Kivalina, Alaska, is pursuing planned community relocation as a comprehensive strategy to adapt to a climate changing–world. Kivalina people have been pursuing relocation ever since the U.S. government forcibly consolidated the Kivalliñiġmiut onto a shifting barrier island at the coastal edge of their traditional 2,200-square-mile territory in 1905.
Kivalina’s relocation plans encompass a comprehensive strategy to protect the village from present and future climate harms, and to improve current living conditions by providing more room to build new homes and alleviate overcrowding, provide access to water and sanitation services (homes in Kivalina still do not have running water or toilets), and expand economic opportunities by connecting village residents to the mainland.
The City Council, the Native Village of Kivalina Council, and the Kivalina Relocation Planning Committee have partnered with Re-Locate to design and build the Kivalina Archive— a living online repository that preserves the digital cultural history of the people’s relocation efforts. The Kivalina Archive collects and digitizes thousands of artifacts relating to Kivalina’s relocation history into a single platform, creating a multimedia narration of the past, present, and future efforts and a space for collective engagement, knowledge transfer, and idea sharing. The Kivalina Archive makes the relocation planning documents, studies, texts, photos, and videos created and stored by people in Kivalina over the last 100 years accessible across the village and worldwide, and activates this material to support community-led relocation planning efforts.
The Kivalina Archive places records of government studies documenting the "official" history alongside a history from below. Cultural protocols refine content access permissions and enable Kivalina users to curate their own relocation history and to restrict culturally sensitive content to protect data sovereignty. All media uploaded to the Kivalina Archive by content stewards is geolocated and represented on an editable map that encompasses Kivalina’s traditional territory, so that Kivalina’s rich history can be understood and interrogated as another layer of Alaska’s changing social, environmental, political, climatic, and economic landscapes.
The Kivalina Archive places records of government studies documenting the "official" history alongside a relocation history from below (stories of relocation planning and everyday life as told by the Kivalina people). Cultural protocols refine content access permissions and enable Kivalina users to curate and restrict access to their own digital heritage. Media uploaded to the Kivalina Archive by content stewards can be geolocated and represented on an editable map through use of a point, line, and polygon drawing tool that encompasses the whole world but places Kivalina’s traditional estate at the center. Kivalina’s rich history is understood and interrogated as a prominent layer of Alaska’s changing social, environmental, political, climatic, and economic landscapes.
The Kivalina Archive consciously positions Kivalina’s relocation history within a local understanding of the territory, people’s knowledge of its boundaries and landmarks, and the more abstract conversion of aboriginal title to corporate lands under Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act ("ANCSA"), which affects Kivalina’s relocation site selection options in addition to climate factors such as permafrost thaw and coastal erosion. By making these various competing interpretations visible on a single map, and by acknowledging their practical implications on relocation planning decision-making, the Kivalina Archive platform visibly recognizes the criticality of political dialogue, public record keeping, public record making, and informed decision making to the success of community-based relocation planning efforts.
The goal of the Kivalina Archive is to build the communications infrastructure necessary to make visible, understandable, and actionable a village relocation process that is community-generated and self-determined, and that represents the demands and desires of the people of Kivalina to their allies, governing bodies, potential funders, and other climate displaced communities around the world. The Kivalina Archive is a dynamic and ongoing preservation of Kivalina’s past, present, and future.
The Kivalina Archive tells the story of how, in facing the challenge of relocating their village, the people of Kivalina are reimagining how we all will come to live in a climate changed–world. We aspire for this archive to connect Kivalina and its partners to other relocating communities seeking similar tools for curating and preserving a living history of community-led efforts to address climate and other forms of displacement.
The Kivalina Archive was designed by Re-Locate, a collective of ethnographic artists who have worked for the past six years with the people of Kivalina in solidarity with their ongoing struggle to relocate. Re-Locate projects are co-developed in Kivalina and involve transdisciplinary partners from around the world. Re-Locate is an affiliate project of the climate justice nonprofit Three Degrees Warmer.
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Kivalina Relocation Planning Committee
Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington: Funding for project development, content digitization, and public launch