Crowdsourcing earns poet visit to remote western Alaska village

ANCHORAGE — An Anchorage poet gets to realize her dream to visit the ghost of a remote western Alaska village where her Inupiat Eskimo ancestors once lived, thanks to funds she raised through crowdsourcing.

Joan Naviyuk Kane far surpassed her goal of $31,000 that she said is needed for a two-week visit for 20 descendants of people who once lived on King Island, a tiny community built on stilts across the jagged face of the island. One benefactor alone donated $32,000 to Kane’s campaign on United States Artists, a fundraising site.

Altogether, Kane raised slightly more than $49,000 through the nonprofit’s USA Projects.

“I’m still in disbelief,” Kane, 35, said Tuesday. “I’ve been trying to wrap my head around it.”

USA program officer Armando Huipe said the $32,000 donation comes from a foundation that did not want to be publicly identified.

“It is unusual for an anonymous gift to come in this large,” Huipe said. “But it’s not uncommon for foundations and corporations to give to projects.”

Kane, who is half Inupiat, said the money will pay for the journey planned for July. It also will fund a follow-up visit next year to King Island, which was abandoned decades ago. Kane’s late grandparents were among the last residents.

Getting to King Island can be a formidable endeavor. There is no landing site for a large vessel, so the trip will have to be done by helicopter or smaller boats, or both, according to Kane. 

Durable tents will be necessary to withstand strong winds that blow through the island, which is 90 miles from the old gold rush town of Nome.

Kane, who has published two books of poems, plans to maintain a website throughout the project. She also plans to photograph the visit and gather information for future writings, including another book of poems and a novel.

King Island was home to about 200 people a century ago. Then people began leaving. During World War II, men were drafted. Later, tuberculosis killed some people and hospitalized others. Fewer people returned from summer camping grounds on the mainland, where there were jobs and doctors.

The island was unoccupied by 1966, several years after the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs closed the school because of dwindling numbers and concerns about a potential rock-slide. To this day, King Islanders have held on to their lasting cultural distinction through stories, songs, dances and carving skills.

More in News

Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. The veteran Alaska legislator was passing through Homer while waiting to take the M/V Tustumena ferry to Kodiak. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Clem Tillion, PFD founder and former legislator, dies at 96

Tillion died Wedneday, Oct. 13, at Halibut Cove home.

Thunder Mountain High School on April 18.  Earlier this fall, vandalism including stolen soap dispensers and toilets clogged with foreign objects such as paper towel rolls were a problem at schools nationwide and in Juneau. But, principals say the local situation is improving. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
After brief surge, vandalism subsiding at local high schools

Principals say internet trends, stress likely behind incidents.

In this Jan. 8, 2020, photo Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, heads to a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. An Alaska man faces federal charges after authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill Murkowski, according to court documents unsealed Wed., Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,File)
Delta Junction man faces charges over threatening Murkowski’s life

Authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill the senator.

Donna Aderhold recites the Homer City Council oath of office and is sworn in for duty at the city council meeting on Oct. 11. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
New council members sworn into duty Monday

Newly-elected Homer City Council members Shelly Erickson and Jason Davis and re-elected… Continue reading

Runners participate in boys varsity race at the Ted McKenney XC Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. The trails recently reported incidents of vandalism and theft. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Vandalism and theft reported at Tsalteshi Trails

One trail user reported stolen skis recently and multiple signs have been defaced.

At left Bonita Banks, RN, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) nurse at Homer Medical Center, and at right, Annie Garay, RN, Community Health Educator, pose for a photo at South Peninsula Hospital on Sept. 27, 2021, at Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
New hospital community health educator starts

Garay, a Homer raised nurse, came home to ride out COVID-19, wound up doing pandemic nursing.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Montessori school goes to universal indoor masking

As of Tuesday, eight KPBSD schools were operating with universal indoor masking for staff and students.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Crabbers look at cuts to quotas

Tanner, opilio crab quotas cut on top of cancellation of fall king crab fishery.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Judge sides with psychiatrists who alleged wrongful firing

Two psychiatrists said they were wrongfully fired when Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office.

Most Read