The Last Great
Wilderness Slide Show
The Last Great Wilderness slide show was created by a group of amateur activists in the late 1980s. The music, images, and narration are a product of their time, but the show’s message and content seem surprisingly fresh and relevant today. Indeed, the show broke from conventional portrayals of the “last great wilderness” to present the Arctic Refuge in a broader frame. Beginning with the simple evocation of nature scenes, it becomes steadily more complex and wide-ranging to encompass wildlife migrations, Indigenous rights, and the need to transition to a more sustainable energy system.
The show played a vital role in building alliances between environmentalists and the Gwich’in Nation and in fostering grassroots action to keep oil drills out of the Arctic Refuge. For almost two decades, Lenny Kohm took the show on the road—presenting it in libraries, church basements, university lecture halls, and other venues across the United States. On these tours, he was often joined by Gwich’in representatives who explained to grassroots audiences how drilling in the refuge would jeopardize their culture, food security, and relations with caribou and the land.
The Last Great Wilderness show features wildlife, landscape, and oil development photographs by Wilbur Mills, Pamela A. Miller, Fran Mauer, and others as well as more than eighty photographs taken by Lenny Kohm in Gwich’in communities in Canada and Alaska. Originally presented with two slide projectors, a fade-dissolve unit, and a sound system, it was recently digitized by Richard Dale, a member of the group that produced the slide show in 1988. This digitized version tries to replicate the experience of the original show—including the fading and dissolving between slides.
“The petroleum industry’s claims of a clean operation are simply wishful thinking. There is mounting public evidence that petroleum development activities in the Arctic are irreparably damaging the environment.”
— The Last Great Wilderness
“That’s our survival. If there’s no caribou, we’re going to have a hard time up here. And I hope people from the South listen to us and try to get the picture that we talk about.”
— Randall Tetlichi, interview in the Last Great Wilderness show
“It seems to me that the time has come to listen to the wisdom of these people, people who have been stewards of the land for thousands of years.”
— Lenny Kohm, in The Last Great Wilderness
“We’re not asking for pity. We seek understanding and acceptance for our knowledge of what we can share. We need to be listened to. We need to be partners in all decision making for our future. Because they will never get rid of us. We’ll always be here.”
— Norma Kassi, speaking at Last Great Wilderness show, 1995
Photographs on this page by Lenny Kohm. Top right photo by Pamela A. Miller.