In Shismaref, Alaska, an Iñupiat village that is home to about 600 people, climate change poses more than a physical threat, it threatens the community’s culture. The village is located on Sarichef Island, about a quarter of a mile wide, near the Bering Strait. Sea ice around the island used to protect it from the ocean’s fierce waves. Permafrost created the town’s foundation. But warming temperatures mean the ice is forming later and later, and the permafrost is thawing.
A recent hearing held in Savoonga, Alaska, focused on housing overcrowding and affordability and its impacts on Alaska Native communities. United States Sen. Lisa Murkowski chaired the hearing, which was the first to consider these issues.
The federal spending bill signed on March 23 included $15 million to help relocate an Alaskan village that is threatened by rising water due to climate change. The Ninglick River is heading toward Newtok homes and structures at a rate of about 70 feet per year.
Native language experts say most of the languages recognized by the state of Alaska could go extinct by century’s end.
About 8,000 people live in the 13 mostly Yup’ik villages in Alaska’s Kusilvak census area, from Hooper Bay on the coast to Emmonak at the mouth of the Yukon River to Russian Mission upriver. The region’s isolation adds 40 percent or more to the cost of goods for shipping