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Tom Gray
Tom Gray

Tom Gray was interviewed on March 19, 2002 by William Schneider, Greg Finstad, and Knut Kielland at the Reindeer Herder's House in Nome, Alaska. Kathy Turco was also present during the interview. In this interview, Tom talks about how he got involved in reindeer herding, the challenges and successes of herding, the effect of caribou moving onto the Seward Peninsula, changing environmental conditions, changing technology, and the future of the reindeer industry. He also touches on how herders use geography to protect their reindeer herds from infiltration by caribou.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-102-17

Project: Reindeer Herding: The Present and the Past
Date of Interview: Mar 19, 2002
Narrator(s): Tom Gray
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Greg Finstad, Knut Kielland
People Present: Kathy Turco
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Science Foundation
Alternate Transcripts
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1) Introduction and family history in reindeer herding.

2) Reindeer drive from Shishmaref.

3) Building up the herd.

4) Tom discusses his future in reindeer herding.

5) Tom's opinion on why caribou have been moving to the Seward Peninsula, changes in weather, and making a living.

6) The diminishing reindeer industry.

7) Movement of caribou onto the range.

8) Changes in technology and the reindeer industry.

9) Federal and state management of lands and how that impacts negatively and positively with herding.

10) Support systems and advice to the younger generation.

11) The role of the environment and using the land to your advantage.

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Section 1: started -- early 1980s\ animals -- from Wales\ reindeer\ losing animals\ Shishmaref\ Wales\ herd -- built up\ White Mountain\ Shishmaref to Wales\ Wales to White Mountain\ corral\ helicopter\ Golovin\ income\ helicopter\ corralling\ animals -- earmarked\ trial and error\ Bureau of Indian Affairs\ range\ Longley, Gary -- Bureau of Indian Affairs manager\ reindeer\ range\ reindeer herd\ energy\ caribou problem\ lifestyle|

Section 2: Olanna, Leonard\ Weyiouanna, Clifford\ animals\ corralled -- in Wales\ reindeer -- in one group\ Teller\ Pilgrim River\ Nealuk River\ storm -- caught in\ reindeer -- left them\ White Mountain\ routes\ Wales\ weather|

Section 3: loan -- 5 year\ animals -- 200 plus at the end of 5 years\ pay back loan\ caribou -- problems with\ White Mountain\ Buckland\ Bureau of Indian Affairs\ Olanna, Leonard \ herds -- wiped out\ NANA\ Hadleys\ Koyuk\ reindeer -- lost 700\ caribou -- migration\ Fish River\ Golovin\ White Mountain\ Golovin Bay\ airplane -- chartered\ Golovin -- council\ Koyuk River\ caribou -- everywhere|

Section 4: reindeer herding -- no future in it\ lifestyle\ children -- could be in reindeer herding business\ tough situation\ caribou\ Davis, Larry\ caribou -- big problem\ losing animals\ Davis, Larry -- lost 3,000 animals\ ranges\ goal -- protect reindeer|

Section 5: feed\ wind condition\ weather\ problem\ winter weather\ White Mountain\ warm winters\ weather pattern\ cycles\ cold\ old-timers\ snow -- none\ movements of animals\ herding\ no economy\ horn market\ meat market -- struggling\ caribou -- showed up at the end of September\ walking\ snowmachine\ tussocks\ money\ reindeer herding\ making a living\ large population\ hunting guide -- registered\ animals -- depended on\ nature\ fish cycles\ no control|

Section 6: reindeer industry\ caribou\ corralling\ money\ competing\ people -- don't care\ lifestyle\ benefits -- none\ hard work\ butchering\ younger generation\ Seward Peninsula\ bear problems -- nothing\ caribou problem\ fawning\ caribou -- brought wolves\ wolves -- scattered reindeer|

Section 7: caribou -- never left\ Alaska Department of Fish and Game\ Seward Peninsula\ Shishmaref\ butchering\ fawning\ caribou -- hanging around range\ migrating animals\ Buckland\ Kotzebue\ satellite collars\ herders\ front runners\ bulls\ main movement of caribou\ wolves\ impact\ reindeer -- chaos with caribou\ caribou -- shoot\ Golovin\ drive herd\ Golovin Bay|

Section 8: snowmachines\ radio collars\ satellite collars\ assets\ information\ caribou\ collars -- show where animals are\ wolves\ Alaska Department of Fish and Game\ University of Alaska\ satellite program\ reindeer herders\ website -- information\ factors\ high tech -- won't solve problems\ reindeer range\ Seward Peninsula\ caribou -- come and go\ history\ reindeer industry\ lifestyle money\ children -- driven reindeer\ reindeer -- butchered\ children -- some help in reindeer herding\ start over|

Section 9: reindeer industry\ Alaska Department of Fish and Game\ caribou\ public lands\ history\ reindeer -- active player\ support\ red meat\ reindeer meat\ ranges\ Seward Peninsula|

Section 10: welfare\ government\ stores\ generators\ reindeer\ rural communities\ electricity\ set goals\ aggressive\ doing things yourself\ goals -- fight for\ Bureau of Indian Affairs\ Bureau of Land Management\ reindeer\ population -- decreased\ manage animals|

Section 11: Seward Peninsula\ topography\ geography\ Rocky Point\ caribou -- overwhelmed\ land -- herders need to use to their advantage\ manage animals\ herders -- losing the battle\ caribou -- can't hide from\ wolves\ Shishmaref\ Olanna, Leonard\ Kokaruk\ Davis, Larry\ snow -- caribou won't come\ wolves\ ravens\ foxes\ food chain\ chain reaction\ safe refuge area\ Wales\ Shishmaref\ St. Lawrence Island\ money\ reindeer industry -- saving\ bureaucracy\ government\ investments\ Alaska Department of Fish and Game\ staff plane\ radio collars\ caribou\ snowmachines\ helicopters\ caribou movements\ reindeer industry\ Stevens, Senator Ted \ wolves\ bears\ caribou -- drive away\ caribou movement|