In Northwest Alaska, the Inupiaq whaling community of Kivalina, home to around 470 people, is facing imminent relocation. The need for viable futures is urgent. Previous relocation efforts in Kivalina have stalled, leaving the community looking for alternatives. Re-Locate is a collective of ethnographic artists from around the world working with Kivalina to initiate a community-led and culturally specific relocation.

Re-Locate is building artistic and web-based platforms that intend to make the social, political, and environmental issues related to relocation visible to global audiences; support community discussion and exchange; locate, connect, and educate new relocation partners; create spaces where people in Kivalina can share original media about local ways of life; develop an infrastructure for managing local to global networks of support; host collaborative design processes that synthesize project knowledge into culturally specific planning and architecture; contribute to global efforts shaping the discourse on climate displacement; and develop practices for working in partnership with climate-displaced communities worldwide.


Renovation of Kivalina Community Center Underway

This September, Three Degrees Warmer and Re-Locate are working with carpenters from Kivalina and JADE Craftsman Builders to renovate the Kivalina Community Center. For decades, Kivalina people have gathered in the Kivalina Community Center to play games, dance, sing, eat, and welcome guests. It has also been a place where Kivalina leaders, together with their neighbors and partners, come together to discuss the future.

Today, because the building is in partial disrepair and not designed to support specific community needs such 

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Application of Ground-Penetrating Radar Imagery for Three-Dimensional Visualisation of Near-Surface Structures in Ice-Rich Permafrost, Barrow, Alaska

Application of Ground-Penetrating Radar Imagery for Three-Dimensional Visualisation of Near-Surface Structures in Ice-Rich Permafrost, Barrow, Alaska

ABSTRACT Three-dimensional ground-penetrating radar (3D GPR) was used to investigate the subsurface structure of ice-wedge polygons and other features of the frozen active layer and near-surface permafrost near Barrow, Alaska. Surveys were conducted at three sites located on landscapes of different geomorphic age. At each site, 

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Urine Recycling in Scientific American

Gee Whiz: Human Urine Is Shown to Be an Effective Agricultural Fertilizer

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Relocatable Infrastructure

For communities like Kivalina who are looking for ways to relocate and spread out into their land more easily, movable and self-sufficient water and sanitation systems could be very helpful. These same systems can also be designed for use at current village sites where water and sanitation infrastructure is usually in urgent need of improvement, and they are generally far less expensive than traditional infrastructure. Decentralized and relocatable systems, like the Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge (AKWSC) system being 

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Physics Doesn’t Negotiate

Physics Doesn’t Negotiate: Notes on the dangerous difference between science and political science

Some notes from Bill McKibben on about President Obama’s trip to Alaska.


In Memory of Etok Edwardsen: “One Bad-Ass Eskimo”

There is a legend told among the Inupiat Alaskans who live above the Arctic Circle, “Etok Tames the Green People.” It goes like this:

In the Old Days, as today, the peoples on the edge of the Arctic Sea killed whales. It’s just what they do. It’s what they eat. But the Green People didn’t like 

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Re-Locate in Huffington Post

Interior Secretary Has ‘Much to Learn’ from Kivalina’s Inupiaq Elders and Hunters about Climate Change and Village Relocation

Last Monday morning in Inupiaq Alaska, at Kivalina’s McQueen School gymnasium, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell stood from her seat at a table surrounded by community elders, hunters and search and rescue volunteers. “For the elders that are willing to open up,” she gestured, “I’d be very interested in hearing 

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An Attempt at a “Compositionist Manifesto”, Bruno Latour

“In this paper, written in the outmoded style of a ‘manifesto’, an attempt is made to use the word ‘composition’ as an alternative to critique and ‘compositionism’ as an alternative to modernism. The idea is that once the two organizing principles of nature and society are gone, one of the remaining solutions is to ‘compose’ the common world. Such a position allows an alternative view of the strange connection of modernity with the arrow of time: the Moderns might have 

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ArtPlace Names Re-Locate a Finalist for Creative Placemaking Grant

Re-Locate is one of 90 finalists for an ArtPlace America grant, an award that would fund immersive social artists and transdisciplinary partners working with Kivalina to reframe and support a community-led master planning process for village expansion.

ArtPlace invests in “‘creative placemaking’ projects that involve cross-sector partners committed to strengthening the social, physical, and economic fabric of their communities.” Forty out of nearly 1,300 nationwide applicants will receive grants.

