A Culture on the Edge

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In her debut film, Laura St. Andrews highlights the importance of hunting to the people of Savoonga by showcasing scenes of the natural landscape and interviews with village hunters.  The film shows how the subsistence village draws its identity from the surrounding land.

Savoonga, Alaska

Savoonga is a federally recognized Siberian Yupik village on the northern coast of St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea.  The island itself has been occupied for at least 2,000 years and the city of Savoonga was established in 1969. 

Today 95% of the 650 village members are native and most speak both English and Siberian Yupik.  Traditional subsistence culture is of utmost importance to the people of Savoonga.  The culture is said to be an extension of the land and sea with intricate and ancient rituals revolving around walrus and whale hunting. 

Savoonga is noted as the "Walrus Capital of the World," but whaling is equally important to the people and culture.  Savoonga's climate is subarctic maritime with some continental influences during the winter.  However, these historically stable climate conditions have been changing dramatically and the most visible impact is melting 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 advice to our leaders.  These interviews can be viewed on the Impacts page.