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Photos: Kivalina straddles 2 worlds

Kimberly Swan makes sure her nephew Carlos Sage, age 5, eats his breakfast at Kivalina's McQueen School. She walks with him to school most mornings. Dec 11, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
High School freshman Lanette Adams, far right, leads the students and faculty in the pledge of allegiance before the start of classes at Kivalina's McQueen School. Dec 13, 2012
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Basketball trophies in Kivalina's McQueen School. Basketball is far and away the most popular sport in most rural Alaskan communities. The McQueen Quavviks girls basketball team were state champions in 1992-1993. Dec 13, 2012
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First-year teacher Sara Schneider, originally from Vancouver, Washington, tutors 4th grader Lillian Hawley, far left, in math during an after-school study session at Kivalina's McQueen School. With them are 6th grader Shannon Knox and 5th grader Solomon Sage. Dec 13, 2012
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4th grader Joslyn Swan wishes her teacher Sara Schneider, a first-year teacher originally from Vancouver, Washington, a happy birthday on the eve of Schneider's birthday. Dec 13, 2012
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The pledge of alliance, translated into Iñupiaq, on the wall of the special education classroom in Kivalina's McQueen School. Dec 12, 2012
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A Bering Air flight buzzes the village of Kivalina before landing on the dirt runway. In the summer barges bring bulk fuel and construction equipment, but in the winter airplanes are the only means of transportation. Most supplies, including food, mail, and medicine, arrive by plane. Dec 11, 2012
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The Iñupiat Eskimo village of Kivalina sits on a narrow barrier island off Alaska's Chukchi Sea coast. A new stone seawall has helped curb erosion from winter storms, but it is only a stopgap, at some point in the near future the village will have to move. Dec 11, 2012
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Oran Knox fishing for cod on the sea ice near Kivalina. Dec 10, 2012
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Freshly killed caribou litter the yard of Jerry and Becky Norton's home in Kivalina. Subsistence is an important part of the culture and the diet in this mostly Iñupiat Eskimo village. Dec 12, 2012
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Russell Adams watches his infant daughters Priscilla Adams, 2 years old, and Darlene Adams, 1 year old, in his home in Kivalina. With him is Gilbert Hensley. All together, 7 people live in the tiny, 300 square foot house, including two school-aged girls. There is no running water, no space for a desk. Only a television for entertainment. Dec 10, 2012
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Julia Koonook, left, and Janelle Adams play on a computer in Janelle's house. Her mother Myra Adams manages the large village store, and her mother and father, Burt Adams, have a smaller store inside their home. Dec 10, 2012
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Sick with the flu, Warren Hawley, a 10th grader at Kivalina's McQueen School, doubles over in a coughing fit in his kitchen. Sleeping on a mattress are his nephews Roshaun Tuzroyluke, age 7, and McKye Swan, age 4. Dec 11, 2012
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Warren Hawley, a 10th grader at McQueen School, helps his nephew Roshaun Tuzroyluke, age 7, get ready for the walk to school. Still asleep on a mattress is 4 year old McKye Swan, and sitting at the kitchen table is Hawley's brother Jeremiah Kayoulik. Dec 11, 2012
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A young student walks to school in the dark in Kivalina. Located 135 km above the Arctic Circle, when the sun sets in Kivalina on December 4 it won't rise again until January 7. Dec 12, 2012
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Children leave Kivalina's McQueen School after classes. Dec 11, 2012
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High School freshman Lazarus Adams, wearing a polar bear fur ruff, walks home with a group of middle-school girls after classes at Kivalina's McQueen School. Dec 11, 2012
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4th grader Larry Swan leg wrestles with 6th grader Shannon Knox in Kivalina's McQueen School gym. Leg wrestling is a traditional Iñupiat Eskimo game, one of many that the students practice regularly. Dec 13, 2012
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Karen Adams, 11th grader, top, does geometry homework with 9th grader Louise Wesley in the McQueen School hallway. Dec 12, 2012
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From left, 9th graders George Hawley and Samuel Hawley relax in the Kivalina's McQueen School hallway after classes. Dec 12, 2012
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50 mph winds scour the village of Kivalina, bringing a windchill of -40. Dec 12, 2012
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From left, McQueen School 9th graders Kevin Hawley and Samuel Hawley walk home after classes. Dec 12, 2012
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Kivalina's new stone seawall, installed in 2011, has helped protect the village from storms, keeping erosion at bay for now. The village, located on a barrier island off of Alaska's Chukchi Sea coast, has lost over half of its land during the lifetime of many of the village's elder residents. Dec 12, 2012
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A map in the Kivalina City Hall shows possible relocation sites, outlined in black. While plans to move the village have been talked about for almost 30 years, the cost is prohibitive, and no progress has been made. Current U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates are almost $400 million to move the community. Dec 13, 2012
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Bowhead whale bones greet visitors to the town of Kivalina, Alaska. Located 85 miles above the Arctic Circle, when the sun sets on December 4 it won't rise again until January 7. Dec 10, 2012
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Trash piles up outside Jeremiah Kayoulik's home in Kivalina. Kayoulik, 20 years old and unemployed, lives with his brother Warren Hawley, a 10th grader at McQueen School, and nephew Roshaun Tuzroyluke, 2nd grader at the school. Also living in the house are Kayoulik's sister and two more of her young children. Dec 12, 2012
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McQueen School kindergartners, from left, Damian Frankson and Randy Swan, walk home after classes. Dec 11, 2012
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Christina Swan leads 5th and 6th graders in a practice of their Christmas program songs, at the Episcopal Church in Kivalina. Dec 13, 2012
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Katrina Stalker, far right, and other McQueen School 1st graders rehearse songs for their Christmas celebration at the Kivalina Friends Church. Dec 11, 2012
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Loren Holmes

KIVALINA, Alaska -- On the shore of the Chukchi Sea sits a narrow strip of sand, one among thousands of barrier islands along this remote and rugged stretch of northwest Alaska. For hundreds of years, the Iñupiat Eskimos have used this island as a hunting camp, for whaling in the spring and caribou hunting in winter. Today the island has a permanent settlement of around 375 residents, most of whom are Iñupiat. They call it Kivalina.

At first glance, students at Kivalina's McQueen School seem to do many of the same things any American child would do. Arriving at school early in the morning, some eat breakfast in the school cafeteria. Eggs, sausage, fruit, a pancake and syrup. They say the pledge of allegiance and march off to class. They study American history, social studies, English, math. After school, they play basketball. The McQueen Quavviks girls basketball team were state champions in 1992-1993.

But beyond the doors of the school, things start to look more like the hunting camp of yesteryear. An arch made of bowhead whale bones greets visitors near the airport. On porches and in yards all over town, caribou carcasses lay, stiff and frozen, partially dismembered. Fish drying racks are scattered along the beach. Subsistence is what brought people here in the first place, more than a thousand years ago, and subsistence remains a driving force why people choose to stay.

For many families here, schedules are dictated by the environment -- a time for fishing, a time for hunting. First come whales ...

Full story: Kivalina, straddling 2 worlds