If Re-Locate and Kivalina are selected for an 

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Tradition and Modernity: The Feasibility of Regional Architecture in Post-Modern Society, Juhani Pallasmaa on Fluxwurx

“The diversity of building in traditional societies is brought about by the impact of local conditions and the specificity of culture. In our own culture the sheer force of industrial technology, combined with mobility, mass-communication, and uniformity of life-style, is causing cultural entropy that minimalizes diversity. What is the feasibility of regional culture and architecture in a world in which two billion people gather simultaneously around TV sets to watch the same football match? Are we not gradually becoming detached 

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EPA Issues Letter of Congratulations for Biochar Project

On March 4, the international Commission for Environmental Cooperation awarded an $85,000 grant to Climate Foundation and the Re-Locate project to work with the Tribal and City Councils of Kivalina, Alaska, to develop a shovel ready project to provide biochar sanitation to the village.

The project received a letter of congratulations from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Ms. Gina McCarthy, on being chosen as a recipient of the 2013-15 North American Partnership on Environmental Community Action grant for the biochar 

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Video: Elinor Ostrom at NYU: The Role of Culture in Solving Social Dilemmas

“The Role of Culture in Solving Social Dilemmas” — Elinor Ostrom

Outcomes of Nansen Initiative’s Pacific Regional Consultation

link to the YouTube video

Read about the Nansen Initiative Pacific Regional Consultation: Human Mobility, Natural Disasters and Climate Change in the Pacific. 

United States General Accounting Office Testimony and Re-Locate government-structural origins

In conclusion, Alaska Native villages are being increasingly affected by flooding and erosion problems being worsened at least to some degree by climatological changes. They must nonetheless find ways to respond to these problems. Many Alaska Native villages that are small, remote, and have a subsistence lifestyle, lack the resources to address the problems on their own. Yet villages have difficulty finding assistance under several federal programs, because as currently defined the economic costs of the proposed project to control 

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Alaska Village Erosion Technical Assistance Program

This report was prepared as a response to legislation that directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to investigate issues surrounding erosion at several Alaska Native villages. As part of this effort, the Corps examined erosion rates and control, potential relocation, and impacts to Alaska Native culture and tradition. The Alaska Village Erosion Technical Assistance (AVETA) program is a compilation of efforts in numerous communities funded through the Tribal Partnership Program and subsequent legislation.

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Alaska Baseline Erosion Assessment

the Corps designated 26 communities “Priority Action Communities”—indicating that they should be considered for immediate action by either initiating an evaluation of potential solutions or continuing with ongoing efforts to manage erosion. Sixty-nine communities where erosion problems are present but not significant enough to require immediate action were designated “Monitor Conditions Communities.” Eighty-three communities where minimal erosion-related damages were reported or would not be expected in the foreseeable future were designated “Minimal Erosion Communities.”

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United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: Climate change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods

Climate change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges: 

Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their dependence upon, and close relationship with the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties already faced by vulnerable indigenous communities, including political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination and unemployment. 

link to pdf

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NANA Comprehensive Plan

Link to NANA’s Comprehensive Plan from 1982

NWAB Comprehensive Plan

Click to open the Northwest Arctic Borough’s Comprehensive Plan prepared in 1993.


Camp One: August 2012

At the invitation of people in Kivalina, Anchorage-based artist and architect Michael Gerace invited fourteen international researchers and artists to visit Kivalina for a 10-day work camp last August. Re-Locate was co-produced by the Alaska Design Forum with initial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and other partners. The camp launched the Re-Locate Project, a multidisciplinary group of partners working with the village to support a community-led and 

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Modelling Kivalina is on its way to Alaska

The Modelling Kivalina group based out of the Centre of Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London, is happy to share the first pictures of the Kivalina model that will be presented to different agencies, stakeholders and community members this month in Alaska. In a series of interviews with different actors, the group will investigate the role and responsibility of different federal and state agencies in responding to the changing shoreline.




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Voices from the Flats ( – How Many Votes Will Lisa Murkowski Get in Kivalina?

William Takak from Shaktoolik understands the impact of climate change. The Alaska Native Science Commission quotes him in a survey of the impact of climate change[1]. “Last Spring we only got six walrus because of the weather and the ice moving out to quick. A long time ago it used to be real nice for weeks and even sometimes for months. Now we have a day or two of good weather and this impacts our hunting. The hunters talk about 

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Culture as Corporation – Juneau Empire

Culture as CorporationNANA shareholders adapt corporate life to the ways of the people. By LORI THOMSON, THE JUNEAU EMPIRE

At 23, Jimmy Baldwin, has racked up a sum of money most villagers only dream about. He’s poured about $100,000 into his snowmachine shop in Kiana by working behind the steering wheel of a front-end loader at the Red Dog zinc mine, owned by NANA Regional Corp.

