Associated Press
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he would protect Bristol Bay, home to one of the biggest wild salmon runs in the world, from a massive mining proposal.

Sanders Campaign Consults With Alaska Natives, Opposes Pebble Mine


The United Tribes of Bristol Bay were exuberant last week upon learning that Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had registered his opposition to large-scale mining in the pristine wilderness.

Sanders made the decision after his wife, Jane Sanders, spoke by video conference—her planned trip had to be canceled due to bad weather—with tribal leaders from the Bristol Bay region about their attempts to protect their habitat and way of life from industrialization such as mega mines, the group said. They also discussed other issues facing rural communities and Alaska Natives.

"During the meeting, Mrs. Sanders heard directly from tribes about their decades of work to protect their subsistence rights, their lands, and their waters from unsustainable development projects like the proposed Pebble Mine,” the United Tribes said in a statement posted to Facebook on March 25. “Mrs. Sanders concluded the meeting with the announcement that the Sanders campaign, after hearing from tribal leadership in Bristol Bay, will officially support protecting Bristol Bay from mines like Pebble.”

Jane Sanders spoke with the United Tribes for an hour and a half, according to Alaska Dispatch News.

“We heard very clearly that this project would be a disaster to the local fishing economy, putting the Alaska Native community’s way of life and the subsistence way of life at risk,” she told Alaska Dispatch News afterward, adding that the salmon and herring fisheries there “can’t be compromised.”

Sanders has allowed himself to be edified on a number of Native issues all across the U.S. during his campaign, including the hiring of two Native women as direct advisors.

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Alaska Natives, environmentalists and scientists alike have been pushing for years against attempts by Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., to build a mile-deep, 2.5-mile-wide, open-pit copper and gold mine. The largest mine ever in North America, it would require building at least three earthen tailings dams as high as 650 feet. While supporters sayd it would create jobs, those opposed said it would irreparably compromise this pristine wilderness and one of the largest wild salmon runs in the world.

RELATED: 360 Scientists Urge Environmental Protection Agency to Quash Bristol Bay Pebble Mine

Hillary Clinton, running against Sanders in the Democratic primary, has also voiced her lack of support for Pebble Mine.

“We are so grateful that presidential candidates are willing to listen and hear what’s important to our indigenous people in Bristol Bay and the issues so many of our people are facing throughout Alaska,” United Tribes President Robert Heyano said in the group’s statement. “We are overjoyed and grateful that the Sanders campaign came to hear from our tribes and now support our efforts to protect our fisheries, our communities, and our way of life from large-scale mines like Pebble.”

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onedman's picture
Submitted by onedman on
I find it to be very interesting that Mr. and Mrs. Sanders are the only one's spending time with people where they live. They are real people just like you and me, they aren't giving lip-service to an idea, they live it and for me that is a big deal.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
There is a BIG difference between saying you support Native concerns and actually traveling to where Natives live and ASKING them what their concerns are. Bernie has made it perfectly clear that he supports our needs, whereas Clinton gave Natives who traveled to DC an audience. I personally can't see how a Native can support Trump as it's clear he hates dark-skinned people, and it's been my experience that someone who is racially biased can find justification or rationalization to hate me (or us).