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Palmer Sagoonick

Palmer was interviewed by William Schneider and Kumi Rattenbury at the Reindeer Herder's House in Nome, Alaska on August 7, 2003. He lives in Shaktoolik, Alaska. His grandfather was from the Shishmaref area but herded for the Lomen Company around Shaktoolik. After 1937, Palmer's father worked for a herder in the Unalakleet area. The BIA later asked his father to take over this herd, which is the same one Palmer had until he lost it to caribou. He discusses his family's history in herding, dealing with the loss of a herd, and the effects of climate change on the herds and herding. At the time of the interview, Palmer and his son were operating a crab boat out of Nome. Fishing and training dogs for the Iditarod have become very important to him since losing the herd.

Tape Number: H2000-102-32
Click on a section below to hear the audio.


1) Herding in the family.
Palmer Sagoonick -- lives in Shaktoolik/ grandfather -- Shishmaref/ Lomen Company/ father -- Gustuv Sagoonick/ Lomen Herds -- sold/ father worked for John Katoogan/ Katoogan herd/ caribou -- took reindeer away/ Shaktoolik/ 3 generation involvement with herding/ grandfather -- Simon Sagoonick/ Lomen days/ paid locals for knowledge/ father --- saw changes/ from dog team to helicopter/ nomadic ways -- modern days/ income change/ harvest one reindeer a month -- past/ live off the land/ trade/ 30's to 40's -- herd decline/ Unalakleet/ couldn't sell reindeer -- 1937 Reindeer Act/ Lomen Archives|

2) Father's involvement in herding.
BIA/ John Katoogan/ Unalakleet -- Egavik area/ BIA -- asked father to take over herd/ Gustuf Sagoonick/ decline of the herd/ University/ healthy herd -- quality animals/ didn't cut horns/ harvested horn -- earned money/ meat market/ caribou migration -- new grazing areas/ Koyuk Herd -- taken over/ migration increased/ took over entire herd/ losing herd/ caribou -- overwhelming/ Hadley Herd/ Merlin Henry/ Shaktoolik/ butchered what was left/ renewed range license/ hopeful|

3) Dealing with the loss of the herd.
Point Hope -- 800 reindeer/ village offers protection -- predators/ others ate the animals/ dog mushing/ Iditarod/ boat -- crab, halibut/ income/ terrain -- difficult to protect the reindeer/ Denbigh -- protected area/ father -- wintered reindeer in Cape Denbigh/ overgrazed the area/ lichen -- years to grow/ quality herd -- well fed/ didn't move herd -- caribou migration danger/ herding instinct/ trees -- difficult to herd|

4) Climate changes and reindeer herding.
50 or 60 years -- weather change/ warmer now/caribou -- range further/ freeze-up -- later/ early thaw/ snow machine -- use limited/ reindeer fawn -- late April/ bear -- predators/ difficult to protect animals/ fall time -- access/ herd -- growing/ over grazing/ herd moved more often -- late fall/ grass lakes -- dried up lakes/ reindeer -- feed on grass/ high nutrition/ grass would grow back/ caribou -- took over grass lakes/ shifting of land/ water flow -- changes/ beaver dams/ heavy rains/ weather changes -- lakes drying|

5) Effects of weather on the reindeer and future of herding in the family.
frost -- destroys berries/ less snow fall -- more ice/ reindeer -- can't get lichen/ change style of herding/ children -- 4 boys/ son -- pilot/ family history/ reindeer herding -- wait till the caribou migration changes/ seaweed -- salt/ tidal grass -- provides salt/ weather -- always different/ no typical year/ springtime -- handle deer/ predation -- wolves, bear, ravens/ fawning season -- check deer/ summertime -- break/ fall -- corral/ vaccinate/ castrate/ tag/ count herd/ summer corralling -- horn market/ winter handling -- no mosquitoes/ less pressure/ draw blood/ markings/ helping with studies/ fall access -- limited by late freeze-up|


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