After the Alaska Purchase in 1867 and in the early years of the 20th century, Uvitok took on a more substantial appearance with the construction of two large buildings: a Catholic church and a school. In 1959, however, the Bureau of Indian Affairs ordered the school to be closed, stating it was in imminent danger from falling rocks and boulders – as one can see in the image above, a half-century later the long-abandoned school is still standing, undamaged by rocks.
The closure of the school set in motion a chain of consequences that exposed the precariousness of the islanders’ existence. With the children compelled by truancy laws to attend school in Nome, the Ukivokmiut of King Island were deprived of their assistance in supplementing their subsistence lifestyle. As well, the ancient strand of Ukivokmiut culture and knowledge stretching back millennia was snapped. By 1970, the natives of King Island had all relocated to Nome and the village of Uvitok was abandoned to the elements.The photo above was taken by Commander Eric Davis of the NOAA Corps in May of 1981.
Most of the images displayed here date from the late 1970s, were taken by Captain Budd Christman for the NOAA Photo Library, and are in the public domain unless individually indicated otherwise.