Americans to Visit Chukotka in Effort to Reunite Arctic Island Families

© Photo : Timur AkhmetovRussia’s Chukotka
Russia’s Chukotka - Sputnik International
A group of Americans will travel to Russia’s Chukotka in June in an attempt to reunite families separated during the Cold War on both sides of the Bering Strait, President of Anchorage-based company Circumpolar Expeditions (CPE) told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The Diomede Islands consist of Big Diomede, part of Russia’s Chukotka Autonomous Area, and America’s Little Diomede. They are located in the middle of the Bering Strait, between Alaska and Siberia, and are less than 2.5 miles apart.

© Photo : Timur AkhmetovПутешествие по Чукотке
Путешествие по Чукотке  - Sputnik International
Путешествие по Чукотке

“There is a small group of us who will fly to Provideinya, Chukotka, and then traveling by whale boat up the coast to Uelen, stopping at villages along the way,” Tandy Wallack said. “While in Chukotka, we will be working on plans for a 2017 reunion of family members related to native people from Big Diomede and Little Diomede Islands.”

During the Cold War, indigenous people who could previously freely travel between the islands became separated by the constituted border between the United States and Russia.

CPE is currently involved in a project to bring together Diomede Island families and their relatives from both sides of the Bering Strait to renew cultural ties. The company was contacted by the Native Village of Diomede on Little Diomede to help them locate relatives in Chukotka, especially those who used to live on Big Diomede.

Wallack noted that 11 people, including two native people from Little Diomede Island and a local Alaskan reporter will fly from Nome, Alaska to Provideniya on a charter flight on June 28, and will return from Provideniya to Nome on July 12.

“While in Chukotka we will be traveling by vans, trucks, and open whale boats to New Chapilino, Yanrakannot, Lorino, Lavrentia, and Uelen,” she added. “We will be meeting with local native people and organizations, and with local and regional authorities.”

Wallack said that for logistical and cultural reasons it would be better to have the reunion on Big Diomede rather than Little Diomede.

“More family members from Chukotka will be able to attend if the reunion is held in Russia, and it will allow Diomede Islanders and their descendants to walk the grounds of their ancestral homes,” she explained. “We will need help with applying for Russia’s permission to have the family reunion on Big Diomede.”

At present, the company is receiving assistance from National Park Beringia and from the Shared Berigian Heritage Program.

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