Staff Pick: The Refuge

A fight to protect Alaska's wild lands and preserve a way of life


The Refuge

Alex Jablonski, Kahlil Hudson, Patagonia | 16 min.


This month’s Staff Pick comes from Madison Crider, Communications Assistant for the Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

September 3rd marks the 53rd anniversary of the Wilderness Act, establishing the National Wilderness Preservation System, which includes national forests, parks, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Land Management lands. The act was created to ensure that the growing population and expanding industrialization would not overtake or change America’s natural beauty. These wild lands are under attack by our current administration, with environmentalists and native peoples now fighting to keep the integrity of the Wilderness Act. One such struggle is beautifully documented in the film, The Refuge, a 2017 Official Selection.

Referred to by the oil industry as “nothing” and a “wasteland”, the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are anything but that. Its wild and majestic landscape is home to the native Gwich’in people and the Porcupine Caribou herd that have sustained them for thousands of years. The Gwich’in are in conflict with Big Oil to preserve these sacred lands from destruction.

The film spoke to me as a perfect example of an “eco-centric” versus “ego-centric” mentality. An environmentally conscious individual understands that they are part of the interconnectedness of all beings and the Earth. The “ego-centrist” views themselves as master of all creation and sees our planet as simply a means to make a few bucks. The Gwich’in tribe, like many native peoples, intrinsically live more in harmony with their surroundings, and oil extraction of this virgin land would be devastating to their way of life.

Want to experience The Refuge for yourself? Active SYRCL members can check it out from the Wild and Scenic Film Library! (Reach out to Alena Loomis to see if your membership is current, [email protected] or 530.265.5961 x 220). Or, view it at your nearest On Tour stop!