Take A Tour Of King Island, Alaska’s Ghost Eskimo Village
Take a tour of King Island and discover Alaska‘s ghost Eskimo village, located in one of the most remote parts of North America. The Inupiat Eskimos have called this place home for thousands of years, until 1970, when the last natives left the island for good.
Back in 1959, the Bureau of India Affairs decided to close down the only school located on King Island. The school was situated in the heart of the village, and like all the cliff-hanging houses of Ukivok, it now lies abandoned.
The Bureau decided to close the school because a huge boulder located on top of the rocky island was a real threat to the children and to the locals. It was believed that the boulder will collapse and fall at any moment and the school was directly in its path.
Children were sent away to school on the mainland and gradually people started to leave the island. They were given no choice than to abandon their homes and childhood places and follow their children in starting a new life. The Inupiat Eskimos had a very traditional lifestyle and lived off the land. They gathered edible plants all year long and hunted walrus. However, the elders could not survive without the help of the younger generation that moved to the mainland, and the last native inhabitants were force to move away in 1970.
After almost half a century, their houses are still standing proud, along with the school (pictured above) that was supposed to be demolished by the boulder.
During the summer of 2015, an Alaskan poet and the daughter of a displaced King’s Island family, Joan Naviyuk Kane, managed to raise $40,000 to help the last living native people of the island to see their homeland again. King Island is a really difficult place to reach. Airplanes can’t land on the island due to its cliff formations and boats anchor ashore because there are no beaches, only boulders and sharp cliffs.
The only way to reach the island is by traveling with skin boats that have been used by natives for thousands of years. It takes 12 hours to reach King Island from the mainland, and this is why the people that left the island couldn’t come back. Until 2015, at least.
Joan Naviyuk Kane managed to set everything up, including transportation for all the elders and brought 2 weeks worth of supplies for the whole group to have while staying on the island. The natives that were once forced to move away from their childhood place got a chance to see the place they call home one more time.
They revisited their abandoned homes, ate salmon-berries, listened to the birds sing and enjoyed being together like they were almost 50 years ago when they were forced to leave the island for good.