nelson kanuk

17 Years Old, Alaska Plaintiff

"I'm expecting a big wave... I always tell my children to be thankful for what they have, because tomorrow it might not be there. They grasp it pretty good. Yeah, I'm very proud of them. ~ William Kanuk, Nelson's father
​MY STORY.  I am an Alaskan Native, a member of the Yup’ik Eskimo Tribe. Living in Alaska and in close touch with the changing climate here, I fear that my family, village, and culture will all be some of the first to be irreparably harmed by climate change.  In fact, we already are experiencing the effects of climate change now.

In Kipnuk, the snow falls later than it used to, and the sea ice starts forming deeper into the winter. The elders of my village tell me that the cold actually protects us from the winter storms.  And, the ice protects from the ocean storms. 


My Concerns



permafrost melt
fear for my future
less food sources




The warmer temperatures melt the permafrost, which weakens the land and makes it unstable.  In the fall of 2010, our home was 60 feet away from the river bank, but by the end of 2011, the river is now 13 feet closer. We do not know where we will move when the river comes too close to our home.

Since I am the oldest of my six siblings, I will need to take my father’s place at the head of the family once he is no longer here.  I need to start preparing now.  I am preparing for that future by taking a stand against climate change.  If climate change continues, we will no longer be able to hunt like we have, or be safe where we have been. 

My name is Nelson Kanuk, I am 18 years old and I matter.



I started by telling my story.

What is your story as it relates to the climate crisis?
My story is about my life in the Alaskan tundra and how global warming is melting the permafrost that our village is built on.  It is messing up the weather cycle, and affecting my community's lifestyle.  I've begun to tell my story all across the country and people begin to recognize that we are affected by the climate crisis already.



You can screen Nelson's video in your own community to start a discussion on climate change, the effects of flood, permafrost melt, erosion, and weather changes. Using the screening guide below, and other resources, your community can become more aware of the climate crisis. And do something about it.

Screening Guide

Nelson's story is one of nine short films about young people across the U.S. who have been affected by climate change. This film series helps to put a human face on climate change to let people know this is about our future survival.

Tell Your Story


I took legal action to reduce carbon emissions.

Please join me as a Friend of the Court  
I filed a lawsuit against the State of Alaska in 2011, asking the courts to determine that the atmosphere is part of the public trust, and that the State has an obligation to protect it. The court disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit. On November 16, 2012, five other appellants and I filed our opening brief to the Alaska Supreme Court.
I am also part of the Federal lawsuit because I am a member of Kids vs Global Warming. You can become a Friend of the Court and sign this Amicus Brief to make sure your voices are counted when that case goes into appeal.


You can help hold your government accountable to the public trust doctrine that protects the atmosphere as a public resource. 


I want to take legal action.

Download my

Press Release


I am leading an iMatter March on April 20, 2013.

Please march with me in your community.
I will be organizing a march in Sitka, Alaska, where I go to boarding school. It's not hard, and it's a way to build a team of supporters, as well as a way to let your community know that the climate crisis is about our future.


Sign Up to Lead a March

Join Nelson, and the iMatter network of activists, to demand that our governments creates a plan of action 

to stop permafrost melt, and other impacts of our fossil fuel addiction!

Nelson's Press

Nelson has been invited to speak all over the country to tell his story and inspire others to join the movement.  Watch his speech and read more about this Symposium in D.C. at the First Steward's Symposium, Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C. July 2012.
"The ice is melting -- threatening the future of the village and its traditional seal harvest." Nelson Kanuk

NPR: Environmentalists Push Climate Change Suits on Behalf of Kids. March 4, 2012.

Nelson Kanuk on the Effect of Climate Change on the Alaskan Tundra

Do You Have a Project About Ice Melt?