"Welcome to Gwichyaa Zhee" highlights the human cost of Arctic drilling

Welcome to Gwichyaa Zhee.

Welcome to Gwichyaa Zhee.

Greg Balkin.

Film explores parallels between Bears Ears and the Arctic Refuge

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been the hunting grounds of the indigenous Gwich'in people for generations. It is a place they depend on to feed their families in the far Arctic north. 

Now the refuge is in danger of being developed for oil and gas drilling. Marring the Arctic landscape with oil rigs would not only hurt the refuge's famous wildlife—the Porcupine Caribou Herd and polar bears among them—but it would threaten the survival of the Gwich'in people. In fact, the battle for the refuge has become a significant human rights issue.

A new short film, Welcome to Gwichyaa Zhee, hopes to inspire viewers to stand with the Gwich'in and fight to restore protections to the Arctic Refuge.

Stop oil development in the Arctic Refuge
Stand with the Gwich'in
Take action

More about the film

The Wilderness Society joined forces with filmmaker Greg Balkin and Navajo activist Dr. Len Necefer to create Welcome to Gwichyaa Zhee. The film illustrates the systemic abuse of indigenous communities at the hands of unwanted energy development, drawing connections between the Trump administration's attacks on Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

"At a time when native communities still feel invisible to the rest of our country, people need to continue to unite around these issues,” Necefer says.

The Gwich’in people rely on the Arctic Refuge for their survival and way of life, which is tied to hunting the caribou of the refuge.  Nonetheless, pro-fossil fuel members of Congress opened the refuge to drilling through a backdoor provision in 2017. The Trump administration has been fast tracking environmental reviews and public comment periods in order to hastily begin development.

Necefer is joined by powerful Gwich’in voices in his film who speak to the need to stand together for Native people and for all future generations.

“It’s frustrating that we even have to be fighting like this for our human rights in 2018,” explained Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of Gwich’in Steering Committee.

Host a viewing party

You can stand with the Gwich'in by helping to build a community of activists for the Arctic Refuge. For information on how to host your party,visit

Filmmaker and Navajo activist Len Necefer, left, and Navajo activist Aaron Mike, right, visit Gwichyaa Zhee (Fort Yukon), Alaska

Filmmaker and Navajo activist Len Necefer, left, and Navajo activist Aaron Mike, right, visit Gwichyaa Zhee (Fort Yukon), Alaska. Necefer hopes the Arctic Refuge and the Gwich'in will recieve the same support that Native tribes did for Bears Ears.

Greg Balkin