Threatened by Rising Seas: Alaskan Village’s Culture Memorialized in Powerful True Story

December 21, 2021 USA News No Comments

brown wooden houses on snow covered field during daytime

Few newlyweds would choose to embark upon married life by relocating to a remote, Inuit (Inupiaq) village with no electricity or running water. But at the age of 23, new bride Deanne Burch and her husband, Ernest “Tiger” Burch, who was conducting research for his Ph.D., did exactly that.

For months, the couple called Kivalina, Alaska, home. The environment and living conditions on the barrier island 83 miles above the Arctic Circle represent a culture that few people have inhabited, and scientists predict that Kivalina will be underwater by 2025.

In Journey Through Fire and Ice: Shattered Dreams Above the Arctic Circle, Deanne pours her memories onto paper, immortalizing in vivid detail their experiences in one of our country’s most remote regions, including the ways in which the Inupiaq people supported the Burches throughout both exhilarating triumphs and agonizing tragedies.

In Kivalina, Deanne lived on the edge of two worlds — the one she left behind in the lower 48 and the one where she reluctantly participated in all aspects of the women’s lives. Skinning seals, cleaning and drying fish, and cutting beluga and caribou to store became her way of life. Plumbing, running water and electricity were not available. Loneliness was a constant companion until a few women befriended her.

During a span of six days, Deanne and Tiger narrowly escaped death during a camping trip, and Tiger suffered severe burns from a fire in their house. He spent three months in the hospital receiving treatment for seared lungs and horrific burns on his face and hands. His lungs never recovered from this ordeal.

When he was finally released from the hospital, he returned to the village with Deanne to complete the study. The life-threatening and harrowing experiences in Alaska transformed Deanne into a woman of strength who learned how to embrace challenges.

Over 50 years later, she remembers that young girl who left on an unknown journey that will live in her heart forever.

Author Deanne Burch was born and raised in Canada and attended the University of Toronto, obtaining B.A. degrees in liberal arts and social work. After the Alaska journey, she and her husband eventually settled in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, where they lived until his death.

Deanne spent 30 years as a professional international photographer who taught and lectured in the U.S. and Canada. She published several articles in photography magazines and journals. Since retiring in 2014, she devoted herself to writing short stories and children’s stories. Journey Through Fire and Ice: Shattered Dreams Above the Arctic Circle was published in March 2021.


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