Gwich’in in Germany

Westarctic project

The Gwich’in are fighting for the protection of their traditional land, an area approximately the size of Ireland. The Gwich’in lived here undisturbed for a long time. They asked us for help.

In the summer of 2007 some students and teachers of the Gwich’in came to Germany and spoke about their situation. On the excursion and in conversations the Gwich’in learned a lot about the situation of nature conservation in industrialized Germany. They also learned a lot about recycling and renewable energies. They visited an open-cast mining, an underground mine and the national park Sächsische Schweiz, which just 150 years ago was merely a clear and treeless landscape.

Hwiemtun, a native of the Salish Coast and director of cultural programs of Wilderness International Canada, together with Jean and Glen Allicock, representatives of the Makushi Natives from the tropical rainforest of Guyana, took part in our environmentalprogram. This project was supported by Rotary and the ‚Sächsische Landesstiftung Natur und Umwelt’ (Saxony foundation Nature and Environment).

The journey was a great success. Hundreds of students learned about their situation, articles were published in newspapers, and the documentary “Saving the Three Rivers Watershed” was produced for Canadian television. In Canada, press reports were published and radio reports were broadcast and the important decision-makers were made aware of the aims of the project. Some voices from the cultural exchange program in Germany:

Western Arctic project

"We were underway in Germany for two
weeks and the only wild animal
we saw was a squirrel.
Imagine A SINGLE squirrel!"
Gladys Alexie

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"It makes me incredibly sad when I
imagine that our home in Canada will
also one day be a place of open mining,
roads and mountains with holes in them.
Just plain ugly - my sadness is hard to

Zoe Hoe

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"Participation in the rainforest walk opened our eyes. It was impressive to see how many students in Dresden are interested in the rainforests and nature conservation in northern Canada. For us it feels now not like we are from just a small, unimportant town in the Arctic, but that we are part of a global community."


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"My thinking about the environment has changed a lot. It is extremely important that we motivate our people back home in Fort McPherson (Western Arctic) to protect the en vironment. If we allow more of our homeland to be destroyed, then our culture will be taken away!"
Janelle Wilson

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