With over 95% of the population being native, Savoonga is a Siberian Yupik Eskimo village of about 650 people located on the northern coast of St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. The people of Savoonga originally came from Siberia where the indigenous peoples there still speak a similar language. St. Lawrence Island has been occupied for at least 2,000 years. About 4,000 people lived on St. Lawrence Island during the 19th century. However, between 1878 and 1880 famine decreased the population significantly. In the early 1900's reindeer were introduced to the island attracting hunters and permanent residents to the land around what is now Savoonga. The city of Savoonga was established in 1969. Traditional subsistence culture is of upmost importance to the people of Savoonga. The culture of Savoonga is an extension of the land and sea with intricate and ancient rituals revolving around walrus and whale hunting. Savoonga is noted as the "Walrus Capitol of the World," but whaling is equally, if not more, important to the people. Most members of the village are bilingual, speaking both English and their mother tongue Siberian Yupik. Savoonga's climate is officially subarctic maritime with some continental influences during the winter, but these are changing dramatically with climate change. Summer temperatures average between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (4-10 degrees Celsius); winters average -7 to 11 degrees F (-22 to -12 degrees C).
Savoonga residents were interviewed during the summer of 2010. These interviews can be viewed below.
The most visible impact of climate change is the melting of the sea ice. Savoonga hunters talk about having to go out up to 100 miles to find the edge of the ice where game resides.
Residents also talk about how they are adapting to these changes and alert us to what we can expect with climate change and offer advise to our leaders.