The Gwich’in Steering Committee (GSC)
June 25, 2021
The Gwich’in Steering Committee (GSC) was founded in 1988 when elders called upon the chiefs of all Gwich’in villages from Canada to Alaska to come together for a traditional gathering – the first in more than a century – to address the threat of oil development in “the sacred place where life begins,” the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Together they formed the Gwich’in Steering Committee as a vehicle to ensure that the voices of the Gwich’in community would be heard and respected from Alaska to the halls Washington, DC and the United Nations. Since that time, the organization has consistently engaged and strengthened the leadership of Gwich’in communities in the high-profile battle to protect the Gwich’in culture and way of life, and prevent oil development in the Arctic Refuge. One of the organization’s central organizing tactics has been to revitalize and sustain the old tradition of bringing the community together for an annual gathering of the Gwich’in Nation. Each year the organization brings together hundreds of community members and leaders from the 15 Gwich’in villages in Northeast Alaska and Northwest Canada for a unique combination of cultural events, workshops and strategy meetings that are designed to simultaneously celebrate Gwich’in culture and maintain broad community engagement in the effort to protect Gwich’in human rights and traditional subsistence livelihoods. In total, the organization estimates that they engaged nearly 2000 community members through its various activities over the last year. The GSC’s organizing combined with their statewide and national civic engagement and advocacy efforts have helped defeat numerous legislative attempts to approve oil development in the Arctic Refuge. In January 2015, after broad advocacy for executive action, the Obama Administration announced its recommendation that the Arctic Refuge be granted wilderness status. While congressional approval is required for the creation of new wilderness areas, this victory means that the area will receive the highest level of protection until either congress or a future administration takes action.