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An Alaskan Indigineous Leader Speaks Out Against Corporate Exploitation and Cultural Genocide

StoryOctober 13, 2003
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Dune Lankard discusses how the Exxon Valdez oil spill destroyed not just Alaska’s coastlne but a way of a life for many indigenous peoples including the Eyak tribe.

On this Indigenous People’s Day we go to Alaska.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker crashed onto a reef spewing millions of gallons of heavy crude oil into the waters of Prince William Sound. Within days, 1,500 miles of coast were polluted, leaving a trail of dying oil-drenched wildlife. Hundreds of thousands of birds were killed, and thousands of sea otters died alongside harbor seals, whales and brown bears.

Overnight the livelihood of thousands of fishermen disappeared. Dune Lankard was one of them.

He is an Eyak fisherman. The Eyak are an indigenous people who occupied the lands in the Copper River region in southcentral Alaska for some 3,500 years. They are as much a part of the Copper River ecosystem as the bears and the salmon that inhabit it.

After the Exxon Valdez spill, Lankard decided he would make it his life’s mission to help prevent that kind of destruction of life and livelihood. He says "by the ocean dying something came to life in me."

He began working with the Indigenous Environmental Network and Project Underground. He later started the Red Oil Network, an organization focused on halting and providing alternatives to destructive oil and gas projects

He now sits on the board of several action oriented nature and culture preservation organizations including Ruckus Society, Circle of Life, Seva foundation to name but a few. He is the co-founder of the Eyak Preservation Council and Redzone, an organization whose mission is to "protect the inherent rights of culture, heritage, language and ancestral lands of native people in Alaska. He joins us on the phone from Alaska.

  • Dune Lankard, co-founder of the Eyak Preservation Council and Redzone, an organization whose mission is to "protect the inherent rights of culture, heritage, language and ancestral lands of native people in Alaska."

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