For people such as Baldwin, NANA is fulfilling one of its 

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How Stuff Works – Barrier Islands

How Stuff Works Barrier Islands


Get to know Kivalina

Kivalina Infrastructure Map


Section 3.9 - Alternatives, Igrugaivik Site

2006 Army Corps Kivalina Relocation Master Plan

Link to the Corps’ plan.


Mapping the Political and Economical Entities

The area where Kivalina originated from is rich both in soil and in subsistence. Over hundreds of years the people in Kivalina have been living of hunting, fishing and picking. The rich grounds filled with Zinc and Iron have led to the opening of the Red Dog Mine. The Red Dog mine is the largest Zinc mine in the world and is a huge source of income to the NANA region. The mine bought the land out of NANA back in the 1980 

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NANA Kivalina

NANA Kivalina Information Page


the camp in evening

Spring Whaling Camp

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Kivalina Consensus Building Project 2010




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Traditional architecture

People in the Kivalina region were historically nomadic and lived in various types of seasonal housing. The longest time people would stay at the same place was three months in mid winter and three months during spring. Location was dependent on seasonal subsistence practices.

Along the coast people lived in sodhouses, at the river they used willow branch and moss structures, and in the hills they stacked rocks to build housing. People also used willow and caribou hide tents 

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Ownership Structures

The following section is focused on the ownership-structure in Kivalina. According to the 2010 census, 374 people are living in Kivalina in 99 houses, of which 85 are in use; in 2012 we counted 112 houses in the village. The housing units are located on the southern end of the peninsula, because the landfill and the airport (property of the state) to the North do not allow room for community expansion. Two streets, Channel and Bering, run through Kivalina 

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Residential housing conditions

Being on site in Kivalina in August and September 2012 we had to learn that the buildings are in a relatively low condition. Even nowadays, none of the residential houses in Kivalina come with a sewage and water system. Instead of using a toilet, people are using honeybuckets made of plastic. The houses’s waste and honeybucket storages on the streets are spilling over, water which is usually collected from one of the two watertanks in the city, couldn’t 

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Kivalina Landfill 2


In Kivalina each household is responsible for collecting its own waste and bringing it to a 3.4 acre dump site, located just north of the airport. There is no separation system in the city. All solid and human waste ends up at a non-managed landfill. Although seeing a lot of the residents disposing their waste to the landfill, garbage is pilling up around the city, human waste spilling out of the plastic bags.

See Google 

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Public Spaces in Kivalina

The cold climate in Kivalina forces the public interactions and assemblies to be held indoors.

1. The community center and Bingo Hall

The community center, located in the center of the village, is used in special events for public gathering (f.ex. Community meetings, or when a whale is caught for a feast), but also regularly for traditional Eskimo dancing classes. Next door’s Bingo Hall is owned and operated by the municipality, but was on suspension period 

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On foundations

The melting of the permafrost in the North Arctic region causes a shifting of houses which eventually damages the buildings and results in cracks of walls and windows. In Kivalina, only the school’s foundation 

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Fire hose to connect to Old Water Plant

Threats to Kivalinas Water System:

The Material: Part of the existing water and sewage system in Kivalina is now 36 years old and therefore at the end of its expected life span.

Apart from that the pipe-line which connects the river with the water treatment plant when being re-filled is broken. This is a result of the most recent storm in the area happening in mid August 2012:

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Water Tank with Pipe

Water and Sewage System

The following section focuses on the system of water supply and waste water treatment in Kivalina based on an on-site research, done between August, 27th and September 3rd 2012: 


Kivalina relies on water coming from the Wulik River. The water is being collected about 2 and a half miles upstream. Usually the water tanks are beiRead More »

Kivalina from above

Water Situation in Kivalina, August 2012

Situated on a small island – the Chukchi Sea to the west, a lagoon and the mouth of the Wulik river to the east – Kivalina is surrounded by water. Potable water on the other hand is not so accessible in this Arctic town. When we arrived in late August 2012 Kivalina faced a severe lack of potable water due to another heavy storm in the area of NW arctic Alaska.

See: Residents collecting 

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Rainwater Collection

Sources of Access to Potable Water in Kivalina

  • Outside the water plant building there is a coin operated machine where people buy their water (25ct. per 5 Gallon).
  • People go upstream to collect water from the river. To do so, access to a boat and fuel is needed. Usually they collect from the Wulik river. Since the Zinc Mine discharges into the water shed of the Wulik river, Read More »

“Storms Force School Postponement in Kivalina”

A few of us from the Re-Locate Project flew back to Anchorage from Kivalina last night to start pulling together all of the information, stories, and research from our weeklong trip to Kivalina. (Photo: aerial view of Kivalina from yesterday’s flight.) Today, for the first time in over a week, we are showered and have a reliable internet connection.

We arrived in Anchorage to this headline in the Read More »