In August, Alaska’s Gov. Sean Parnell officially declared an economic disaster for the two communities of St. Lawrence Island following the lowest walrus harvest on record. Two months later, there’s been no tangible aid from the governor’s office or state.
Residents of Gambell and Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island depend heavily on the annual walrus harvest. In an average year, nearly 1,000 walruses are harvested, but this year a mere 370 were taken between the two communities. That translates into an enormous loss: not only does it mean less cash coming in from ivory sales, but also spending on expensive, store-bought groceries in place of freezers full of subsistence meat.
In advance of worsening winter weather, residents in Savoonga are doing what they can to cope through thrift. KNOM’s Zachariah Hughes traveled to Savoonga to hear how community members are dealing with the loss of income and resources from this year’s walrus harvest.