Savoonga Presbyterian Church
"The Walrus Capital of the World" is Savoonga, Alaska on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. To get there you must first fly to Anchorage then 449 miles north west via Nome and weather permitting, to Savoonga. There in the land of the midnight sun where it snows September to May live 643 people, mainly Yupik Eskimos with relatives in Siberia. Those who aren't Yupik are the teachers mostly from "the lower 48" at the Hogarth Kingeekuk Memorial School for students kindergarten to grade 12. In 1900 reindeer were introduced to St. Lawrence Island. The herd grew to over 10,000 by 1917. The town of Savoonga grew from a reindeer camp established in 1916 to a village in 1930. Under the Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 it received joint title to St. Lawrence Island with its only other town, Gambell. The main subsistence livelihood is hunting of whales and walrus and carving of figures from walrus ivory and whale bone. The main outdoor sport is snowmobiling.
The Savoonga Presbyterian Church has been there as long as April, the Kingeekuk Memorial School secretary remembers. A large bell sits to the left of the church doors. April also remembers that it would ring during church services when she was about 10 years old. That was 28 years ago. She said today there are about ten people in church on a Sunday morning. The present minister of the church is Jacob Meadows. However, there isn't always a minister and then members of the community lead the Sunday services. Buildings other than the school, housing, and the two churches are: the store, the post office, a coffee shop, a medical clinic, a bingo hall with a snack shop, an airplane hanger, and a government building.
Research: Thank you to April, school secretary at Kingeekuk Memorial School
in Savoonga, Alaska.
Photo: Taken by teacher Laura (Wilson) Misner 2006.