2nd Class City
in the Nome Census Area
- Area Type
- Current Population
- Population Comment
- 2013 DCCED Certified Estimate
- Pronunciation/Other Names
- (gam' bull); a.k.a. Sivuqaq
- Census Designated Place (CDP)
- Borough/Census Area FIPS Code
- Place FIPS
Election, Recording, and Judicial Districts
- Senate District
- House District
- Judicial District
- Recording District
- Cape Nome
Facilities and Amenities
- Municipal Facilities & Utilities
- Piped Water, Piped Sewer, Washeteria, Landfill, Electric (AVEC), Health Clinic, Qernughvik Bingo/Pull Tabs, Police (VPOs), State-funded Public Safety Officer (VPSO), Volunteer Fire, Public Safety Building, City Hall, Streets
Geography and Climate
- 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 Chukotka Peninsula, Siberia.
- Community Map Available
- Map URL
- Sq Mi Land
- Sq Mi Water
- Gambell has a maritime climate with continental influences in the winter. Wind and fog are common, and precipitation occurs 300 days per year. Average annual precipitation is 15 inches, with 80 inches of snowfall. The Bering Sea freezes during mid-November, with break-up at the end of May. Average summer temperatures are 34 to 48 °F; average winter temperatures are -2 to 10 °F. Extremes from -30 to 65 °F have been recorded.
History and Culture
- St. Lawrence Island has been inhabited intermittently for the past 2,000 years by 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, 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.
- The isolation of Gambell has helped to maintain their traditional St. Lawrence Yup'ik culture, their language, and their subsistence lifestyle, which is based on marine mammals. Residents are almost completely bilingual. Walrus-hide boats are still used to hunt.
- Indigenous Language
- Siberian Yupik
- Federally Recognized Tribe
- Name of Federally Recognized Tribe
- Native Village of Gambell
- Local Option Restrictions
- Ban sale, importation, and possession of alcohol.
- Incorporation Type
- 2nd Class City
- Public Education
- Not permitted to provide this service.
- Planning, Platting and Land Use Regulation
- Not required to exercise the powers in any circumstance, but may be permitted in all cases in the manner described for first class cities.
- Property Tax Powers
- May tax up to 20 mills, except where a higher levy is required to avoid default. Voter approval required.
- Sales Tax Powers
- No limit on the rate of levy of sales taxes; however, voter approval is required.
- Other Powers Not Prohibited
- May exercise other powers not prohibited by law.
- City Council or Assembly Composition and Apportionment
- 7 members elected at-large, except the council may provide for election other than at-large.
- Election and Term of Mayor
- Elected from the city council for a 1-year term, unless a longer term is provided by ordinance. Mayor selected by council (or by voters upon adoption of ordinance).
- Vote by Mayor
- Votes on all matters.
- Veto Power of the Mayor
- Does not have veto power.
- Power of Eminent Domain
- Permitted, but requires voter approval.
- Ability to Attain Home-Rule Status
- May not adopt home-rule charter without first reclassifying to a first-class city.
- Gambell's isolated location on an island with no seaport results in heavy dependence upon air transport. The state-owned airport has an asphalt runway. Regular flights from Nome and charters from Unalakleet are available. Freight is shipped by barge from Anchorage. Winter transportation on St. Lawrence Island primarily consists of snow-machine travel over packed snow. However, these routes often traverse through treacherous landscapes that offer little or no points of reference during bad weather. Tripods were installed in 2013 marking the winter routes between Gambell and Savoonga, as well as other points on the southern part of St. Lawrence Island. An approximately 7 mile evacuation road was completed in 2013 which extends southward from the village of Gambell.
- State Ferry
- Cargo Barge
- Road Connection