KIVALINA -- In a whirlwind visit to Northwest Alaska on an unseasonably warm day, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday told residents of this climate-threatened village that she would work with them on their relocation efforts.
Jewell is in the Arctic region at the invitation of the Alaska Federation of Natives. The state's most powerful Native organization had organized a retreat in the hub city of Kotzebue for its 37-member board and wanted Jewell to address climate change and other issues affecting Alaska Natives in the Far North.
On a side trip to Kivalina before a full day of meetings Tuesday, Jewell and her entourage of federal officials flew over sections of the frozen-white Chukchi Sea that had opened up like a flowing river – strings of seals sometimes lining the edges. The open leads are known to happen in winter, though residents said they're sometimes more extensive than they should be in February.
What is unusual is the steady warmth and shorter seasons that seem to be happening with unrelenting frequency, residents said. They told Jewell about increased melting and changes in animal behavior and also the increasing difficulty of keeping wild meat from spoiling in ice cellars.