Native Village of Gambell, Contact
The Siberian Yupik language is spoken very frequently, and most residents are bilingual. The subsistence lifestyle in Gambell is based on marine mammal hunting.
St. Lawrence Island has been inhabited intermittently for the past 2,000 years by Yupik people. 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, missionaries to the town. 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. The city was incorporated in 1963. 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.