The Native Village of Kiana, which translates into English as “place where three rivers meet,” is the central village of the Kobuk River Kowagmiut Iñupiat Eskimos.
Official Tribal Name: Native Village of Kiana
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
US Culture Region: Artic
Alaskan Ethnic Group: Eskimo
Alaskan Native Culture: Kowagmiut Iñupiat Eskimo
Alaska Geographical Region:
Alaska Borough / Census Area:
Alaska Native Regional Corporation: NANA Regional Corporation
Agency: Nome Agency
Language: Iñupiaq, the indigenous language, is part of the Eskimo-Aleut language family.
Kiana sits on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Kobuk and Squirrel Rivers in northwestern Alaska, about 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Kiana is 57 air miles east of Kotzebue. They are a member village of the NANA Regional Corporation.
Kiana was founded several centuries ago as the central village of the Kobuk River Kowagmiut Iñupiat Eskimos. Before Kiana became a village, the Inupiat Eskimos tended to travel with the animal herds, constantly hunting for meat and furs.
In the 1800s, the Inupiaqs of Kiana lived all along the Kobuk River. They moved to where there was an abundance of animals and fish and lived in sod houses. Throughout the year the villagers would hunt and fish near their houses. When the animal herds migrated, they abandoned their houses to follow the herd animals.
Caribou — also called reindeer when they are domestic-
cated– still run in herds numbering hundreds of thousands near Kiana, today.
When someone died inside a house they abandoned it, believing they would catch a contagious disease. Instead of building coffins or digging graves, the villagers wrapped the bodies of the deceased in cloths and put poles in them to make a teepee shape.
Early 20th Century
The first white men came up the river in boats in 1898 and changed their way of life. They settled in the area that is now Kiana. More white men came in 1901 and 1902, and started building houses. Inupiaq women moved in with them and married them.
Archaeologists discovered a pre-contact Inupaiq village near Kiana. From carbon dating, the archaeologists believe the village was from the late 1700s to the early 1800s.
When more digging was done, they found that some of the houses they excavated were connected with tunnels and passage ways. The average house size in the village was about the size of typical one-roomed cabins.
In 1909, Kiana became a key supply post for placer mines along the Squirrel River. Its post office was established in 1915. Before the post office was built, mail came only once a month. The mail transportation method was mainly by dogsled or by walking from one village to another.
During this time, the village of Kiana became a supply center for coal and gold miners who were posted along the Squirrel River. The Blankenship Trading Post was the only store. It carried goods such as flour, salt, soda pop, coffee, tea, sugar, and canned and dried fruit. Kiana was incorporated in 1964.
The population of Kiana has nearly quadrupled during the last 80 years from 98 residents in 1920 to around 363 today. 90.4 percent of Kiana residents are Iñupiat Eskimos.
Before white people came to the region, the children of Kiana grew up speaking the Inupiaq language. They did not have to learn the language in school because it was their first language. Native children in Alaska were eventually sent to boarding schools, just as they were in the lower 48 states, and were forbidden to speak Inupiaq. The Elders of today were those children who attended the boarding schools, so most adults and children in Kiana don’t read, write, or understand the language anymore.
Viola Barr and Rosaline Jackson were the first people in Kiana to teach the Inupiaq language as a class in 1971. The region is trying to get the language back, and Rosetta Stone and the Inupiaq Language Commission are helping this effort.
Kiana is incorporated as a second-class city under the laws of the State of Alaska, and is within the boundaries of the Northwest Arctic Borough. The Indian Reorganization Act tribal government is known as the Native Village of Kiana.
CLIMATE AND TOPOGRAPHY
Winter temperatures in Kiana range from 10 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) to 15 degrees above. Summer temperatures average from 40 to 60 degrees. Temperature extremes have been recorded from 54 degrees below zero to 87 degrees above. Snowfall averages 60 inches per year, rainfall 16 inches.
In Kiana, there are of frequent storms and extreme temperature swings. There is also evidence of climate change occurring in the past 50 years. Evidence of rising temperatures each month, and increased precipitation (except July) has also been recorded.
The snowfall is significant, at about 60 inches per year, and rainfall is about 16 inches on average.
TRANSPORTATION SERVICES AND FACILITIES
Air – The Bob Baker Memorial Airport, a 3,400′ long by 100′ wide lighted gravel runway, is one of 256 airports owned and maintained by State of Alaska Department of Transportaion & Public Facilities, as part of the largest aviation system in North America.
There are daily scheduled passenger flights to Kotzebue, Selawik and Noorvik. Some flights that go to the upriver villages like Ambler, Shungnak and Kobuk will stop in Kiana for pick up or drop off if needed.
A round-trip ticket to Kotzebue costs around $290 with Era Alaska and around $324 with Bering Air, to Noorvik around $160 with Era Alaska and around $180 with Bering Air.
Air cargo rates on Bering Air from Kotzebue range from 90 cents per pound for loads exceeding 5000 pounds to $1.05 per pound for loads weighing fewer than 500 pounds. The air cargo rates on Era Alaska from Kotzebue range from 85 cents per pound for both excess luggage and freight with a minimum of $32.
Land – Cars, trucks, ATVs and snow machines are used extensively for local and regional travel between villages and for subsistence activities. A dirt road allows downriver access to Kobuk Camp, a fishing and berry harvesting summer camp. A network of old trading paths extends from Kiana to the surrounding region. During the winter there is an ice road created for automobile access to Noorvik, AK and Kotzebue, AK.
Water / Marine– The Kobuk River is navigable by boat and barges from late May to early October. The river is frozen the remainder of the year, which allows for snowmachine travel between the villages.
