Lydia and Jerome Apataki
Lydia and Jerome were born on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea in Western Alaska. They are traditional Yupiks, which is a branch of the genealogy that Westerners usually, but unfortunately refer to, as ‘Eskimo.’ Two communities are on St. Lawrence Island and both of them, Gambell and Savoonga, lie on the coast. The Yupiks on this 1800 sq mile island are People of the Sea, albeit a very cold and dangerous one. This is the land of traditional walrus, seal, and whale hunts, which are allowed by the International Whaling Commission and the United States Marine Mammal Act as an Aboriginal Peoples Subsistence Lifestyle Right.
Lydia has only been out of Alaska on two occasions during her life. She began making dolls at the age of 25. She has 6 children, 16 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren, having just recently moved back to St. Lawrence Island after living in Anchorage for some years. Lydia is a master artist. She made the rare Bird-skin Parkas that hang in the Nome Auklet Museum and the Alaska Cultural Heritage Center in Anchorage. Once very traditionally items, now only a few of the great artists still know how to make them.
Jerome held a regular job most of his life and only began carving when he was 40 years old. He was the assistant manager of the local general store in Gambell. For years, he went out on the whale, seal, and walrus hunts. Jerome’s works are sought after and prized by other Yupiks for their integrity, traditional construction, and usefulness as opposed to being admired for their ‘artistic’ quality, which is what we in the art industry gravitate toward.
We have only met up with them in Anchorage, Alaska, but have been invited, and intend to go out to stay with them in their home on St Lawrence Island, in winter no less!