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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Rossiter, David A.

Second Advisor

Wayne, Kathryn Ross, 1951-

Third Advisor

Medler, Michael J.


For over 40 years now, a remote piece of land in the northeast corner of Alaska has been the focus of a highly publicized and extremely controversial debate. This contested landscape, known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), is valued for its striking vistas and unique wildlife as well as for its substantial petroleum reserves. As a result, environmentalists and oil industries have long been engaged in heated debate over its land use and resource management, and in particular over whether or not the refuge should be drilled for oil. While these two national interest groups have dominated the public dispute, however, a much broader pool of actors with varied perspectives and priorities are heavily invested in and vigorously debating the issue as well, including two indigenous groups whose ancestors have resided within the refuge for thousands of years. In this thesis, I explore how environmentalists, oil industries, the Gwich'in Native Americans, who oppose drilling for oil, and the Iñupiat Eskimos, who support it, have constructed ANWR for policy-makers and the general public, both in contrast to one another and across 'for' and 'against' delineations. I also provide an in-depth and critical analysis of four prominent discursive themes employed by each of these stakeholders, which include society and nature, sovereignty and security, luxury versus livelihood, and past, preservation, and future. Through the above methodologies, I demonstrate that the values and perspectives of the native tribes share many similarities, despite the different conclusions to which they have ultimately led, whereas those of the national interest groups are polarizing and antagonistic. Further, a close examination of the various relationships between these four stakeholders reveals the imbalance of privilege and power that continues to fuel ANWR's "drilling debate".





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Land use--Social aspects--Alaska--Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Land use--Environmental aspects--Alaska--Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska); Gwich'in Indians--Social aspects; Inupiat--Social aspects

Geographic Coverage

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska)




masters theses




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