300 Villages: King Island

Courtesy of Howard and Mabel Jonish papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.


This week we’re heading to the uninhabited village of King Island, west of Nome in the Bering Sea. King Island residents were forced to relocate to Nome in 1959, but this month a group of former residents and their descendants are returning to the island. Vince Pikongana grew up in King Island.

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“My name is Vince Pikongana. I am from King Island. Well (laughter), to us King Islanders, it’s a paradise for us and a one of a kind; that I grew-up on. I’ve to all over the islands and um…there’s no island like it.

The air is fresh and you can smell the island when you get there. And you can hear the birds; of all kinds of birds.

Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
Snow Bunting. Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

The Eskimo Dance: After the they… the one man gets the Polar Bear; um, what they would call Uno-Shock. Kind of like a potluck. And divide the skin, share the food and um…give away ropes to the men.

When me and my friend, Butch Natunguk, caught a Snow Bunting with bow and arrow ah, he…I caught one first then he caught one and only with bow and arrow. And um…when they were going to do the Polar Bear dance they let us go in the middle, of the men, while, the men were dancing. And they told us to release the spirit of the Snow Buntings (laughter) or to encourage us to um… to be good hunters. A very awaking experience for me and my friend.

Anyway, I am gonna go back on…next month, I mean this month sometime. By way of helicopter, the elders here from Nome, and we are go first class.”