Pebble Mine: We Can't Eat Gold

A wonderful new documentary provides a mouthpiece for Alaska Natives in Bristol Bay to raise their voices in opposition to Pebble Mine.  We Can’t Eat Gold premiers at the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival next Saturday in Ithaca, NY and asks important questions like, “What does it mean to live off the land in the United States today?” and, “How does it feel when your ancestors have been subsisting off the same land for thousands of years and then that land is threatened?”

Pebble Mine would be one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world.  Foreign mining companies want to build a colossal open pit and underground mine that would generate 10 billion tons of mining waste at the headwaters of Bristol Bay’s famed salmon runs – the same salmon runs that have supported Alaska Natives for thousands of years. 

WeCantEatGold Boats.jpg

I contacted the director of We Can’t Eat Gold, Joshua Tucker, and he said he made the film hoping to be a “conduit for the voices of the voiceless. Opening a space for Alaska Native Elders and youth to share their traditional ecological knowledge about one of the defining environmental struggles of our time means giving people the power to tell their own stories of their connection to the land and their fight to protect it."

Throughout the film, tribal elders and youth talk about their way of life, dependence on salmon, and the looming threat of Pebble Mine.  Yup’ik elder and spokesman for Nunamta Aulukestai Bobby Andrew says, “We can’t eat gold.  But we can eat salmon.”  Alaska Native youth Petla Noden noted that “salmon is our life force. Our blood.  It’s our main source of life.”

“If there was no fish, I think that our culture would just completely die,” said Rebels to the Pebble youth activist Heidi Kritz. 

WeCantEatGold KidsCutSalmon.jpg

We Can’t Eat Gold captures families and communities catching, preparing, and smoking salmon the traditional way.  It explores the impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.  And, most importantly, it provides a vehicle for Alaska Natives—a group whose narrative has been historically neglected by the lower 48—to share their stories. 

WeCantEatGold SmokedSalmon.jpg

Their stories provide a shocking glimpse into Bristol Bay’s future if the Pebble Mine were built.  As Curyung Chief Tim Tilden noted, it’s not a matter of if Pebble Mine leaks, it’s when.  One commercial fishing captain described Bristol Bay as “God’s country” and wept at the thought that Pebble Mine would take a “shot” at it. 

"The World Premier on April 6th is a turning point for the small community of Alaskans who created this film through many labors of love," says Tucker ."Now we are reaching out to find creative ways to share our documentary in communities around the world so that Alaska Natives not only get a chance to speak up, but also to be heard before others decide what’s to become of their homeland."

Click here to stop foreign mining companies from destroying Bristol Bay with their proposed Pebble Mine.  And for those of you in the Ithaca area, go see the world premiere of We Can’t Eat Gold playing at the Cinemopolis theatre on Saturday, April 6th at 2pm.

Photo Credit: "We Can't Eat Gold" Gallery

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

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