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Alaska poet crowdsources ancestral visit to King Island

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published May 29, 2013

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.

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