of the devastating instability of our climate yet largely dependent on the fossil fuel development that drives it. In Alaska Friends Conference we see the injustice and unsustainability in this balance. We seek examples for living in harmony with our surroundings, to develop ties and traditions in keeping with this place.  We are moved by the deeply rooted knowledge, respect and reverence the Gwich’in people hold for the places where they strive to live. In keeping with Pope Francis’ message above, when Gwich’in people express grave concerns for human impacts on the sensitive ecosystem of the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain, we receive their concerns with no less weight than we would hear Catholics speak of the Vatican, or Jews of Jerusalem, or Muslims of Mecca or any other people with regard to their sacred, tradition- and culture-bearing sites.  We are moved to accompany them.

We recognize that not all Alaska Native groups are of a single mind on this issue. In the absence of clear consensus, we are ultimately left to discern a path forward based on our own principles and understanding of Truth. In discouraging further oil extraction, in protecting the Arctic Coastal Plain and the Porcupine Caribou Herd that is dependent on this area, in standing with the Gwich’in Nation, which encompasses both Alaskan and Canadian villages and other Alaska Natives and residents who have deep spiritual and cultural ties to this same area, this call reflects our understanding of Love in the Greater Good.

Please, join us in prayer and advocacy. We would be happy to answer questions, or for further information, contact the Gwich’in Steering Committee directly at http://ourarcticrefuge.org/.

On behalf of Alaska Friends Conference (Quakers),

Taylor Brelsford (clerk)


Photo credit: Keri Oberly

30 Days of Action Official Toolkit (google.com)


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s