Protecting Our Ways of Life
“We have lived in places with such efficiency and grace that later people who have come to our homelands have considered them to be empty of human beings; and they've called this a wilderness because they didn’t see us in those places. They couldn’t imagine that a people could live so well in a land that it would appear untouched by them. And we live with the dilemma of that to this day.” - Paul Ongtooguk (Iñupiaq), remarks made at the Alaska Native Education Summit, November 2001
Protecting Our Ways of Life (POWOL) Working Group is a collective effort to address the enduring inequities and injustices of colonial management systems over ourselves and our homelands, and end the criminalization of our Native ways of life. The POWOL Working Group came together organically at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the need for statewide advocacy to ensure our peoples are leading the decisions that shape our lives and continue to hunt, fish, harvest and gather to sustain our peoples and communities.
The working group is made up of Tribes, Native corporations, hunting and fishing task forces, resource organizations, Tribal advocates, Native non-profits, researchers, professors, and other dedicated allies to our Native ways of life. This dynamic and multifaceted work group is seeking to re-balance a system that hurts our people deeply. No matter the entity we are a part of or where we come from as Native peoples, our responsibility is to ensure our future generations will have the same blessings from our Native ways of life as we have, and as our Ancestors had before us. We stand and work together to seek justice, equity, and the abundance and promise of our homelands that is our rightful inheritance as the stewards of Alaska for over 10,000 years. If we do nothing, our children will suffer the removal of our ways of life from their spirit. We cannot and will not allow this.