IN THE FOURTH WORLD will document the social, economic and environmental challenges faced by the isolated Inupiaq village of Kivalina and (200 similar Native villages in rural Alaska) where indigenous people live below the poverty line, without running water, toilets, waste disposal systems, adequate health care, quality education or access to employment.
In 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers concluded that coastal erosion, exacerbated by climate change, would render Kivalina uninhabitable within 10-15 years. Village leaders seek to relocate, but are consistently frustrated by their dealings with State and Federal officials. Alaskan Native Villages are legally “domestic dependent nations” and are in dispute with their governments over sovereignty, fair representation in the cash economy, and the space to practice a traditional way of life.
IN THE FOURTH WORLD will include: interviews with residents who describe Kivalina's political history, it’s relationship to local and global agencies, Inupiaq traditional knowledge and subsistence lifestyle, and the witnessed effects of climate change on the island; video, photographs, and historical documents contributed by Kivalina residents; interviews with legal, political and scientific experts; and relevant historical and statistical information.
Kivalina is in crisis - a crisis produced by multiple forces, histories and circumstances spanning many years. Its causal factors cut across many fields of discourse – scientific, legal, cultural, racial, religious, political, geographical. It is not one story, but a complex of many narratives, with many arcs, scenes and actors. IN THE FOURTH WORLD will weave these stories together to document; the environmental degradation caused by climate change, resource extraction and local pollutants; the loss of sovereignty, land and tradition due to colonization; and the socio-cultural and economic inequalities that Kivalina residents face, first hand. It will be designed to allow audiences to understand these interrelated forces and to help Kivalina residents advocate for their own future.
IN THE FOURTH WORLD is a collaboration with the RE-LOCATE project. Go to http://www.relocate-ak.org/ for more about RE-LOCATE or continue scrolling for historical background and work-in-progress examples for IN THE FOURTH WORLD.
Traditional Kivalliñiġmiut society was semi-nomadic, shifting its patterns of inhabitation in response to subsistence needs, weather conditions, and social networks. Since the mid 19th century, and especially within the last 100 years, a growing series of interventions and impositions have intertwined to the detriment of the community. Greatest among these, arguably, was the forced-sedentarization accompanying the construction of the first school in 1905 on a barrier reef island once used only as a launch site for fishing and whaling. Families that had previously formed a loose socio-territorial entity were forced to send their children to the school or go to jail. This forced settlement ushered in decades of maladaptation. With colonization and territorial incorporation Alaska Native Villages became “domestic dependent nations,” who must dispute with state and federal governments (that have failed to provide basic infrastructure necessary to health and safety), over sovereignty, fair representation in the cash economy, and the space to practice a traditional way of life. As early as 1950 Kivalina – forced onto the tip of a fragile barrier reef detached from the surrounding, vast open landscape – was suffering from over crowding. With little land left on the island to house a growing population leaders began to work toward relocation.
Alaska became a state in 1959. While section 4 of the annexation act preserved Native lands, section 6 allowed the state government to claim lands deemed vacant. Aboriginal title began to be contested. While Natives tried to reserve their right to tribal lands, non-natives desired sought land for industry, such as minerals, oil, and salmon. In 1964 an earthquake struck the state. Recovery efforts drew the attention of the federal government, which found that Alaska Natives had the poorest living conditions in the country. Nothing was done.
In 1968, the Atlantic-Richfield Company discovered oil at Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic coast. In order to lessen the difficulty of drilling at such a remote location and transporting the oil to the lower 48 states, the oil companies proposed to build a pipeline to carry the oil across Alaska to the port of Valdez. At Valdez, the oil would be loaded onto tanker ships and sent by water to the contiguous states. The plan was approved, but a permit to construct the pipeline, which would cross lands involved in native land disputes, could not be granted until the Native claims had been settled. With major petroleum dollars on the line, reaching agreement had new urgency, and in 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was signed into law by President Nixon. It abrogated Native claims to aboriginal lands. The Federal Government assumed control of territories occupied for thousands of years by indigenous peoples. Native claims to almost all of Alaska were extinguished in exchange for approximately one-ninth of the state's land plus $962.5 million in compensation distributed to 200 local village and 12 Native-owned regional corporations. Natives were made shareholders in their regional corporations and expected to assimilate into a capitalist, corporate society. While the reduction of land and water reserves for subsistence hunting and fishing; the fading of local knowledge; and the influence of media and consumerism; force a growing dependence on the products and routines of the global cash economy, shareholder dividends in Kivalina (where a gallon of gas costs $9.00) average around $1,400.00 per year. In 2013 dividend payments to Kivalina shareholders were $0.00.
