Finis DunawayDec 22, 2022
Defending the Arctic Refuge
A Photographer, an Indigenous Nation, and a Fight for Environmental Justice
University of North Carolina Press 2021
In far northeastern Alaska lies one of the most remarkable, and contested, places in North America: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This coastal arctic region is a place of great natural beauty, ecological importance, as well as being considered sacred by the Gwich'in people. It's also thought to contain massive fossil fuel wealth, making it a site of fifty years and more of political contestation.
In the award-winning book, Defending the Arctic Refuge: A Photographer, An Indigenous Nation, and a Fight for Environmental Justice (UNC Press: 2021), Finis Dunaway explains how Indigenous people teamed up with the activist, photographer, and jazz drummer Lenny Kohm to build a grassroots movement to protect this sacred place from extractive industry. Using a humble photo slide show, Kohm and other activists, both Native people from the region and outsiders, marshaled the power of everyday people to convince critical and powerful actors that this was a place that deserved federal protection. While this fight is ongoing, Dunaway's book shows that sometimes power can be found in unexpected places, and that environmental history is not a simple story of decline and hopelessness.
Defending the Arctic Refuge website and teaching tools are here.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.