|Incorporated||July 13, 1969|
|• Mayor||Howard Weyiouanna, Sr.|
|• Total||7.3 sq mi (18.8 km2)|
|• Land||2.8 sq mi (7.2 km2)|
|• Water||4.5 sq mi (11.6 km2)|
|Elevation||16 ft (5 m)|
|• Density||77/sq mi (30/km2)|
|Time zone||Alaska (AKST) (UTC-9)|
|• Summer (DST)||AKDT (UTC-8)|
|GNIS feature ID||1409434, 2418855|
Shishmaref (SHISH-muh-reff) (Qiġiqtaq in Iñupiaq; Russian: Шишмарёв) is a city and village in the Nome Census Area, Alaska, United States. It is located on Sarichef Island in the Chukchi Sea, just north of the Bering Strait and five miles from the mainland. Shishmaref lies within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. The population was 563 at the 2010 census.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.3 square miles (19 km2), of which, 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2) of it is land and 4.5 square miles (12 km2) of it (61.62%) is water.
Sarichef Island (on which Shishmaref is located) is part of a dynamic, 100 km-long barrier island chain that records human and environmental history spanning the past 2000 years; the oldest subaerial evidence for the formation of this system is about 1700 14c yr bp (see References, below). Erosion at Shishmaref is unique along the islands because of its fetch exposure and high tidal prism, relatively intense infrastructure development during the 20th century, and multiple shoreline defense structures built beginning in the 1970s.
The effect of global climate change upon Shishmaref is sometimes seen as the most dramatic in the world. Rising temperatures have resulted in a reduction in the sea ice which serves to buffer Shishmaref from storm surges. At the same time, the permafrost that the village is built on has also begun to melt, making the shore even more vulnerable to erosion. In recent years the shore has been receding at an average rate of up to 10 feet (3.3 m) per year. Although a series of barricades has been put up to protect the village, the shore has continued to erode at an alarming rate. The town's homes, water system and infrastructure are being undermined. Currently, Shishmaref has obtained funds to construct seawalls that protect some of the shoreline.
The village plans to relocate several miles to the south, on the mainland to the Tin Creek site. The Shishmaref Erosion and Relocation Coalition, made up of the city, the IRA Council and other organizations, is seeking federal, state and private funding for the move. However the cost of moving Shishmaref is estimated at $180 million
Erosion rates along the island front exceed (and are not comparable with) those along adjacent sectors. Erosion is occurring along the entire island chain, but it is exacerbated at Sarichef Island in part because of the hydrographic impacts of hard armoring of a sandy shoreface and permafrost degradation that is accelerated by infrastructure. Residents are experiencing the effects of coastal retreat on residential and commercial properties.
Shishmaref is a traditional Inupiaq Eskimo village. Residents rely heavily on a subsistence lifestyle, hunting and gathering much of their food. Primary food sources include sea mammals such as oogruk (bearded seal), other seals and walrus, fish, birds (such as ptarmigan), caribou and moose. The village is well known in the region for its high-quality seal oil and fermented meat.
It is known for its Native art. Local carvings of whalebone and walrus ivory are sought after by galleries in Alaska and the Lower 48.
Shishmaref was home to one of Alaska's most-beloved dog mushers. Herbie Nayokpuk, known as the "Shishmaref Cannonball", died in December 2006. He finished the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race numerous times, including a second-place finish.
It is sometimes referred to as "the friendliest village in Alaska." Researchers, journalists and the occasional tourist visit Shishmaref, and the city has acquired a reputation for being a gracious host.
As of the census of 2000, there were 562 people, 142 households, and 110 families residing in the city. The population density was 202.0 people per square mile (78.1/km²). There were 148 housing units at an average density of 53.2 per square mile (20.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 5.34% White, 93.24% Native American (mainly Inupiat), and 1.42% from two or more races. 0.53% (three persons) of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 142 households out of which 52.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.6% were married couples living together, 19.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.5% were non-families. 21.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.96 and the average family size was 4.59.
In the city the age distribution of the population shows 40.9% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 12.6% from 45 to 64, and 5.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 125.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 121.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,714, and the median income for a family was $29,306. Males had a median income of $35,357 versus $25,000 for females. The per capita income for the city was $10,487. About 16.2% of families and 16.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.2% of those under age 18 and 10.5% of those age 65 or over.
Shishmaref is served by the Bering Strait School District. Shishmaref School is the only school in town and serves grades Pre-K through 12 with a population of 183 students and 33 pre-school children. There are 19 teachers at Shishmaref School
There are three main roads (Main Street-Airport Road, Housing Trail and Clinic Road) in town and do not connect to the outside beyond Shishmaref.
Shishmaref Airport is the only means of connecting the town to the rest of Alaska. The airport replaced an earlier airport which is now occupied by housing near the lagoon.
Houses in Shishmaref are pre-fabricated and mostly single story. They are often damaged from erosion.
Local businesses and other places of interest
- Shishmaref Native Store
- Nayokpuk General Store
- Post Office
- Friendship Center
- New Airport
- Bingo Hall
- City Offices
- IRA Building
- 1996 Alaska Municipal Officials Directory. Juneau: Alaska Municipal League/Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs. January 1996. p. 142.
- 2015 Alaska Municipal Officials Directory. Juneau: Alaska Municipal League. 2015. p. 147.
- "Shishmaref city, Alaska". Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- "Shishmaref". Division of Community and Regional Affairs, Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- "Alaska Taxable 2011: Municipal Taxation - Rates and Policies" (PDF). Division of Community and Regional Affairs, Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. January 2012.
- "Sea engulfing Alaskan village". BBC News. 2004-07-30. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
- Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, 2006, ISBN 978-1-59691-130-7
- Jordan, J.W., and O.K. Mason, 1999. A 5000 year record of intertidal peat stratigraphy and sea- level change from northwest Alaska. Quaternary International 60:37-47
- Jordan, J.W., 1989. Rhythmic berm ridge deposition on the coastal barriersof northern Seward Peninsula, Alaska. In: Coastal Sediment Mobility;Proceedings of the Eighth Symposium on Coastal Sedimentology, W.F. Tanner ed., Department of Geology, Florida State University, Tallahassee. pp.137-150.
- Jordan, J.W., 1987. Erosion characteristics and retreat rates along the north coast of Seward Peninsula. Chapter 7, In: Bering Land Bridge National Preserve: an Archeological Survey, J. Schaaf ed., National Park Service, Alaska Region, Anchorage.
- Mason, O.K., J.W. Jordan, and L. Plug, 1995. Late Holocene storm and sea level history in the southern Chukchi Sea. In: C.W. Finkle ed., HoloceneCycles: Climate, Sea Level, and Sedimentation. Journal of CoastalResearch, Special Issue No. 17.
- Mason, O.K. and J.W. Jordan, 1993. Heightened storminess and synchronoustruncation of northwest Alaska beach ridges. Quaternary Research, 40:55-69. http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/detect/human-shishmaref.shtml
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- The History of Shishmaref
- Arctic Change: Village of Shishmaref, North Alaska, NOAA
- "Moving the Village" - an audio documentary about Shishmaref and Climate Change
- Climate change threatens life in Shishmaref, Alaska - CNN
- A Dutch multimediaproject in progress on the consequences of climate change to the social life of the villagers
- The short film ALASKAN SCOUT (1963) is available for free download at the Internet Archive