AD Main Menu

Alaska poet crowdsources ancestral visit to King Island

Alaska Dispatch
King Island, in the Bering Sea, was once the winter home for nearly 200 people. When the school closed, in 1959, people started moving away. No one has lived on the island since the 1970s, making the village a ghost town. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
A statue of Jesus looks over King Island. The island, located in the Bering Sea, was once the winter home for nearly 200 people. When the school closed, in 1959, people started moving away. No one has lived on the island since the 1970s, making the village a ghost town. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
King Island, in the Bering Sea, was once the winter home for nearly 200 people. When the school closed, in 1959, people started moving away. No one has lived on the island since the 1970s, making the village a ghost town. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
King Island, in the Bering Sea, was once the winter home for nearly 200 people, who used it as a base to hunt marine mammals, including walrus. When the school closed, in 1959, people started moving away. No one has lived on the island since the 1970s, making the village a ghost town. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
A walrus on the sea ice near King Island. The island is located in the Bering Sea, an increasingly important arctic shipping route. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Walrus hauled out on the sea ice near King Island. The island is located in the Bering Sea, an increasingly important arctic shipping route. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Walrus hauled out on the sea ice near King Island. The island is located in the Bering Sea, an increasingly important arctic shipping route. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Walrus hauled out on the sea ice near King Island. The island is located in the Bering Sea, an increasingly important arctic shipping route. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Walrus hauled out on the sea ice near King Island. The island is located in the Bering Sea, an increasingly important arctic shipping route. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
King Island, in the Bering Sea, was once the winter home for nearly 200 people. When the school closed, in 1959, people started moving away. No one has lived on the island since the 1970s, making the village a ghost town. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
King Island, in the Bering Sea, was once the winter home for nearly 200 people. When the school closed, in 1959, people started moving away. No one has lived on the island since the 1970s, making the village a ghost town. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
King Island, in the Bering Sea, was once the winter home for nearly 200 people. When the school closed, in 1959, people started moving away. No one has lived on the island since the 1970s, making the village a ghost town. March 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo

Anchorage poet Joan Naviyuk Kane has successfully raised enough money, via a crowdsourcing campaign, for an ambitious trip to remote King Island where her Iñupiat Eskimo ancestors once lived.

Through the website USA Projects, the 35-year-old Kane was able to surpass her goal of $31,000 -- by a long shot -- to help fund a two-week visit for 20 King Island descendants. Kane's campaign still has 27 days to go, and it's already surpassed $49,000 in donations, with one generous patron contributing $32,000.

Kane told the Juneau Empire, that she's "still in disbelief" and that she's "been trying to wrap (her) head around it."

King Island, known as Ugiuviak by its former inhabitants, about 2 and a half miles of landmass located some 40 miles west of Cape Douglas and 90 miles from Nome, in Alaska's Bering Sea. The island was formally home to the Inupait village of Ukivok, a place notoriously difficult to get to as large vessels often have difficulty approaching it and there are no landing strips for airplanes. 

Ukivok sits on the south side of the island. It has been a "ghost village" since mid 1900s when its residents were, according to Kane's USA Projects profile, "forcibly relocated ... under pressure from the federal government’s policy of assimilating Native Americans." Though the residents are gone, eerie stilted structures still remain. A testament to the island's rich history. 

Kane told the Empire that in order to reach Ukivok, she and her fellow travelers will likely have to use a helicopter, small boats, or both.

Kane plans to travel to King Island in July. She'll use her findings as inspiration for a new book of poetry, non-fiction articles and a blog addressing her ancestral homeland.

Kane is the author of two books of poetry and a full-length play. She recently received a fellowship from the Rasmuson Foundation to work on a novel.