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Shishmaref is an Inupiaq Eskimo community on an island in the far northwest corner of Alaska. Their native land is threatened by the sea as a result of global warming. The 600 inhabitants will be forced to relocate to the mainland within ten years. They may be considered the first community of climate refugees. The project The Last Days of Shishmaref documents this drama by a feature-length film, a photobook and a traveling exhibition.
The website is part of the project The Last Days of Shishmaref. On 19 January 2005, film director Jan Louter read a dramatic report in French newspaper Libération about the disappearance of an island just below the Arctic Circle, where a community of some 600 Inupiaq Eskimos lives. Climatologists predict that climate change will cause the island to be swallowed up by the sea within the next ten years. The report struck Louter to the bone, and he vowed not to let the passing of this island go by unnoticed. The result was a documentary, a website, a book of photography, an exhibition, and an educational course.
Where the film, the exhibition and the book give an impression of a specific time, the website goes farther. The website ties together the past, present and future of the island and of the people of Shishmaref. Over the years, a multimedia archive will be compiled; visitors to the archive become familiar with the dilemmas that accompany the forced relocation. In this small way, the inhabitants of Shishmaref can help write the last ten to twenty years of their centuries of history on the island, which is steadily crumbling into the sea.