Native Land Erodes Away On Alaska North Shore As Legislators Fight Over Name

Kivalina Is Washing Into the Sea

Part of the Kavlinia shoreline.
Part of the Kavlinia shoreline. | Source

Native American Lands Are Physically Wasting Away

Erosion became visible and troubling along America's shorelines in the 1950s. By the 1990s, friends of mine reported that their New Jersey childhood homes were washed away with a new shoreline having moved inland.

Our Earth's moving seas and oceans, because of daily tidal rotation and weather events that cause rising and lowering water levels, lap at the shorelines and erode them. This constant movement washes away land to become silt at the bottom of the waters. However, without the movement of the waters, the Earth would die.

Water is also destructive, destroying homes on Alaskan's North Shore; however, legislators seem more concerned about the name of an Alaskan mountain. Is this true?

Point A On the Map Below

Kivalina, on the edge of the Chukchi Sea.
Kivalina, on the edge of the Chukchi Sea. | Source

Reference Map: Erosion Of the North Shore

show route and directions
A markerChukchi Sea -
Chukchi Sea
[get directions]

B markerKivalina AK -
Kivalina, AK, USA
[get directions]

Population 403 in 2015, located over 80 miles north of the Arctic Circle. President Obama visited in 2015.

C markerMount Denali -
Mount Denali, Alaska, USA
[get directions]

Athabaskans still live here as well as on the North Slope, whose people are moving inland during the 2000s and 2010s.

D markerWainwright AK -
Wainwright, AK, USA
[get directions]

Severe erosion noted.

E markerBarrow AK -
Barrow, AK, USA
[get directions]

Severe shoreline derision is happening here.

F markerKotzebue -
Kotzebue, AK 99752, USA
[get directions]

President Obama visited.

Kivalina Worries About Shore Erosion in 2013.

Athabaskans - Koyukon people on the Koyukuk River in 1898. Athabaskans named Mt. Denali.
Athabaskans - Koyukon people on the Koyukuk River in 1898. Athabaskans named Mt. Denali. | Source

Athabaskans Owned the Land and Named Mt. Denali

Many of the Indigenous Peoples along the North Shore whose villages are becoming smaller each year are Athabaskan, of which twelve related languages are spoken in Alaska. Each of them has a name for Mt. Denali, many sounding similar. The native peoples have lived in Alasaka for over 10,000 years.

The Athabaskans named the mountain first, calling it in effect, The Tall One or The High One. The Russians landed, settled here, and called it Big Mountain. Later, a lone politically-minded gold prospector named it for his favorite political candidate around the turn of the 20th century. The US Federal Government jumped on board that name.

Long talks and meetings about climate change do not help the residents of Kivalina now.

Villages Under Water By 2025

By the year 2025, the year that at least two outer space projects plan to be up and running on Mars, The US Army Corps of Engineers forecasts that the native village of Kivalina will be submerged. Other villages along the North Shore have already disappeared, their inhabitants having moved miles inland to resettle.

The thin ice at the North Shore make it impossible for the Inupiat to build their whaling camps and catch food in the sea. Large animals approved for hunting, like caribou, are leaving the area. The village captured over 80 seals every year for food, but in 2015, the number was fewer than 10.

No running water exists in Kivalina, because the Corps of Engineers has found that the village will cease to exist as a result of natural actions. No government will invest money into infrastructure there. The graveyards have been washed away.

President Obama saw all this on visits to the North Shore of Alaska. Will his administration do more to help in addition to allows Mt. McKinley revert to Mount McKinley?

Perhaps he could declare the North Shore it a disaster area.

Climate is going to change on a planet whether humanity helps to cause that change or not. Long talks and meetings about climate change do not help the Kivalinans now. Their shoreline recedes three feet per year, they have no running water and no flush toilets. They need help to move their village. Can their country's President help?

Kivalina Is an Island

A markerKivalina -
Kivalina, AK, USA
[get directions]

While Indigenous People in Kivalina and other North Shore villages lose their homes and communties, legislators in Ohio fight with President Obama about the name of an Alaskan mountain.

Mount Denali

Denali National Park cover 6,000,000 acres.
Denali National Park cover 6,000,000 acres. | Source

William McKinley was not President of the United States and Alaska was not a US State when a gold prospector, without legal authority, decided to name the tallest mountain in the USA for his favorite candidate in 1896.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Great horned owl and owlets near Mt. Denali.A gryfalcon, similar area.
Great horned owl and owlets near Mt. Denali.
Great horned owl and owlets near Mt. Denali. | Source
A gryfalcon, similar area.
A gryfalcon, similar area. | Source
Source

Ohio could rename one of its natural sites for President McKinley. While Native Americans might not appreciate the Ohio River (Big River) becoming the McKinley River, other sites exit as possibilities.

Golden Eagle in Denali. ow about the McKinley Eagle?
Golden Eagle in Denali. ow about the McKinley Eagle? | Source
Snowshoe Hare
Snowshoe Hare | Source

Name Something Else for McKinley, Who Was Not Connected To the Mountain

The International Space Station crews can see the open waterways of the Northwest passage in 2015, and NASA satellite telescopes and cameras have photographed it for several-years. The ice that jammed the passage shut had melted away.

On the ground in Alaska, we heard about Native Americans/Alaskans moving 40 miles inland in the 2000s in order to escape the change in shoreline that decreased the land of their villages.

