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Aerial view of Kiana and the Kobuk River.
Aerial view of Kiana and the Kobuk River.
Location in Northwest Arctic Borough and the state of Alaska.
Location in Northwest Arctic Borough and the state of Alaska.
Country United States
State Alaska
Borough Northwest Arctic
Incorporated June 30, 1964
 • Total 0.19 sq mi (0.49 km2)
 • Land 0.19 sq mi (0.49 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
92 ft (28 m)
 • Total 447
 • Density 2,377.66/sq mi (917.66/km2)
Time zone UTC−9 (Alaska (AKST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−8 (AKDT)
ZIP code
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-39300
GNIS feature ID 1413311

Kiana (Inupiaq: Katyaak or Katyaaq) is a city in Northwest Arctic Borough, Alaska, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 361, down from 388 in 2000.


Pre Contact

Kiana, meaning where three rivers meet, was founded several centuries ago. Before Kiana became a village, the Inupiat Eskimos tended to travel with certain animal herds; constantly hunting for meat and furs.

In the 1800s, the Inupiaqs of Kiana used to live along the Kobuk River. Throughout the year the villagers would hunt and fish near their houses. They moved to where there was an abundance of animals and fish. The Inupiaqs lived in sod houses, and did not live in them twice, because they would move to where the animals were.

When someone died inside the house they abandoned it, believing they would catch a contagious disease. Instead of building coffins or digging graves, the villagers wrapped the bodies of the deceased in cloths and put poles in them to make a teepee shape.

Archaeological study has been done on the local site 'Igliqtiqsiugvigruaq' (Swift Water Place) which was inhabited by the ancestors of the present day residents of Kiana from 1790 to 1810. The town consisted of burrowed homes connected by tunnels.

Early 20th Century

The first white men came up with boats in 1898 and changed the way of life. They settled in where is now Kiana. More white men came in 1901 and 1902, and started building houses. Inupiaq women moved to them and married them.

Archaeologists have discovered a pre-contact Inupaiq village near Kiana. From carbon dating, the archaeologists discovered the village was from the late 1700s to the early 1800s. When more digging was done, they found that some of the houses they excavated were connected with tunnels and passageways. The average house size in the village was about the size of typical one-roomed cabins. Some of the artifacts that were found include metal fragments and shards, as well as glass beads.

Kiana is the central village of the Kobuk river, for Kowagmiut Inupaiq Eskimos. Kiana became known to the Federal Government after a population increase, eventually making the town in to a city, in the year 1915. A United States Post Office was founded in the year 1964.

Before the post office was built, mail came only once a month. The mail transportation method was mainly by dogsled or by walking from one village to another. During this time, Kiana became a key supply city for coal and gold miners who were posted along the Squirrel River. The Blankenship Trading Post was managed by Walter Blankenship, and later by Robinson Blankenship and Ruth Blankenship Sandvik. This trading post was the only store with goods such as flour, salt, soda pop, coffee, tea, sugar, and fruit, both dried and canned.


The first villages in the region to start teaching the Inupiaq language in public school were Ambler, Shungnak, and Kobuk. Then Noorvik and the other villages around the region began teaching it as well. Viola Barr and Rosaline Jackson were the first people in Kiana to teach Inupiaq language as a class in 1971. Before white people came to the region, the children of Kiana grew up speaking the Inupiaq language. Most Kiana students and adults nowadays do not know how to read, write, or speak the language. The region is trying to get the language back so all can speak Inupiaq and make the Elders of Kiana proud. Rosetta Stone and the Inupiaq Language Commission are helping this effort.


Kiana is located at 66°58′18″N 160°25′49″W / 66.97167°N 160.43028°W / 66.97167; -160.43028 (66.971720, -160.430168).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2), all of it land.

The village of Kiana is located where three rivers meet: the Squirrel River, Kobuk River, and big/small channel rivers. Kiana is in the Northwestern Alaska, 30 miles North of the Arctic Circle, and 57 air miles East of Kotzebue.


In Kiana, there are of frequent storms and extreme temperature swings. There is also evidence of climate change occurring in the past 50 years. Evidence of rising temperatures each month, and increased precipitation (except July) has also been recorded.

The snowfall is significant, at about 60 inches per year, and the rainfall is 16 inches on average. The Kobuk River is navigable by boat from May to October, and frozen for the remainder of the year.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1920 98
1930 115 17.3%
1940 167 45.2%
1950 181 8.4%
1960 253 39.8%
1970 278 9.9%
1980 345 24.1%
1990 385 11.6%
2000 388 0.8%
2010 361 −7.0%
2020 447 23.8%
U.S. Decennial Census

Kiana first appeared on the 1920 U.S. Census as an unincorporated native village. It formally incorporated in 1964.

As of 2013, the total population in Kiana was 361, 101 occupied households, and 77 families. Average people per household: 3.

The median income for a household in 2011, was $39,688, and the median income for a family was $41,667. Males had a median income of $31,250 versus $35,938 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,534. About 5.6% of families and 11.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.1% of those under age 18 and 12.5% of those age 65 or over.

People in Community

Male Female Total
192 169 361

Average Age

Male Female
28 26


Native American White Hispanic African American 2 or More Races
90% 6.6% 0.6% 0% 2.8%


There are many types and uses of transportation in and around Kiana, and include travel over both land and water.

The types of land transportation used by the people in Kiana are all terrain vehicles, cars, trucks, and snow machines. They are used for a variety of reasons such as for getting around the village and just riding around.

Some vehicles are used to travel between villages. In the winter, an ice road is usually plowed or formed on the Kobuk River from Kiana to Noorvik, and extends all the way to Kotzebue. In the summer, the people of Kiana use the same routes on motor boats to get to other villages.

In all seasons, people use bush airplanes to get to all other villages in the region. Bob Baker Memorial Airport is located one mile from the city. Bering Air and Ravn Air provide service to Kotzebue and other locations.

The barge system that services Kiana is Crowley Marine Services. This system goes to Kiana every summer, bringing gas, fuel, and other useful products. Store owners use large boats to ship goods upriver.

Cost of transportation is very significant. For example, the costs of gas and reservations to go on a bush plane are very high. Bering Air costs are : round trip to Kotzebue $324, and to Noorvik $180. With Ravn Air:Round trip to Kotzebue is $240, and to Noorvik $160. The gas prices vary : at the Kiana City Office, it costs $7.21, with tax, for one gallon of gas. At Lee's Sea Air (store in Kiana), it's $12 for one gallon.


The Kiana School, operated by the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, serves the community. As of 2017 it had 123 students, with Alaska Natives making up 97% of the student body.

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