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Herman Toolie
Herman Toolie

Herman Toolie was interviewed on March 26, 2003 by Bill Schneider and Kumi Rattenbury at the Reindeer Herder's House in Nome, Alaska. Herman is from the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska and was in Nome for the Reindeer Herders Association annual meeting. We were particularly eager to interview Herman because he is an island herder and we expected that the ecology of herding would be quite different from the mainland. We were surprised to hear about the recent presence of wolves on the island. In this interview, Herman talks about his family's history of reindeer herding, the effect of weather on the reindeer herds and herding, and the challenges of herding on the island and traveling in different seasons to different places. He also talks about "the great die off," which refers to a time when rain and icing conditions made it hard for deer to get food and many starved.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-102-28

Project: Reindeer Herding: The Present and the Past
Date of Interview: Mar 26, 2003
Narrator(s): Herman Toolie
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Kumi Rattenbury
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Science Foundation
Alternate Transcripts
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1) Introduction and Herman's family's history in reindeer herding.

2) Herman's grandfather and how he got involved in reindeer herding.

3) Herding on the island and how the weather conditions impact the herders.

4) Changes in reindeer herding and managing the reindeer.

5) Herman's mother's parents and reindeer herding.

6) Reindeer getting into trouble.

7) Changes in technology through the years.

8) Different types of land.

9) Lichen and vegetation, reindeer having their fawns on the east side of the island.

10) Father and grandfather reindeer herding and the part of the year they spent with the reindeer.

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Section 1: father\ reindeer -- brought to Gambell\ ? \ ? \ father -- got involved in reindeer herding\ Gambell\ Savoonga\ reindeer herding -- on foot\ teaching\ Laplanders\ reindeer -- great die out\ great die out -- 1943\ winter -- rain\ reindeer -- 10,000\ corral\ freeze-up -- couldn't feed reindeer\ Gambell -- gave reindeer herd to Savoonga\ managing reindeer\ elders -- learned from\ father -- never get mad at reindeer\ reindeer -- sometimes will scatter\ reindeer permits\ stock holders|

Section 2: died -- 68 years old\ tuberculosis\ reindeer herder\ herders -- select chief\ walking\ gambell\ reindeer -- butcher\ sleigh deer\ Laplanders\ stockholder\ livestock\ grandfather -- NATIVE NAME\ father -- 99 years old when he died\ camp\ herding -- hard\ dog team -- none\ fawning season|

Section 3: weather -- changed a lot\ snow -- fluffy\ Savoonga\ snow -- hard packed\ late ice -- coming in\ early ice -- going out\ weather -- use to be warm\ wind\ hard snow -- hard to dig\ Northeast Cape\ reindeer -- grazing\ eastside -- reindeer always there\ snowmachine\ Honda\ snowmachine -- makes travel easy\ predators\ wolves\ foxes\ ravens\ fawns|

Section 4: snowmachines\ Honda\ reindeer -- faster\ reindeer -- walk in the old days\ reindeer-- hard to stop\ reindeer -- always stay up in the hills\ helicopters -- used for roundup\ reindeer horns -- selling\ reindeer -- managing\ reindeer -- roaming\ April -- roundup for fawning season\ reindeer camp\ predators -- keep away\ corral\ butchering\ Gambell\ breakup -- late\ rivers -- many to cross\ Honda -- use to cross rivers|

Section 5: Pininia, Amos\ mother -- adopted\ Amos -- had border collie dog\ dog -- well trained\ mother -- stockholder\ Amos -- involved in apprentice|

Section 6: reindeer\ winter time\ reindeer -- go along the shore to get salt\ Siberia\ Gambell\ fawns -- earmarked|

Section 7: satellites\ University of Alaska Fairbanks\ reindeer -- location\ internet\ Savoonga\ reindeer satellite collars\ reindeer -- easier to locate|

Section 8: wetland\ tussocks\ Honda -- hard to travel\ rivers -- crossing\ trail stakes -- in the river\ shallow\ floating ramp|

Section 9: reindeer\ over-grazed\ herds -- getting bigger\ old days -- more reindeer\ eastern part of the island\ mosquitos\ fawning\ three mountains\ ? \ ?\ Northeast Cape Mountain \ reindeer -- have their fawns\ rivers\ Honda -- can't cross deep rivers\ corral\ Savoonga\ NATIVE NAME\ elders -- use to walk\ today -- use snowmachine, Hondas|

Section 10: reindeer -- roundup just before April\ predators -- watch for\ reindeer -- go with them\ pushing reindeer\ corral\ snowmachine -- faster\ summer -- push reindeer\ corral\ navigation compass\ Global Positioning System (GPS)|