11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Year Listed: 2005
Threat: Deterioration, Natural Forces
The rocky, sheer mass of King Island rises out of the Bering Strait 95 miles west of Nome. For centuries, King Island was occupied by Inupiat Eskimos, known as "King Islanders" or Ugiuvangmiut. In the early 1900s, approximately 200 Inupiat lived on the island in a village called Ukivok, consisting of wood frame dwellings on stilts, clad in walrus skin, lashed to the cliffside of the four-square-mile island. King Islanders spent winters hunting walrus and gathering traditional foods and spent summers near Nome, fishing and later selling their traditional artwork. Ukivok, which consists of approximately 45 houses, a Catholic Church, and the former Bureau of Indian Affairs School, remains on King Island, but the Ugiuvangmiut do not. World War II, the scourge of tuberculosis, and the closure of the village school in 1959 took many King Islanders to the mainland. By 1966, King Island was used only as a seasonal hunting camp, and by 1970, the settlement had no permanent or seasonal residents. Although King Islanders no longer live on the island, they maintain a distinct identity, and King Island is recognized as a distinct native Alaskan community.