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Siberian Yupik

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On St. Lawrence Island live Eskimo people known as Siberian Yupik. This island has been inhabited by these people for several thousand years. There are two villages on the island now, Gambell and Savoonga. St. Lawrence Island is in the Bering Sea, and is 164 miles west of a city called Nome. It is 100 miles long and 20 miles wide. It is only 38 miles east of Siberia, Russia. The people of St. Lawrence Island are the only Siberian Yupik Eskimos in the United States of America.

Their language is called Siberian Yupik and it is only spoken on St. Lawrence Island and in mainland Siberia. Savoonga is known as “Walrus Capital of the World.” The people on St. Lawrence Island live a subsistence lifestyle, meaning they hunt, fish, gather, and trade for most of their needs. Each year the villagers hunt for walrus, and all meat is shared. They will use the skin to make boats that are used during whaling. Since the island is so isolated, most of the people are bilingual, speaking both Siberian Yupik and English. Today the people on St. Lawrence Island have mixed the past into today’s lifestyle. A herd of 70 reindeer were introduced to the island in 1900 and grew substantially in numbers over the next 40 years, increasing to a peak of 10,000 animals. In 1916, a reindeer camp was set up at Savoonga, four miles west of the old Eskimo village of Kookoolik and the area’s good hunting and trapping attracted more residents.

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