Kivalina, or Kivaliniq, in Iñupiaq, is a coastal village situated atop two square miles at the southern tip of a narrow, eight-mile long barrier reef separating the Chukchi Sea from the Kivalina River. The barrier reef, which creates the Kivalliik Channel, was originally known as Sinigaqmiut, the channel place. By air, Kivalina is 80 miles northwest of Kotzebue.
For more than 1,500 years, the barrier reef where Kivalina is located has been a stopping - off place for seasonal travelers between the Arctic coastal areas and the Kotzebue Sound region.
The first recorded history of Kivalina occurred in 1847 when a Russian naval officer mistook a seasonal hunting camp at the north end of Kivalina Lagoon – a few miles from the location of modern-day Kivalina – as a permanent settlement, the name of which he logged as “Kivualinagmut.”
From 1896 to 1902, United States federal programs transported reindeer to the Kivalina area and funded the training of some residents as reindeer herders.
Kivalina was located at its current location in 1905 when the Bureau of Indian Affairs built a school on the southern tip of the island. This compelled the people of the original Kivalina as well as communities inland and north and south along the coast to migrate to the Kivalina created by the BIA.
The first post office in this new Kivalina was established in 1940. The first airstrip was built in 1960. Kivalina incorporated as a city in 1969. During the 1970s, a wave of new houses, a new school and a modern electric system were constructed in the village. Today, Kivalina is notable as the only village in the region whose inhabitants hunt the bowhead whale.
The original population of the community now known as Kivalina consisted of survivors of the aboriginal Kivalinarmiut Society, who inhabited the original Kivalina, along with displaced Iñupiaq from the Shishmaref and Noatak Valley regions who were induced by the Bureau of Indian Affairs School to relocate to the barrier reef village.
Starvation and disease brought by outsiders wiped out more than 70 percent of Kivalina’s original population in the early 1900s. In 1920, Kivalina was estimated to have 87 residents, down from 350 to 400 in 1906. In 1970, the population had more than doubled to 188. Today, approximately 374 people live in Kivalina, marking a hard-won return to its historic population level. 96.26 % of Kivalina residents are Iñupiaq Eskimos.
CLIMATE AND TOPOGRAPHY
The topography of Kivalina consists of a sand and gravel ocean spit. The average low temperature during January is 15 degrees below zero. The average high in July is 57 degrees. Temperature extremes have been measured from 54 degrees below zero to 85 degrees above. Snowfall averages 57 inches per year. Rainfall averages 8.6 inches. Climate change is affecting Kivalina. Historically, sea ice has shielded the village from cold weather storm waves and surges. But the ice is forming later and melting sooner, leaving Kivalina vulnerable. As a result, the barrier reef where the village is located is eroding.
Kivalina's economy is based on subsistence hunting and fishing. Traditional game include: bowhead whale; walrus; bearded seal; caribou; salmon; Dolly Varden trout; codfish and whitefish. Full and part-time jobs supplement the local economy. The largest employer in the village is the Northwest Arctic Borough School District. The second largest is the Native Store in Kivalina. Other employers include: the Red Dog Mine, which is located 52 miles east of Kivalina; Maniilaq Association and NANA Regional Corporation. The U.S Postal Service, regional airlines, the IRA tribal council and local stores provide additional jobs. A few residents have commercial fishing permits. Local artisans specialize in carving ivory and producing jewelry from caribou hooves and whalebones.
TRANSPORTATION SERVICES AND FACILITIES
The basic modes of transportation to and from Kivalina are plane, small boat and snowmachine. No roads connect the village with the rest of Alaska.
Air – A state-owned airstrip, 3,000’ long by 60’ wide, is constructed of gravel atop metal matting. It services daily round-trip flights from Kotzebue and twice-weekly flights from Point Hope. Bering Air and Era Aviation both provide regularly scheduled passenger air service to Kivalina. Round-trip tickets to Kotzebue cost around $250. Round-trip tickets to Point Hope cost around $160.
Ryan Air flies cargo into Kivalina from Kotzebue for 73 cents per pound for major loads (more than 5,000 pounds) to 86 cents per pound for loads under 500 pounds. Bering and Era also fly cargo into the village for similar rates.
Water – Northland Services barges fuel, automobiles, groceries, household goods and general supplies to Kivalina during the narrow annual window of July and August. The cost for shipping a car to Kivalina from Anchorage is around $7,385.60. Household goods and general supplies cost around $14,735.36 per 20’ shipping container, each of which can hold up to 60,000 pounds of cargo and can be shipped from Anchorage or Seattle. It’s common for Kivalina residents to go in together on a twenty-footer. Barging dry (not frozen or refrigerated) groceries to Kivalina from Anchorage or Seattle costs around $1,254.19-$1,690.17 per 1500 pounds.
