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Herb Karmun
Herb Karmun

Herb Karmun was interviewed on October 4, 2000 by William Schneider, Rose Atuk Fosdick and Knut Kielland at Herb's home in Wasilla, Alaska. In this interview, Herb talks about his family's history of reindeer herding in the area around Deering, Alaska. He describes the variables that influence the health of the herd, with specific mention of wolves, bears, and the movements of caribou. Herb's herd had been taken over by caribou and he was hopeful that he might be able to recover the reindeer.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Introduction.

2) Reindeer herding in the old days.

3) Reindeer camps and how they chose them.

4) The transition away from walking with the reindeer.

5) Reindeer disappearing and what Al Karmun had to say about the decline.

6) Other causes that endangered the reindeer and the return of the caribou.

7) Reasons the caribou came back.

8) Movements of caribou on to Seward Peninsula in the 1970s before the Western Arctic Herd crash.

9) Caribou heading west because the moss is being depleted and the increase of wolves.

10) How people controlled wolves in the old days, how it has changed, and the problems that bears create.

11) The problems that bears created in the old days.

12) How Herb got started in reindeer herding and raising a family.

13) Traveling with the family while reindeer herding.

14) Changes in reindeer herding in Deering and reindeer camps.

15) Different roles involved in reindeer herding.

16) Tallying sheets and what they mean.

17) Impact on the communities during the reindeer crisis.

18) Community socializing/involvement around reindeer herding.

19) Other jobs in reindeer herding and people respected in the reindeer business.

20) Oldtimers, how he learned to butcher and move reindeer around.

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Fosdick, Rose -- Reindeer Herders Association\ Kielland, Knut -- biologist\ herding -- history\ herding -- development\ Karmun, Harry -- grandfather\ sled deer -- breaking in\ marking\ castrate\ disease\ reindeer -- slaughter\ starving|

Section 2: Karmun, Harry -- grandfather\ herding\ uncle\ reindeer -- observing them year round\ reindeer dogs\ people -- tough\ clothes -- snowsuit\ reindeer skin parkas\ leggings\ mukluks -- waterproof\ walking\ carrying packs\ dry reindeer meat\ seal oil|

Section 3: camps\ moving\ reindeer -- driving back\ overgrazing\ eating willows\ moss -- keep away\ walking\ moss -- abundant\ people -- walked a lot\ camps -- used for different seasons\ summertime -- no camps\ winter -- pitched camp\ Quartz Creek|

Section 4: sled deer -- hauling\ dry fish\ Karmun, Al (father) -- herding\ Karmun, Al -- took over uncle's herd\ Karmun, Al -- good times herding\ sled deer -- training\ walking|

Section 5: Bureau of Indian Affairs\ mid-1930s\ reindeer -- disease\ reindeer -- disappearing\ overgrazing\ wolves\ Moto, Don -- uncle\ reindeer -- population increase\ wolf -- population down\ grazing permits\ Bureau of Indian Affairs -- loans\ loan -- 300 reindeer to get started\ loan -- 5 years to pay back original amount\ Karmun, Al -- left reindeer business and came back in 1960s|

Section 6: outstanding loans\ money\ wolves\ overgrazing\ reindeer -- endangering\ reindeer -- people stealing them\ caribou\ migration -- peninsula, early days\ caribou -- returned\ herd -- wiped out\ Sheldon\ Hadley\ Henry, Merlin\ Sagoonick|

Section 7: migration -- Seward Peninsula\ bones\ camp\ environmental factors\ searching for new ground\ lava beds\ caribou -- spread out\ feed -- running out|

Section 8: Western Arctic Caribou Herd\ NANA\ reindeer -- 8,000\ herd -- lost\ Candle -- NANA herd wintered\ Deering\ Imuruk Lake\ Krusenstern\ mountains\ herd -- 20,000\ 1990s -- caribou moved in large numbers\ Central Seward Peninsula\ moss -- 15-20 years to bloom\ testing -- lots of\ caribou -- how much moss they eat out|

Section 9: tundra\ lava bed\ caribou -- heading west\ eating out\ moss\ wolves\ Gray, Tom\ White Mountain\ Golovin -- White Mountain area\ wolves -- catching\ caribou -- migrating in\ wolf tracks -- few\ wolf tracks -- increase\ caribou -- large numbers\ wolves -- not a problem in the early days|

Section 10: traps -- set\ protect property\ management policies\ hunting\ snowmachines\ bears\ springtime\ bear -- killing reindeer\ tracks -- following\ willows\ fawns -- food for bears|

Section 11: springtime\ protect property\ reindeer -- catching\ stories -- not many\ bears -- in town\ fawns -- killed by bears\ fawn -- population varied from year to year\ Deering\ no shooting|

Section 12: Karmun, Al -- took over brother's herd\ dog teams\ snowmachines\ snowmachine -- first\ dogs -- get rid of\ dog team -- rest after 20-30 miles\ snowmachines -- cover more miles\ gas\ breakdown\ rescues\ CBs\ family -- raising\ springtime -- traveling with family\ herding\ walking\ good times\ meat -- fresh all the time|

Section 13: son -- youngest\ riding\ reindeer\ reindeer meat\ good life\ today -- high speed\ roundup -- with dogs\ reindeer -- shoot, eat\ Anchorage\ moving -- tough|

Section 14: roundup\ tent -- never pitching one\ camping\ rushing out\ reindeer camps\ Sullivan Mountain -- move herds\ camp -- a month at a time\ reindeer -- keeping track of\ corral\ Goodhope Camp\ cabins -- two\ Goodhope River\ winter corral\ fawn -- marking\ castrate -- bulls for butchering|

Section 15: men -- roundup\ women -- help roundup\ daughters -- cooking, butchering\ tallying\ corraling\ working -- equal time\ dehorning\ castrating\ work -- everyone had their share\ people -- helping|

Section 16: blocks -- notation\ dot -- one for each animal\ connect -- 4 dots\ 10 animals\ across -- 10 blocks\ 100 animals -- equals 1 whole line\ tally person -- records, date, starting time, ending time, name of herd, counts animals\ females\ bulls\ mavericks\ steers\ totals\ herds -- different\ reindeer -- some get mixed up from other herds|

Section 17: butchering\ no cash\ work -- paid with reindeer meat\ dehorning\ work -- everyone has their job to do\ people -- shares of meat\ food -- store bought\ hunt\ caribou\ caribou -- migrating by\ people -- getting what they can|

Section 18: picnic -- big\ reindeer meat\ Karmun, Dan\ reindeer herd -- observing\ people getting together\ old days\ card games\ roundup\ planning\ helping\ Deering\ evening -- playing cards\ corraling\ bulls -- young men grab them|

Section 19: bull -- grabbing\ horns -- cutting\ drive -- in door\ people -- certain jobs\ good workers\ castrating -- 2, 3 guys\ tallying\ fawns -- earmarked\ horns -- cutting\ cooking\ working together|

Section 20: Barr, Gilford -- helped father\ shooting\ butchering\ castrating\ bulls -- look for fat ones\ uncle\ fall butchering\ roundup\ crashing\ lava beds\ Karmun, Alfred (father) -- his youngest brother?\ lava bed -- deep holes\ reindeer -- got out\ success\ uncle -- Karmun, Wilbur\ other dangerous places -- Noxapaga River\ river -- break through, false top|