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Bering Straits

Total Population:
Alaska Native Population:
Median Age:
23.2 years
Median Household Income:
Male-to-Female Ratio:
Drop-Out Rate:
H.S. Graduation Rate:

  Grades 7-12 Enrollment on 10/01/06:

Electricity Cost:
Shaktoolik: 46.95 cents/kWh


Brevig Mission, Council, Diomede ,Golovin, King Island, Koyuk, Mary’s Igloo, Nome, Saint Michael, Shaktoolik, Shishmaref, Solomon, Stebbins, Teller, Unalakleet, Wales, White Mountain and the unincorporated villages of Elim, Gambell and Savoonga

History & Lifestyle:

The Bering Straits region is diverse with three distinct languages spoken (Inupiat, Siberian Yup’ik and Central Yup’ik). It is not known with certainty where the boundary between the Central Yup’ik and Inupiat languages was located. It appears that the areas north and west of Solomon were occupied by Inupiat speakers while the area to the east and south was the homeland of Yup’ik. The people of the Diomede and King Islands are Inupiat and Saint Lawrence Island is the home of the only Siberian Yup’ik people on the United States side of Bering Strait.

Inland caribou hunters and fisherman, the Qawiaramiut, occupied most of the interior of the Seward Penninsula. Along the coast margin of Norton Sound, Unaliq people pursued sea mammals, fish and caribou. Walrus, polar bear, and seal were hunted on King Island, some 40 miles off the mainland and only 2.3 square miles in area. Diomede Island and Saint Lawrence Island people also lived off the ocean’s resources. Small groups of people from the areas of the Selawik and Kobuk Rivers, located north of the BSNC region, migrated south (possibly due to famine, smallpox and the declining caribou population), beginning around 160 years ago to inhabit Norton Sound communities. These Malemiut speakers (a dialect of Inupiat) married into the remaining families of Yup’ik speakers, eventually settling in Koyuk, Shaktoolik, and Unalakleet. Saint Michael and Stebbins are the home of Central Yup’ik people.

The introduction of cash into the local economies and the establishment of permanent communities, schools, churches and hospitals/clinics have brought significant change over the past 100 years.  However, living off the land continues to be the central component of each community’s identity and the economy base balances cash and subsistence for survival.



Siberian Yupik (also St. Lawrence Island Yupik) is distinct from Central Alaskan Yup’ik and is spoken in the two St. Lawrence Island villages of Gambell and Savoonga. The language of St. Lawrence Island is nearly identical to the language spoken across the Bering Strait on the tip of the Siberian Chukchi Peninsula. The total Siberian Yupik population in Alaska is about 1,400, with approximately 1,000 speakers of the language. Many children in both Gambell and Savoonga still learn Siberian Yupik as their first language.

Inupiaq is spoken throughout much of northern Alaska and is closely related to the Canadian Inuit dialects and the Greenlandic dialects, which may collectively be called “Inuit” or Eastern Eskimo, distinct from Yupik or Western Eskimo. Alaskan Inupiaq includes two major dialect groups: North Alaskan Inupiaq and Seward Peninsula Inupiaq. Seward Peninsula Inupiaq is spoken in the BSNC region with the Qawiaraq dialect found principally in Teller and in the southern Seward Peninsula and Norton Sound area, and the Bering Strait dialect spoken in the villages surrounding Bering Strait and on the Diomede Islands.  The name “Inupiaq,” meaning “real or genuine person” (inuk “person” plus -piaq “real, genuine”), is often spelled “Iñupiaq,” particularly in the northern dialects. It can refer to a person of this group and can also be used as an adjective. The plural form of the noun is “Inupiat,” referring to the people collectively. Alaska is home to about 15,700 Inupiat, of whom about 2,144 speak the language.


Contact Information:

Bering Straits Native Corporation 
PO Box 1008
110 Front Street, Suite 300
Nome, Alaska 99762
Phone: 907.443.5252
Toll Free: 800.478.5079
Fax: 907.443.2985
E-mail: [email protected]

Website: http://www.beringstraits.com/