About Savoonga

Savoonga, Alaska was incorporated in 1969, and in 1971 became the joint owner with Gambell of the entire island. Savoonga is a city in the Nome Census Area, Alaska, one of two on St. Lawrence Island, in the Bering Sea. The 2007 Census estimate puts the population at 647. The local economy consists largely of subsistence hunting for walrus, seals, fish, and bowhead whales; the city calls itself the “Walrus Capital of the World”. A dogsled mail service operated here until 1963.

Geography

Savoonga is located at 63°41’48″N 170°27’39″W. Savoonga is on the northern coast of St. Lawrence island in the Bering Sea. It is 39 mi southeast of Gambell. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.1 square miles, all of it land. Most people on St. Lawrence Island speak Siberian Yupik, while some of Alaska’s people are losing their native languages. There are daily flights from Nome, weather permitting.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 643 people, 145 households, and 113 families residing in the city. The population density was 105.5 people per square mile. There were 160 housing units at an average density of 26.2 per square mile (10.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.33% Native American, 4.35% White 0.16% Asian, and 0.16% from other races. There were 145 households out of which 55.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.7% were married couples living together, 15.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 21.4% were non-families. 16.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 0.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.43 and the average family size was 5.22. In the city the age distribution of the population shows 36.1% under the age of 18, 13.2% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 16.5% from 45 to 64, and 5.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26 years. For every 100 females there were 101.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 115.2 males. The median income for a household in the city was $23,438, and the median income for a family was $27,917. Males had a median income of $30,500 versus $29,167 for females. The per capita income for the city was $7,725. About 29.3% of families and 29.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 40.6% of those under age 18 and 9.8% of those age 65 or over.

History

St. Lawrence Island has been inhabited sporadically for the past 2,000 years by both Alaskan Yup’ik and Siberian Yupik people. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the island had a population of about 4,000 in numerous villages. Between 1878 and 1880 a famine decimated the island’s population. Many who did not starve left. The remaining population of St. Lawrence Island was nearly all Siberian Yupik. In 1900 reindeer were introduced on the island and by 1917, the herd had grown to over 10,000 animals. A reindeer camp was established near present-day Savoonga in 1916. The village of Savoonga was established near the camp in the 1930s. Good hunting and trapping in the area attracted more residents. Gambell and Savoonga received joint title to most of the land on St. Lawrence Island under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

Education

Savoonga is served by the Bering Strait School District. Hogarth Kingeekuk Sr. Memorial School serves grades Pre-K through 12.

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