Preserving Culture, But Moving From Home as the Permafrost Melts

The village of Newtok, Alaska is subsiding into a nearby river as the permafrost beneath it melts. Villagers want to preserve their heritage, but face moving from their homeland.
December 13, 2010, 9am PST | Nate Berg
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This piece from Orion looks at the local culture of about 340 villagers who are having to transplant themselves to a new piece of land.

"Newtok lost nearly eighty feet of shoreline last year, and seventy the year before. 'It gets a little worse every year,' tribal administrator Stanley Tom tells me as we wing our way a few hundred feet above the ninety-four roadless miles of tundra between the city of Bethel and his village. As miles of bleak, white flatness scroll out beneath us, he describes every attempt that has been made to protect the village, most recently an elaborate network of boardwalks built above the permafrost. For most of the summer the boardwalks float and sway on spongy mud. Some have even sunk into the tundra, along with at least one corner of almost every house. Some of the village's structures, poised perilously at water's edge, have already been abandoned. Except for the recently constructed school, there are no level structures or surfaces left in Newtok."

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Published on Sunday, December 12, 2010 in Orion
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