Mother Kuskokwim hosts a community discussion about the proposed Donlin Gold mine
At 4:30 p.m. on March 23, Mother Kuskokwim, an environmental conservation organization, hosted a community event at the Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC) multipurpose building in Bethel. They promised lots of food, dance, and a hearty discussion about the environmental impact of the proposed Donlin Gold mine. I caught up with Sophie Swope, the director of Mother Kuskokwim, beforehand.
"If there's any questions, we'll definitely be answering questions," Swope said. "But it's more so just for the community to be heard."
Swope said that the organization decided to organize the discussion because they didn't feel that there had been enough public listening sessions, despite the widespread opposition in the community for a number of years.
"We haven't really had any public listening sessions in the past, but I don't know. I feel like we're just kind of trying to bring it back and allow that space for people," Swope said.
Mother Kuskokwim was founded in July 2022 with the announced purpose of protecting the Kuskokwim River, surrounding lands, water, fish and wildlife, and the people who live there from the proposed Donlin Gold mine. And to listen to the region’s tribal opposition.
"It's just like a basic human rights thing, especially being in such rural communities," Swope said. "Tribal governments should be listened to and heard, especially surrounding our land rights. Since that's such a difficult thing for most people to wrap their heads around here in Alaska, just in general."
KYUK reached out to Donlin Gold for comment and will feature them in a follow-up. In the past, the organization has said that it favors an extensive public process. For Mother Kuskokwim, the place for public discussion was the ONC multipurpose building.