Thoughts From The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

This is an excerpt from the new book We Are The Arctic, published by Mountaineers Books. It showcases the vast beauty of this remarkable untouched wilderness through beautiful images from ten of the world’s best conservation photographers. And a fascinating range of voices, including DJ Spooky, Terry Tempest Williams, and former president Jimmy Carter, share, through eloquent essays, precisely why this place is so special to them. For more information, check out and tell President Obama you support protecting the Arctic Refuge here. Outdoor Research is teaming up to give a copy of the book free with every OR purchase between May 3 and May 10!

A caribou slips out of the womb and onto the soft padding of the tundra. Steam rises off its body, new to the world. to air, to life on Earth. In these first few hours he will bond with his mother, learning how to suckle, how to identify her scent and voice. These hours are critical to the survival of mother and calf in a herd of thousands. It is the only time they will have alone together. We humans are not so different in the way we give birth. The basics needed for life to begin. A mother's warm body full of milk and reassurance. A safe place. A warm cabin. A manger. A refuge.

All of us who overconsume must pay a price in the grand scheme of life. The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is sacred ground, demed so by the births of millions of animals over thousands of years. And my people, the Gwich'in, are there today only  because of the spiritual bond we have with the Porcupine caribou herd. In our culture the caribou give themselve to us so that we may survive. We are humbled. Each of us humans should walk with that humbleness, knowing that it is ultimately this massive cycle of life that provides us with what we need to survive: clean air and water, soil to grow our gardens, and the fish and wildlife on which many of us depend.

All life is sacred. We all want to live, to experience the gift of creation—the great mystery we are all a part of. Truly we are all related. You and I are brother and sister. We are related to the caribou, the whales, the polar bear; we are even related to the birch trees, and the forget-me-nots, and the tundra grass. Shalak naii, my relatives—let us carry this knowledge in our hearts and minds as we continue on our respective journeys. And hai'choo to you who are working so tirelessly for our future generations!


Photo by Florian Schulz