An estimated quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil deposits are in the North and global energy companies are exploring offshore from Kivalina in the heart of whale migration routes. As the Earth continues to warm, subsistence communities like Kivalina must adapt to significant changes in animal and plant behavior and face potential destruction from rising tides. In 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that coastal erosion, exacerbated by climate change, would render the island of Kivalina uninhabitable within 10-15 years. Village leaders work toward relocation, but are consistently frustrated by their dealings with State and Federal officials. The Army Corps of Engineers generated a major study of relocation options that considered material logistics, engineering in response to site conditions, land ownership, and siting demands related to subsistence practices. Costs are high (an estimated 400 million dollars to relocate a village of approximately 400 people), proposed development solutions have been standardized and insensitive to people and place, support from governmental and corporate agencies is insufficient. Relocation efforts have come to a halt under the weight of these deficiencies, while the very idea of future relocation, which has been in play for roughly 65 years, has provided regional and federal governments with a rationale for postponing improvements to health and safety infrastructure on the island. Thus, the community continues to live without toilets, running water, and safe disposal for human and other wastes. The future must be addressed with urgency and sensitivity.
In 2012 the Alaska Design Forum, a non-profit organization of architects, artists, and designers in Alaska, launched an initiative to advance effective engagement and collaboration with underrepresented, isolated communities like Kivalina and acquired seed funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to bring an international team of artists and architects to Kivalina including the Vienna-based Social Practice Art Collective Wochenklausur and Digital Media Documentary Artist Sharon Daniel. This team has evolved into the RE-LOCATE curatorial partnership and collaborative team developing IN THE FOURTH WORLD.
In August 2012 the partnership began building relationships with Kivalina's municipal and tribal council members who shared many of their concerns and hopes for the future - hopes which included making the social, political, and environmental issues related to relocation visible to large audiences around the world. While a number of documentary film crews have visited Kivalina since the filing, in 2008, of the failed lawsuit against twenty multinational energy corporations (Kivalina v. ExxonMobil. Et.al, which sought damages for the ongoing destruction of the village due to flooding and erosion caused by climate change), community members have expressed the desire to play a more active role in documenting and advocating for Kivalina. From these meetings emerged the goal of creating an interactive, web-based documentary and participatory media platform that would; examine the effects of environmental degradation caused by climate change, resource extraction and local pollutants, address issues of native Alaskan sovereignty against documented historical trauma and other long-standing governmental abuses, and explore the socio-cultural, religious and economic conflicts that the population of Kivalina continues to endure.
And they do endure. Despite the long history of colonial oppression, exploitation and forced assimilation the Kivalliñiġmiut endure. They resist assimilation and struggle to maintain their sovereignty and tradition against a backdrop of great natural beauty and, for many, crushing hardship and poverty, . There are extraordinary people in Kivalina who are resilient and independent - who show pride and integrity in adherence to traditional, indigenous values and coexist with “western” socio-religious and economic systems without compromise. These are the people whose stories will intertwine to represent what it is to live IN THE FOURTH WORLD.
“In The Fourth World” includes three major components; an INTERACTIVE WEB DOCUMENTARY, a blog-like PARTICIPATORY COMMUNITY PLATFORM and an OPEN DATA ARCHIVE. The interactive interfaces of the web documentary will allow users to explore a rich database of media, co-authored with the people of Kivalina, that documents the village's struggle to survive in the face of environmental, social, political and economic injustice. The participatory community platform will allow the people of Kivalina to continue to report on social, political and environmental issues in the region after the web documentary is completed. The interactive web documentary will also serve as a portal to an open data archive containing approximately 100 years of textual, audio, video and photographic documentation – records that were, until recently, forgotten and buried in boxes in tribal and municipal government offices in Kivalina. The open data archive is a project of RE-LOCATE Kivalina, a multidisciplinary group of partners working with the village to support community-led and culturally appropriate relocation and infrastructure projects. IN THE FOURTH WORLD will provide a narrative that traverses this, and other relevant historical archives.
INTERACTIVE WEB DOCUMENTARY : The user experience of IN THE FOURTH WORLD begins with a voice-over introduction and video, containing images contributed by Kivalina residents, which will encapsulate the issues and goals of the community. After the introduction, users will navigate the piece by exploring interwoven, conceptual story arcs. The story arcs will address major experiential phenomena that impact the Native community such as environmental degradation, historical trauma, sovereignty and the law, and cultural conflict – in the interface these sections will be labeled with carefully selected quotes from interviews with Kivalina residents.