In 2015, because of hurt feelings of my fellow Ohioans over the re-re-naming of Mount Denali in respect of our Athabaskan Peoples, attention was brought to focus on another eroding village. President Barack Obama visited it as he flew to Alaska in order to formalize the return of Mount McKinley - renamed such in honor of presidential candidate William McKinley by a gold prospector in the Alaska Territory who supported McKinley's political party - to Mount Denali.

America is large and must contain another landmark to name for President William McKinley. He was not connected with Alaska, yet a few Ohio legislators take umbrage with returning the name of the mountain to that given by its Indigenous People.

Ohio legislators point out that McKinley ran for POTUS in part upon connecting American currency to the Gold Standard and gold was found in Alaska. Admittedly, this is a sort of connection between the candidate and the Alaska Territory. However, plenty of gold was found in California as well.

Still, our native friends, our First Peoples, are losing their land. Let the People have their mountain name, especially since it is already recognized long term by the State of Alaska.

An Alaskan state agency named the mountain Mount Denali years ago. That agency approached it's similar agency in Washington DC in order to lobby for making the name nationally recognized. This attempt failed.

By Any Other Name...

What should we name the tall mountain?

  • Mt. McKinley - That prospector was pretty smart.
  • Mt. Denali - It is already Mt. Denali, anyway, for about 10,000 years. Give McKinley another mountain, river, animal or such as his tribute.
See results without voting
"Call me McKinley."
"Call me McKinley." | Source

Eroding Shores and People of Its Villages

What should America do about the Alaskan North Shore erosion?

  • Follow Ohio and keep fighting over the name of Mt. Denali/McKinley
  • Declare the North Shore a National Disaster Area and help the people move.
  • Visit Alaska before it sinks into the sea.
See results without voting
Lynx wants to know: "What is more important, the people or the mountain?"
Lynx wants to know: "What is more important, the people or the mountain?" | Source

May a Denali Animal Represent William McKinley?

Whom would our elect McKinley's animal?

  • Golden Eagle - The McKinley Golden Eagle
  • Lynx - The McKinley Lynx
See results without voting

William McKinley, 25th President of the United States

President McKinley looks a little like either animal.
President McKinley looks a little like either animal. | Source

© 2015 Patty Inglish

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Comments 11 comments

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 15 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Patty. Well, there are certainly layers involved in the reporting here. Of all the facets of your presentation, what the mountain is called seems to be of least important. Why someone in Ohio would be upset by this is beyond me.

Helping those Americans that reside in the state of Alaska seems the most important issue. The U.S. leadership seems always to focus on the least impoirtant issue and push the tough issues aside for someone else to solve.


drbj profile image

drbj 15 months ago from south Florida

That about sums up our government today, Patty. Finding it more important to rename a mountain instead of finding a way to help the inhabitants of this village relocate to safer ground.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean

Could naming the mountain become an item on a political ballot (joking)? You're right about land erosion being the more important consideration. The united effort of relocation and rebuilding may grow into greater unity enough to cause agreement on a name. Thanks for making us aware.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 15 months ago from North America Author

@mckbirdbks - Items like this make me want to move to Emerald Wells or become a Carriage Driver or both!

I am disappointed in Ohio's Rob Portman and the others that are throwing hissy fits over "losing a Republican name" on something. As our Jack Hanna says sometimes, "Give me a break!"


Flipsgeraldine profile image

Flipsgeraldine 15 months ago from Houston, Texas

Wow, now we have a general idea about what happened to ancient cities that are no more. Nature swallowed them up. Good work Patty Inglish, MS


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 15 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Patty

Its the same the world over (sad to say) by 2030 entire Pacific nations will be underwater yet we argue over naming rights of things that aren't our to name!

Its probably not just helping the villages to relocate but also making sure they've got a future and their traditions survive the transition (how do a coastal people used to fishing and hunting on the ice deal with living miles inland?)

I think there are answers, but it requires listening to the locals and thats something governments aren't good at!

Lawrence


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 15 months ago from North America Author

Thanks for your input, Lawrence.

I don't know how the Native Alaskans will live further inland, but one documentary suggests that they think the shoreline will follow them. Still, with the sea ice melting, they will lose the wildlife that lives on that disappearing ice. The fish have been migrating elsewhere to cooler waters. You're right that the government needs to ask them questions and then listen.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 14 months ago

What an interesting article. I didn't realize all this was going on over a mountain. I hope they settle this soon before the land falls away.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 14 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I hit a wall when reading this when it was first published: " The native peoples have lived in Alasaka for over 10,000 years." It just boggles the mind. If there are traceable contiguous and continuous ancestral connections dating for that long we don't just have a "today" issue. The scientific and anthropological interest alone should create an urgency to best deal with the entire situation immediately. For ten thousand years a culture has dealt with the obvious ebb and flow of coastal waters and survived. We have much to learn from them. Surely answers are there to be found regarding our current concern of climate caused changes in coastline.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 14 months ago from North America Author

@teaches12345 - The mountain naming is definitely a political argument. It was named long ago and re-named unofficially by someone who did nto own it, in order to honor a political party. Kind of immature.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 14 months ago from North America Author

@Ericdierker - It's disturbing that the Alaskan north shores are not a national disaster area. The Indigenous people there have lots of answers for survival, but now they also have questions; and scientists do not seem much interested in either. It is a long way to the nation's capitol, but if more government leaders visited, interest might arise. Settling more of the internal areas of Alaska may be a partial answer.

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