Residents of Little Diomede consider move

Posted: Monday, September 10, 2001

NOME (AP) -- The 150 residents of Little Diomede Island are considering moving their entire community to the Alaska mainland.

Little Diomede is located in the Bering Sea, next to the International Dateline.

Eric Iyapana, president of the local tribal council, told KNOM radio that nothing is definite just yet. Residents voted earlier this summer to relocate.

Iyapana said the need for better plumbing, housing and transportation costs are driving the debate. Little Diomede is a rocky island, just 2.8 square miles in size. It is accessible only by boat or weekly helicopter service, weather permitting. That makes transporting supplies and getting residents in and out during emergencies difficult and costly.

If residents do ultimately leave the island they would settle at Lost River, located about 60 miles away on the Seward Peninsula, where the tribe owns land, Iyapana said.

In addition to the logistical difficulties, a move could challenge the cultural identity of the villagers. Little Diomede residents are profoundly linked to the sea that surrounds them. They rely upon walrus, seals, whales, fish, crab and polar bears.

Iyapana said some elders are reluctant to make the move because their forefathers chose the island as their home.

Iyapana said formal efforts to contact state and federal agencies to discuss moving the village may begin next summer, if residents still want to make the move.

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