Love is king / Alaska Wilderness League BIPOC advocacy activation on Capital Hill.

by Dr.Lisa Collins


When I visited Alaska with Love is King Project Roam, I was venturing into a new territory of outdoor adventure and experiences. When Chad Brown introduced the opportunity to travel to Alaska, something deep inside me said yes. I attended an Alaska National Wildlife Refuge deployment in July of 2022. We were honored to stay on the native lands of the Gwichʼin at the Arctic Village and learn about their way of life, customs, and challenges. I returned from this trip forever changed, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The land’s beauty, awe, and vastness were like nothing I had seen in my lifetime.

Dr. Lisa Collins Getting her gear ready to hike into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Dr. Lisa Collins, and LIK – ROAM Leaders group shot coming back from spending two nights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

LIK-ROAM Leaders learning indigenous teachings from Gwichin elder member

The generosity of the Gwichʼin people was overwhelming. As they struggled with climate change and the effects of drilling on their livelihood, the porcupine caribou herd did not change their care and love for us. As we were leaving our visit to the Arctic village in the Brooks range in the Arctic, I asked Gwichʼin Second Chief Leonard if I could interview him. I asked him what he would want the people in the lower 48 to know. He said he wanted people to know they were there to protect the land for future generations and the world. Gwichʼin Second Chief Leonard wanted people in the lower 48 to understand what was occurring in the lands of the Arctic and that the native peoples there are stewards of the caribou, land, and water not just for themselves but also for the world. He spoke of the changes in the land, water, and animals. The rivers are drying up, and the animals and habitats are changing. Gwichʼin Second Chief Leonard wants the lower 48 to know attention is needed in Alaska. It is ground zero for climate change, and what happens there will affect the lives of all. He asked us to see the changes and help protect the national land. I was inspired to use my voice and interaction to advocate for the people and land in Alaska.

LIK-ROAM Leaders group shot infront of Gwichin home.

LIK ROAM Leaders group shot on capital hill.

LIK ROAM LEADERS Meeting with Alaska Wilderness League (Prep meeting before going to the capital hill), Monica covering strategies around the importance of the arctic refuge and the sharing about the Willow Project.

When asked, I was excited to share my experience in Alaska with members of Congress. With the support of the Alaska Wilderness League, the trip to Washington D.C. with Love Is King aligned the intention to advocate for the people and land in Alaska. Alaska’s people, land, and animals need my voice of advocacy.

Meeting with members of congress staff was a new experience for me. I have been to Washington D.C. many times but have yet to visit any member of congress office. If it felt a bit like going to the principal’s office at first, but that feeling quickly fell away. Everyone was kind and welcoming, and seeing a bit of carpet from our Portland International Airport in each Oregon office was a warm feeling.

Different offices had pictures of the state represented and even snacks from the state. I had nine meetings in three days. On day one, we met with Michael Tejada, Director of the Office of Environmental Justice Environmental protection Agency. We shared our experiences in Alaska and heard about the agency’s work in the same regard. My takeaway from that meeting is that there is a stark reality to all that is needed to protect Alaska.

The following day a small group of us met with staff from Sen. Walrnock from Georgia, Sen. Booker from New Jersey, Sen. Wyden from Oregon, Minority Leader Jefferies, Rep. Blumeauer from Oregon, Rep. Bonamici from Oregon, and Rep. Lee from California. It was quite a day! In some of our meetings, we gathered in the office of the Senator or Representative. It was like looking into the world of Congress. The wheels were turning, and all we met with appreciated our stories. There was an authentic yearning to know more, visit, and support the people in Alaska. I felt like I was doing what Gwichʼin Second Chief Leonard asked of me when I was at the Arctic Village.

I was surprised about how touched I was to meet with the staff of my Representative, Bonamici, and connect with Sen. Wyden and Merkley. I felt a sense of pride, ownership, and dedication for being there and witnessing the work each supported in the nation. I was also moved by how much each person we met cared about our trip, wanted to hear our stories, and held the reality of what could be done to protect this precious land. Each had a fire of change agent and care; it left an impression about what happens in Washington, D.C., and the hard-working people we met there.

The next day we had two additional meetings to end our visit in Washington D. C.; one was with staff from Rep. Jayapal from Washington, and the other was with the Sen. Merkley of Oregon. After so many meetings, one would think I would be tired, but that was not the case; aspects of my time in Alaska that I had not shared were discussed in these final meetings. As a woman of color, I was humbled by the diversity and pride in the offices of Rep. Lee from California and Rep. Jayapal from Washington. I felt proud to speak my truth and advocate for others in these offices, just like these two women of color.

I left this trip with a sense of pride and devotion to continue sharing, advocating, and working to protect land, people, and animals in Alaska. Traveling to Washington, D. C. and meeting with senators and representative staff regarding environmental justice were life-changing. This trip is another chapter in what I will continue to do for the world, just like Gwichʼin Second Chief Leonard stated.

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