Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the nation. For many Native communities, rising temperatures have led to thawing permafrost, aggressive erosion and flooding. In Newtok — a Yupik village of nearly 400 — the damage is beyond repair.

Clinging to the western edge of the vast Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, the village was populated after the Bureau of Indian Affairs built a school in 1958. It was as far upriver as the barge carrying building supplies could travel.

In retrospect, not far enough.

Rapid erosion has brought the Ninglick River to within yards of residents’ homes. Thawing permafrost has shifted structures off foundations, skewed power lines and damaged boardwalks that are the sole thoroughfare. Waste from portable toilets called honey buckets has been distributed across the landscape by recurrent flooding.

Last summer, several families were displaced and their homes demolished to keep them from collapsing into the Ninglick.

In October, after years of planning and millions of dollars, nearly a third of the community began relocating to new homes on higher ground in Mertarvik, about nine miles away.

It will require several more years and tens of millions more dollars in funding that has yet to be obtained to complete the move.

These Americans are among the first to seek refuge from a rapidly changing environment.

They will not be the last.

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