The web documentary will conclude with a section on "possible futures" that will introduce current projects that involve improvements to basic infrastructure on the island and designs for potential relocation sites. For example, RE-LOCATE and the Climate Foundation won an international funding award to work with people in Kivalina to co-design an BIOCHAR SANITATION SYSTEM. Documentation of this project will be included in the web documentary and will be continued by community members using the participatory platform as the biochar system is established and integrated into community life.
In the web documentary each major story arc will comprise a number of interconnected sub-stories. For example, the story arc focused on cultural conflict will contain stories related to both the clash of economies and split subjectivities. – for example the story arc on cultural conflict will weave together threads of narrative related to the tensions caused by the imposition of a cash economy on a traditionally subsistence-based community at a site where there are few job opportunities; or the conflict between the Inupiaq's traditional relationship to the land and status of capitalist corporate shareholder that was forced on natives by the Alaska Land Claims Settlement Act in 1971.
Each story will contain multiple “scenes”, which will be comprised of: clips from recorded conversations with Kivalina residents; images contributed by Kivalina residents; supporting archival materials and historical documents, photographs and evidence; interviews with legal, political and scientific experts; and other relevant media and information. Each story will be narrated by multiple voices – producing a collective narrative told by, as well as about, Kivalina as a community. Users will be able to traverse from story arc to story arc via narrative and conceptual links or by following the contributions of an individual resident of Kivalina.
The graphic and navigational designs reference the geographical position system - latitude and longitude. Users will scroll in parallax full-screen, up and down to move from story arc to story arc and left to right, to move from story to scene. Graphics, transitions and video effects will echo this movement. The tiny village of Kivalina is crowded into the southern tip of an extremely narrow barrier reef island. One can stand on the central gravel pathway that leads from the airstrip through the village to the south point and see the shores of the Chukchi Sea to the west and the Kivalina Lagoon to the east just by turning your head. The contrast between the strictures imposed by the narrowness of spit of land, its vulnerabilities, and the vast and spectacular horizons beyond is profound. The interface will attempt to capture this phenomenon through the use of bounded horizontal parallax scrolling.
The interface will attempt to capture this phenomenon through the use of bounded horizontal parallax scrolling. This horizontality will be echoed in an embedded interactive timeline that will outline the political and legal history of Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement and Sovereignty movement and its impact on the region. The contrast between the strictures imposed by the narrowness of spit of land, its vulnerabilities, and the vast and spectacular horizons beyond is profound. The interface will attempt to capture this phenomenon through the use of bounded horizontal parallax scrolling. This horizontality will be echoed in an embedded interactive timeline that will outline the political and legal history of Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement and Sovereignty movement and its impact on the region.
PARTICIPATORY COMMUNITY PLATFORM: This platform will allow the community to continue to publish documentation on the evolving situation in Kivalina after the completion of the interactive web documentary. The Kivalina community is extremely active on facebook, which they use, in much the same manner that they use their local Citizen’s Band Radio network, to communicate about and document day-to-day occurrences on the island. Residents of Kivalina will be able to tag their relevant facebook posts for inclusion in the project's community platform or post information and media directly to the community platform.
RE-LOCATE is consolidating and digitizing the contents of more than 30 boxes of documents and media discovered in storage to create an open data archive that will make local, state, federal, and corporate agencies’ involvement in Kivalina's relocation history more accessible, visible, and understandable. The Open Data Archive will preserve relocation documents, studies, texts, photos, and videos created and stored by people in Kivalina over the last 100 years. It will foster accountability on particular issues affecting Kivalina’s relocation; ensure continuity between past and future relocation planning efforts; and operate as a tool for the planning of territorial reinhabitation of Kivalina’s historic estate. IN THE FOURTH WORLD will provide a narrative point of entry for visitors to the open data archive. The web documentary will include many videos and photographs from this archive and the story arcs, scenes and timeline interfaces will weave a number of narrative threads through the archive.
IN THE FOURTH WORLD will also include relevant materials from other important historical archives. For example, audio recordings and photographs documenting the 1983 Alaska Native Review Commission, the hearings convened by Judge Thomas Berger at the request of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in 62 native villages in response to the enactment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. IN THE FOURTH WORLD will also draw from the archives of prominent arctic sociologist and social historian Edward (Tiger) Burch, whose research focused on the region and people of Kivalina for the majority of his 50 year career. Burch lived in Kivalina for a number of years as he pursued his the study of subsistence ecology which began in 1960. His major work “Social Live in Northwest Alaska” is based principally on his research in Kivalina.