Crowley Marine Services barges fuel and supplies during summer months. Local storeowners transport cargo to upriver villages including Ambler and Shungnak on large motorboats. Smaller boats are used for subsistence activities, inter-village travel and recreation.
Northland Services estimates the following costs for delivery of these sample shipments from Anchorage, AK:
Auto – $7,755.52. Auto rate is based on dimensions not exceeding 19’x84”x90” (LxWxH)
Household Goods – $16,286.72. Household goods rate is based on 20’ container, shipper load count and secure minimum weight of 10,000 lbs.
Dry Groceries/ cubic foot – $1,867.97. Groceries estimated as 1 pallet (4’Lx4’Wx4’H) weighing 1500 lbs.
Dry Groceries/per 100 lbs. – $1,386.90
LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL SERVICES
Water – A pair of large riverbank wells provide the public water supply for Kiana. Periodically water is pumped from the wells to a 200,000 gallon insulated steel holding tank where it’s chlorinated and then distributed throughout the community via buried water mains. More than 92 percent of Kiana households are connected to the water lines and fully plumbed, as are the health clinic, school and community hall. The rest haul water.
Sewer – Wastewater is drained from households by an underground gravity sewer system to a lift station and then pumped through a buried force mainline to a sewage treatment lagoon located northeast of town. About 8 percent of Kiana households are not connected to the sewer system and rely instead on honeybuckets or septic tanks.
Solid Waste Disposal – Kiana residents individually haul their refuse to a solid waste disposal site a short distance west of the sewage lagoon.
Public Safety – Kiana is in the service area of the State of Alaska State Troopers detachment based in Kotzebue. There is not currently a Village Public Safety Officer stationed in Kiana. The City of Kiana does employ a Village Patrol Officer to enforce curfew and respond to emergencies.
OTHER SERVICES AND UTILITIES
Health Services – The Kiana Clinic, which is operated and maintained by Maniilaq Association, provides routine check-ups and basic medical care. Emergency services and treatment for serious medical problems require transport to Kotzebue by plane.
The Community Health Aide/Practitioner program (CHAP) operates eleven remote village clinics. Most clinics have a full time staff of two to four Health Aides who service about one-half of the total patient contacts.
All clinics are directly connected to the Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue, providing access to all medical records and medical libraries as well as visual and audio teleconferencing capability to consult doctors.
Using a computer telemedicine unit, village clinics can send electronic pictures to the Maniilaq Health Center, where physicians view the images, making long-distance diagnosis easier and more accurate.
Several times a year specialized doctors, dentists, and eye doctors make regularly scheduled visits to the clinics to provide specialized care not usually offered in the area. Additionally, Maniilaq Association contracts with a Licensed Air Carrier to provide reliable, safe and timely medevac services.
Electricity – The Alaska Village Electric Co-Op provides electricity to Kiana through diesel generators with a peak capacity of 1,163 Kilowatts. Monthly residential rates factoring in the Power Cost Equalization (PCE) subsidy are $0.2202 per kilowatt-hour for the first 1-500 kWh, $0.6443 per kilowatt-hour for 501-700 kWh per month and $0.5443 per kilowatt-hour for every kWh per month over 700. Small commercial rates are $0.6443 per kilowatt-hour for the first 1-700 kWh per month and $0.5443 per kilowatt-hour for every kWh exceeding 700.
Telecommunications – Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone Cooperative provides in-state telephone service to Kiana residents and businesses, and long-distance service is provided through a combination of AT&T, Anchorage-based GCI and Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone. Internet service is provided through Inutek.net, a cooperative effort between OTZ, Maniilaq Association and Anchorage-based GCI Communications.
Telephone service – Basic local service. Long distance is .09/minute.
Cellular phone service – OTZ cell service does not work in Kiana. GCI cell service does.
Internet 64/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan $25.00/ mo
512/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan $90.00/mo
Internet service discounts are provided to customers with OTZ long distance and/or cellular phone plans.
The Kiana School is a pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade facility attended by 115 to 120 students per year. The school employs 10 teachers, depending upon enrollment and teacher availability. Post-secondary education is available in Kiana through online classes provided by Chukchi Campus, a rural division of the University of Alaska.
Kiana residents get cable service via Dish Network. Kiana residents also receive news and community information via the Kotzebue-based radio station KOTZ-AM.
The use of Citizens Band radio was once widespread, now Very High Frequency radio use is prevalent throughout the region.
The Arctic Sounder, a regional newspaper, is delivered to stores, the school and local subscribers.
EMPLOYMENT / ECONOMY
Though augmented by cash, the Kiana economy depends primarily upon traditional subsistence activities. Important food sources include moose, caribou, waterfowl, berries and Chum salmon.
There are three general stores in Kiana, plus a hunting and fishing lodge.
The school, the City of Kiana, Maniilaq Association and Red Dog Mine collectively employ around 80 Kiana residents in full-time, year-round jobs. Other Kiana residents work part-time and/or seasonally for the Bureau of Land Management (firefighting), the Northwest Iñupiat Housing Authority, the fishing lodge, a charter fishing company, Crowley Marine Services and small jade mining operations. Two residents hold commercial fishing permits.
There are roughly 165 housing structures in Kiana. About 96 of them are occupied. All but a few trailers and duplexes are single-family dwellings. The median home value in Kiana is $145,300.
MEDIAN INCOME / POVERTY LEVELS
Average people per household in Kiana is 3.The median income for a household in 2011 was $39,688, and the median income for a family was $41,667. Males had a median income of $31,250 versus $35,938 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,534. About 5.6% of families and 11.2% of the population were living below the poverty line.