2nd Class City
in the Nome Census Area
- Area Type
- Current Population
- Population Comment
- 2013 DCCED Certified Estimate
- Pronunciation/Other Names
- (suh voon' guh)
- Census Designated Place (CDP)
- Borough/Census Area FIPS Code
- Place FIPS
Fisheries Participation and Earnings
Election, Recording, and Judicial Districts
- Senate District
- House District
- Judicial District
- Recording District
- Cape Nome
Facilities and Amenities
- Municipal Facilities & Utilities
- Watering Point, School Water, Electric (AVEC), Lanfill, VPSO/VPO, Volunteer Fire, Suicide Prevention, Roads, Bingo, Lodging, Building Rental, Equipment Rental
Geography and Climate
- Savoonga is located on the northern coast of St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, 164 miles west of Nome. It lies 39 miles southeast of Gambell.
- Community Map Available
- Map URL
- Sq Mi Land
- Sq Mi Water
- Savoonga has a subarctic maritime climate with some continental influences during the winter. Summer temperatures average 40 to 51 °F; winters average -7 to 11 °F. Temperature extremes from -34 to 67 °F have been recorded. Average precipitation is 10 inches annually, with 58 inches of snowfall. The island is subject to prevailing winds, averaging 18 mph. Freeze-up on the Bering Sea occurs in mid-November, with break-up in late May.
History and Culture
- St. Lawrence Island has been inhabited intermittently for the past 2,000 years by Yup'ik Eskimos. The island had numerous villages with a total population of around 4,000 by the 19th century. A tragic famine occurred on the island between 1878 and 1880, severely reducing the population. In 1900 a herd of reindeer was moved to the island, and by 1917 the herd had grown to over 10,000 animals. A reindeer camp was established in 1916 at the present village site, where grazing lands were better, and the herd tended to remain. Good hunting and trapping in the area attracted more residents. A post office was established in 1934. The city was incorporated in 1969. 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.
- It is a traditional St. Lawrence Yup'ik village with a subsistence lifestyle based on walrus and whale hunting. Savoonga is hailed as the 'Walrus Capital of the World.' Whale, seal, walrus, and reindeer comprise 80% of islanders' diets. Due to the island's isolation, most residents are bilingual -- Siberian Yup'ik is still the first language. Islanders today have successfully mixed the past with the present.
- Indigenous Language
- Siberian Yupik
- Federally Recognized Tribe
- Name of Federally Recognized Tribe
- Native Village of Savoonga
- 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.
- Savoonga's isolated location with no seaport and iced-in conditions during the winter means a dependence on air transport. There is a state-owned gravel airstrip with regular air service is available from Nome and Unalakleet. There is no dock, and supplies are lightered from Nome or off-loaded on the beach.
- State Ferry
- Cargo Barge
- Road Connection