Kivalina is at the tip of an 8-mile barrier reef located between the Chukchi Sea and Kivalina River. It lies 80 miles northwest of Kotzebue.
Kivalina, also known as Kivaliniq in Inupiaq, is a traditional Iñupiat Eskimo village; subsistence activities, including whaling, provide most food sources. The population is currently about 398.
Kivalina has long been a stopping-off point for seasonal travelers between arctic coastal areas and Kotzebue Sound communities. At one time, the village was located at the north end of the Kivalina Lagoon. Kivalina incorporated as a city in 1969. During the 1970s, new houses, a new school, and an electric system were constructed in the village. Prior to 1976, high school students from Noatak would attend school in Kivalina, and board with local families. Due to severe erosion, the City intends to relocate to a new site 7.5 miles away. Funds have been provided by various federal and state agencies since the early 1990s to assess relocation options and to design and engineer the new site.
Kivalina’s economy is based primarily on subsistence activities. Seal, walrus, whale, salmon, whitefish, and caribou are harvested each year. The school district, city, village council, airlines, local stores, and Maniilaq Association provide year-round jobs. The Native craft industry has recently expanded; local carvings and jewelry have become a great boon to the community’s economy.
The major means of transportation into the community is airplane and small boat. Flights from Kotzebue to Kivalina occur daily, while the Chukchi Sea is ice-free and open to boat traffic from mid-June to the first of November. Small boats, ATV’s and snow machines are used for local travel, but there are no roads that meet outer highways or any other villages. However, there are several trails that follow nearby rivers, as well as marked snow machine trails that connect to other villages, including Kotzebue.
Public facilities in Kivalina include two churches, a recreation center, post office, community hall, and a village clinic operated by Maniilaq Association. Kivalina has a mayor/council form of government. The city has an administrator, a police officer, and a volunteer fire department. Water is brought through a surface transmission line, which is treated and stored in a 600,000-gallon steel tank. The tank is filled each summer for the community’s winter water supply. One-third of homes have tanks to provide running water. Funds have been requested to develop a master plan for a piped water and sewer system at the relocation site.