Robert's Story

Robert Thompson
Wilderness isn’t just a place where Robert Thompson goes for recreation. It’s where he lives. His village, Kaktovik, lies within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

After spending more than 20 years making his living as a fur trapper near Alaska’s Lake Minchumina, Robert Thompson opened his business, Kaktovik Arctic Adventures. He now acts as a guide, taking people to view polar bears and raft down rivers in the wildlands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

A native activist

“My people have lived in this Arctic region for thousands of years,” says Robert Thompson, a 65-year-old Inupiat Eskimo. He is sought out by scientists, journalists and photographers from around the world for his intimate knowledge of local rivers, plants, land and animals.

“Our culture is based on hunting activities both on land and in the ocean. Our culture depends on a clean environment,” Robert says.

He is a vocal defender of the Arctic Refuge and an opponent of oil drilling in the region. His activist efforts are for his own sake as well as for the sake of future generations, which includes his five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

“For the offshore areas to be exploited for oil is not acceptable to me,” Robert says. “The fact that my people live here is directly related to the marine environment. The central part of our culture is the bowhead whale. An oil spill could mean the end of the whales and our culture.”

Hope for the future

In Robert’s work, he has guided writers and photographers who have taken the story of the Arctic Refuge to the rest of the world. He is putting together a book of photographs donated by his clients, because he wants to inform the public about what is at stake if oil companies are ever allowed to drill in this pristine place.

I believe a movement is about to happen, and people will do what is required so that future generations will be able to enjoy the land as we know it.

“It is my sincere belief that if people know what is here, they will want to save it,” he says. “[I] hope that we all will make the move to clean energy so our environment will be saved,” Robert says.

“I am optimistic and do believe a movement is about to happen, and people will do what is required so that future generations will be able to enjoy the land as we know it.”

You can help protect Alaska's wilderness. With a small donation, you can become a Wilderness Society member.