The Arctic Sounder

Young Kivalina hunter shoots polar bear that was headed to fish drying racks

A 20-year-old Kivalina resident shot a polar bear that was swimming toward the village’s fish drying racks on Sunday afternoon. Following the tradition, Sakkan Adams gifted the meat and fur of his first catch of this kind to local Elders.

“I feel proud to have my first polar bear,” said Adams, who has also harvested many other animals before.

A four-wheeler driver first spotted the young polar bear on the Kivalina evacuation road that connects the village to the new school, as well as to berry picking and duck hunting spots, said volunteer first responder Replogle Swan Sr. The four-wheeler rider went back to town and announced the sighting on VHF radio.

The bear was moving toward the Ikiĝaq, drying racks made out of driftwood logs, where residents dry their meats and fish, Swan said.

“It must have been looking for food,” Swan said.

With his wife and two sons, Swan said he headed toward Ikiĝaq in a boat.

“We all didn’t see the bear walking until we saw white walking on the sand bar. So we waited till the polar bear went into deeper water,” Swan’s son Sakkan Adams said.


Adams shot the animal twice while it was swimming. The family put a rope around the bear’s neck, tied it to the boat and dragged it to the shore. Up on the grass, they skinned and butchered the animal, Adams said.

Adams and his family shared the meat with local Elders.

“The first catch of anything we give out to Elders,” Swan said. “It was my son’s first polar bear so he already picked out the Elder to give (the fur) to after it’s cleaned.”

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.