“I Can’t Eat Coal” and Other Lessons from Tyonek

Chuitna River communities gathered in Tyonek this month to attend DNR’s second public hearing on the proposed Chuitna River coal strip mine.

The testimony given was spoken from the heart — it was focused on culture, tradition, sustenance, family and the relationship with the land. One Tyonek elder summed up what is at stake with the proposed project: “What am I going to eat? I can’t eat money, I can’t eat coal. I eat moose meat. I eat fish. I live off this land. My grandfather showed me how to do that… He passed it down through generations. How to take care of this land, and what to do about it. I knew him, and what he said. … I lived off that land, I lived off that fish. I drank that water. I didn’t go over there and buy it from California. I went over there and I chopped that water hole, I drank that water, and I packed that water…for my Grandma. That water came from that river right there, and it still comes from there. And you’re going to pollute it!”