Lydia was born and raised in Gambell, Alaska, on St. Lawrence Island. She is the youngest adopted daughter of Thomas and Pauline Apassingok. She married her wonderful husband, Jerome Nataay Apatiki, in 1969 and they raised three boys, three girls, and two precious grandsons, Marlott and Joshua Apatiki, as their own. They have nineteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
“Back in 1975, I started to work at our Gambell Elementary School as a bilingual aide. I worked with a homeroom teacher who taught English while I made my lesson plans in our language. Later, our school was turned over to the state and we still taught our language, St. Lawrence Island Yupik. We had effective bilingual programs for grades K-12. And in those years our students spoke St. Lawrence Island Yupik fluently.
ST. LAWRENCE ISLAND YUPIK is spoken in both Gambell and Savoonga. The language is nearly identical to that spoken across the Bering Strait on the tip of Siberia’s Chukchi Peninsula.
Very few linguistic or curriculum materials were written for St. Lawrence Island until the 1960s and 1970s, when linguists developed a modern orthography, or spelling system, for St. Lawrence Island Yupik. Since then, a variety of curriculum materials have been created for the schools. A full dictionary was published in 2008.
Sivuqam Kelugwi: A St. Lawrence Island Traditional Sewing Curriculum documents traditional St. Lawrence Island sewing stitches and techniques while teaching related St. Lawrence Island Yupik vocabulary.