Chukotkan hunters who boated to Gambell at the end of July headed home to Provideniya with a $10,000 humanitarian aid donation from the North Slope Borough.
Nome resident Vera Metcalf has worked with the Chukotkan hunters through various international delegations. She said Charlotte Brower, mayor of the North Slope Borough, has been very supportive of the exchanges between Russia and Alaska.
“Over the years, the borough has been providing some financial support to our visitors from across the waters,” said Metcalf.
This time, financial aid went toward fuel and supplies to make the 70-mile journey from St. Lawrence Island to the Chukotkan Peninsula possible. Mayor Brower said she provided financial support because these gatherings of Inuit people are important for unity and preserving kinship.
“There is little difference between efforts to unite Inuit families across international boundaries through formal organizations or through informal gatherings like we just saw,” said Brower. “The Inuit lived their lives without regard to political boundaries for millennia and the kinship shared between the Inuit people of Alaska and Chukotka stands as a testament of that fact.”
This trip was the first time in 14 years that Siberian Yupik Chukotkans were able to visit their distant relatives on St. Lawrence Island—a traditional exchange now being revived after war, international tension and dangerous seas prohibited travel for decades. A new diplomatic program is currently in the works to make crossing the border easier.