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Donald Olson
Donald Olson

Donald "Donny" Olson was interviewed n August 7, 2003 by Bill Schneider and Kumi Rattenbury at the Reindeer Herder's House in Nome, Alaska. In this interview, Donny talks about his family's history with reindeer herding, his involvement in the reindeer industry, and his use of helicopters for herding. He also talks about effects of environmental change on the reindeer herds and herding practices, the impact of wild caribou and predators on the herds, and offers his perspectives on the current situation with reindeer herding on the Seward Peninsula.

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1) Family history of herding.

2) Helicopter herding and accessing the herds.

3) Separating caribou and reindeer with the helicopter.

4) Herders hiring a helicopter and decline of herds.

5) Traditional ways, government involvement and changes in the weather.

6) Looking at a chart of snow fall and climate changes.

7) Winter herding by helicopter increase.

8) Herds and climate changes.

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

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Section 1: Olson -- great grandfather/ Olson, Ollie -- 1898/ Ship -- Manitoba/ contract -- Jackson, Sheldon/ Laplander herders/ Siberian reindeer/ Nome -- gold strike/ great grandfather married -- woman from Golovin/ Ollie and Elvira Olson/ reindeer herding -- Alaska/ Finmark/ Lapland/ Reindeer Act of 1937 / World War II -- deer assimilated into other herds/ Aleutian invasion/ Seward Peninsula -- prepare for war/ 1950's -- parents got married/ father -- aviation/ Golovin -- Sigford Iokuma herd/ Sigford Sr./ sons, Martin and Sigford Jr. -- ran the herd/ 60's -- mode of transportation changed/ Isabell, Jim -- helicopter pilot/ herded reindeer with helicopter/ mid 80's -- started herding with a helicopter/ Umnak/ St. Paul/ Nunivak/ Tuktoyuktuk/ Wang, Johnny/ reindeer velvet horn|

Section 2: velvet harvesting -- springtime/ corral reindeer -- spring/ surface transport -- limited in spring/ snow machines/ ATV's/ Icelandic ponies/ hovercrafts -- willows create problems/ gyrocopter -- don't hover/ evolution of technology -- herding/ on foot/ reindeer -- stand together/ winter -- dog team/ snow machines/ helicopters -- next step/ finding deer -- easy with helicopter/ radio collar -- listen for deer/ satellite collars -- internet printout/ tracking mechanism/ advances in herding/ caribou distinction/ scatter apart -- caribou/ herding instinct -- reindeer/ caribou -- wild/ corral -- captive/ separate caribou and reindeer|

Section 3: injured deer -- slow down the herd/ harvest injured deer/ leader -- usually female/ herd the leader -- corral/ river crossings/ no willows -- sand bar/ ground crew -- corral/ Larry Davis herd -- roads/ fuel/ 4 wheeler -- helicopter/ Larry Davis Range/ Wilfred Kakaruk range/ Clifford Weyiouanna range/ communicate -- hand signals/ snow machine or 4 wheeler -- push the main herd/ impact of helicopter on deer/ makes them run/ sound|

Section 4: financial capability of the herder/ decline -- use of a helicopter/ 1980's -- 14 herds/ horn price high/ turbine equipment -- 5 seat helicopter/ Volkswagon of helicopters/ decreased herd population/ Northwest Artic caribou herd -- grown/ winter grounds -- food/ "invaded" Seward Peninsula/ moving west/ Unalakleet/ Yukon River/ Granite Mountain/ Lava Beds/ Shishmaref/ Ongtowasruk herd -- Wales/ Fish and Game biologists/ nomadic families -- traditional way/ changes in society/ changes in herding/ Alaska/ tundra/ more distractions now/ reindeer meat/ past -- family commitment/ predators -- wolves|

Section 5: herding evolution/ government -- villages/ herds -- privatized/ Sheldon Jackson days/ Lomen Brothers -- providing meat to lower 48/ Seattle/ San Francisco/ Chicago/ New York/ cattle ranchers/ Canada -- 1935/ Canada -- one private reindeer herd/ government control -- prevented growth/ Seward Peninsula/ weather changes/ warming trends -- less snow/ Nome -- documented temperature records|

Section 6: variations in snowfall/ Nome/ climate records/ Japanese currents -- warm/ Aleutians to Bering Sea/ warming effect -- south-western part of Seward Peninsula/ Shaktoolik and Koyuk/ southern and northern differences/ Cape Espenberg/ Deering/ Kiwalik/ Church Rock/ Nathan Hadley herd/ Doug Sheldon herd/ Arctic Ocean/ Chukchi Sea/ Kotzebue Sound/ Nome -- different weather north of the Bering Strait/ Diomede islands/ Wales/ Golovin -- temperature changes/ Halloween -- lakes frozen as a child/ now -- later freeze-up/ Golovin Bay/ snow fall -- decreased/ herding -- snow machine/ later in the season/ river crossing/ snow levels/ terrain variables -- snow cover/ Kakaruk herd/ Espenberg -- Freddie Goodhope/ Clifford Weyiouanna|

Section 7: 10 years ago -- caribou came onto Seward Peninsula/ moved Herbie Karman's reindeer/ climatic difficulties/ separate caribou from reindeer/ Buckland/ Deering/ Western Arctic caribou herds -- half million animals/ Seward Peninsula -- winter grazing is good/ breeding in the lava beds/ caribou -- year round/ looking at a map/ Kotzebue -- south/ Baldwin Peninsula/ Wales/ Nome/ Golovin/ Koyuk/ lava beds -- center of Seward Peninsula/ south west of Imuruk Lake/ Kuzitrin River/ Bendeleben Mountain/ Koyuk River/ terrain -- rough|

Section 8: Davis herd -- Nome area/ Tom Gray's herd -- White Mountain/ Golovin Bay/ push reindeer out to Rocky Point/ McCarthy Marsh/ Fisherman Flats/ Golovin -- caribou on the runway/ Tom Gray -- protected population in Golovin area/ weather effects/ Kateel River/ Nulato Hills/ Koyuk River -- moose/ moose and caribou -- moving west/ high rivers/ lichen -- covered by ice layer /reindeer population loss/ snow depth/ Seward Peninsula/ climatic changes in the north/ St. Laurence Island -- less predators/ Savoonga/ polar bear -- Clifford Weyiouanna/ Shishmaref/ Ear Mountain/ St. Lawrence Island/ predators -- ravens and fox/ Bering Sea|