The village of Diomede, perched on a small rocky island, is one of the most remote communities in Western Alaska. This summer, the village leadership is taking drastic steps to help their community survive. Currently, leaders say their lack of essential services make Diomede living challenging.
“We still have to haul our own water. We still have honeybuckets. We still have to haul our fuel. It’s harder on the single mothers and it’s harder on the Elders here that live in Diomede. And we have the extreme cold winter and all that snow buildup. That just makes it hard for Diomede to survive,” Ozenna said.
Currently, Diomede residents are rebuilding their village: a new Native grocery store, housing units, heavy equipment storage, a water storage tank, a backhaul program, a washeteria, and boardwalk repair with water and sewer pipes running under the boardwalk.
The projects come after four years of focusing on the island’s infrastructure and coordinating with everyone in the village. Ozenna says that it has to be done in order: without, for example, a small boat harbor, it’s hard to encourage a landing craft or a barge to service Diomede with materials. Last year, only four of the expected 10-15 barges arrived – just in perfect time, Ozenna said, for the community to start building new tribal housing units.
Diomede will see the results of their labor when the construction continues in earnest this summer.
Image at top: The village of Diomede, as seen from the village airstrip. As the runway is on the sea ice, the “airport” only exists in the winter – and in recent years, only occasionally. The photo was taken during a reporting trip in 2012.