Historically the Chukchi Sea has been open to small boat traffic from mid-June to early November, although global climate trends are pushing the annual thaw earlier and freeze-up later. Small boats are used for inter-village travel, hauling cargo, fishing and hunting.
Land – Apart from cars, which are driven in Kivalina and its immediate environs only, residents utilize all-terrain vehicles for land transportation in the summer and snowmachines in the winter. Two main hunting trails lead out of Kivalina along the Kivalina and Wulik Rivers.
Public facilities in Kivalina include the City Office/Tribal Office, the U.S. Post Office, the Kivalina Native Store (a general store owned by ANICA, Inc.), the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) power plant, a heavy equipment building, the airport building, an armory, the McQueen School, a village-run bingo hall and a washeteria with washing machines, dryers and showers. Kivalina also has two churches – the Episcopal Church and the Friends Church – and two small privately owned stores that carry snacks and miscellaneous dry goods.
There are 85 residential housing structures in Kivalina. They consist primarily of single-family dwellings, with a few duplexes and trailers. The average family household size is 4.4 persons. The Northwest Iñupiat Housing Authority, based in Kotzebue, provides construction services based on HUD contracts.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES
Water – Kivalina’s public water source is the Wulik River. Water is pumped from the river via a three-mile surface transmission line to a pair of storage tanks. One holds 500,000 gallons of water, the other 670,000 gallons. Along the way its chlorinated and fluoridated. Kivalina operates on a “fill-and-draw” system, meaning the water is pumped and stored during summer for use during the winter. In warm-weather months, residents haul and treat their own water individually. The public tank stores a six-month supply that lasts from December through May. Residents haul their own water from the tank during these months. A few residents have tanks that supply running water to their kitchens, but private homes in Kivalina lack full indoor plumbing. The village school and health clinic are fully plumbed with individual water and sewer lines.
Sewage – Household sewage is hauled in honeybuckets to four disposal bunkers located throughout the community.
Solid Waste Disposal – Residents transport their solid waste to a landfill located 1.25 miles from town. The dump site lacks and perimeter fence and draws wild animals, including bears.
Law Enforcement Services – Kivalina has one position for a Village Public Safety Officer and one Village Police Officer. Serious incidents are handled by the State Troopers based in Kotzebue.
Other Services and Utilities
Health Clinic – Maniilaq Association operates the Kivalina Clinic. Three health aides provide basic medical services from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week. The aides are on call 24 hours. The single-story clinic has a waiting room, two exam rooms, an office, a communications room and a bathroom. The Kivalina Clinic health aides and patients have direct access to the Manilaq Health Center in Kotzebue, which offers doctor consults via teleconferencing. Manilaq Association transports emergency patients to Kotzebue via its own Medivac plane.
Electricity – The Alaska Village Electric Co-Op (AVEC) provides electricity to Kivalina. The AVEC generating facility has diesel generators with a peak capacity of 1,040 kilowatts. Monthly residential rates factoring in the Power Cost Equalization (PCE) subsidy are $0.2206 per kilowatt-hour for the first 1-500 kWh, $0.6522 per kilowatt-hour for 501-700 kWh per month and $0.5522 per kilowatt-hour for every kWh per month over 700. Small commercial rates are $0.6522 per kilowatt-hour for the first 1-700 kWh per month and $0.5522 per kilowatt-hour for every kWh per month over 700.
Telephone – Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone Cooperative provides a variety of landline phone services to Kivalina residents and businesses, and long-distance service is provided through a combination of AT&T, Anchorage-based GCI and Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone.
|Basic local service (single landline) - Includes taxes, fees. Additional charges for optional features||
Access Line/Residential: $16.55
Federally Mandated Per Access Line: $6.50
Inside Wire Charge: $1.60
Universal Single Line: $0.01
Federal Tax: 3%
Business Phone (Access) Line: $24.50
Federally Mandated Per Access Line: $9.20
Inside Wire Charge: $2.25
Universal Single Line: $0.20
Local Tax: 6%
Federal Tax: 3%
|Long distance||$.07/minute + $5 monthly fee||$.09/minute no monthly charge|
|Cellular phone service||OTZ cell service does not work in Kivalina. (GCI cell service does)|
64/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan
512/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan
|*Internet service discounts are provided to customers with OTZ long distance and/or cellular phone plans.|
Kivalina residents tune in to KOTZ-AM, a public radio station broadcast from Kotzebue, and read the Arctic Sounder, a regional newspaper. Cable television service is provided by the City of Kivalina.
The McQueen School, a combined elementary, middle and high school, educates about 136 students per year from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. McQueen School employs one principal and 9 teachers. It has nine classrooms, a woodshop, a gymnasium, a darkroom and a library. Post-secondary education is available in Kivalina via online classes provided by Chukchi Campus, a rural division of the University of Alaska.