I think it is important to note right away that this is not the first time Newtok has had to relocate. In 1949 the Bureau for Indian Affairs (BIA) built schools in all Alaska Native communities after decades of forcing children to leave home to attend boarding schools. The BIA chose the precarious site that became Newtok without input from the community. As early as 1994, the people of Newtok began planning to eventually relocate again due to erosion and flooding. Then, with climate change, the situation became urgent. It has taken nearly 25 years for Newtok to finally receive the funding and support to complete the process.
Newtok is home to some of the kindest people I have ever met. Their strength, positivity, and humor in the face of so many changes and challenges was truly inspiring. They also have the world’s cutest population of eclectic dogs.
Thank you Lisa Charles, Martha Kasaiuli, Walter Queenie, Lala, Arnie Jay Tee, Katie Basile, and everyone in Alaska who helped make this story possible. I also want to thank Sadie Quarrier for EVERYTHING, Craig Welch for writing such a thoughtful article and Dominique Hildebrand for your awesome editing.