The History of Gambell

Gambell is located on the northwest cape of St. Lawrence Island, 200 miles southwest of Nome, in the Bering Sea. The City is 36 miles from the Chukotsk Peninsula, Siberia. It lies at approximately 63 47' N Latitude, 171 45' W Longitude (Sec. 03, T020S, R067W, Kateel River Meridian). The community is located in the Cape Nome Recording District. The area encompasses 11 sq. miles of land and 19 sq. miles of water.

St. Lawrence Island has been inhabited intermittently for the past 2,000 years by both Alaskan and Siberian Yup'ik Eskimos. In the 18th and 19th centuries, over 4,000 people inhabited the island in 35 villages. Sivuqaq is the Yup'ik name for the village and for the Island. The City was renamed for Mr. and Mrs. Vene C. Gambell. A tragic famine between 1878 and 1880 decimated the population. In 1900, reindeer were introduced to the island for local use, and in 1903, President Roosevelt established a reindeer reservation. During the 1930s, some residents moved to Savoonga to establish a permanent settlement there. When the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed in 1971, Gambell and Savoonga decided not to participate, and instead opted for title to the 1.136 million acres of land in the former St. Lawrence Island Reserve. The island is jointly owned by Savoonga and Gambell.

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History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development