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Johnson Stalker, Part 1
Johnson Stalker,

Johnson Stalker was interviewed on January 25, 2001 by Bill Schneider and Rose Atuk Fosdick at Johnson's home in Buckland, Alaska. Bill and Rose first visited with Johnson in the afternoon and then did the interview later that evening. In this first part of a two part interview, Johnson talks about reindeer herding, training sled deer, the mixing of caribou and reindeer contributing to herd loss, and the importance of understanding reindeer and their behavior. He summed up his attitude by saying that he never got much school but learned to "read deer," and he discusses his feeling that deer think and have a concept of "home" and try to return home. Johnson's excitement about reindeer is evident throughout the interview.

Listen to Johnson Stalker sing "The Reindeer Song."

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-102-08_PT.1

Project: Reindeer Herding: The Present and the Past
Date of Interview: Jan 25, 2001
Narrator(s): Johnson Stalker
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Rose Atuk Fosdick
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Science Foundation
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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


1) Family history of reindeer herding.

2) Family history of reindeer herding continued.

3) Reindeer herding and "reading" reindeer.

4) Driving reindeer from Kotzebue to Nome.

5) Driving the reindeer from Kotzebue to Nome continued.

6) Driving the reindeer from Kotzebue to Nome continued.

7) Knowing the reindeer and making sure that the private herders are doing it right.

8) Staying out with the reindeer, learning how deer travel, and what makes them move.

9) Learning about reindeer and how they travel.

10) Crossing a river with reindeer and the problems that can occur.

11) Crossing a creek with reindeer and how to find one when it is missing.

12) How to find reindeer when they are missing from the herd.

13) Losing reindeer and the mixing between the reindeer and caribou.

14) Seeing the first caribou come into the Seward Peninsula.

15) Caribou entering the reindeer herd.

16) Training sled deer and naming them.

17) Training sled deer and naming them continued.

18) Training sled deer continued.

19) Training sled deer continued.

20) Training sled deer continued and the reindeer song.

21) Training the sled deer along with reindeer dog training.

22) Training reindeer dogs.

23) Many ways of castrating a reindeer and doing it right.

24) Iñupiaq names for reindeer at various stages.

25) Changes in climate, weather patterns, and animals.

26) Climate changes and reindeer behavior.

27) The reindeer crash, caribou taking over the reindeer and moving into the Seward Peninsula.

28) Advice for reindeer herders today.

29) Reindeer fawning early.

30) Reindeer mixing with the caribou.

31) Naming some of the old-time reindeer herders.

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: Stalker, John -- dad\ adopted\ dad -- reindeer herder in the 1940's\ Wilson, York\ camp -- live in\ Uncle Ross -- reindeer herder for the government\ Seveck, Chester\ Noatak\ reindeer -- worked with them at a young age\ school -- out in the winter\ goals -- to become a reindeer herder\ animals -- understand them|

Section 2: reindeer\ dad -- signed paper\ Uncle Ross -- partner's with\ business\ Johnson -- work with reindeer\ Eskimo -- talk\ school -- wasn't allowed to speak Eskimo\ Uncle Ross -- took over business from him\ operated the business\ reindeer herding|

Section 3: making a sled deer\ Brown, Raymond\ reindeer -- played with them\ movements\ leaders\ reindeer -- following\ round-up\ last ones in the back\ pushing\ driving reindeer\ drive -- long ways\ new herder -- doesn't know how far to push\ Kotzebue\ Nome|

Section 4: feed\ worrying\ reindeer -- eating\ reindeer -- get weak easy\ appetites\ reindeer -- stop where there is feed\ model herd\ salary\ drive reindeer -- 12 hours\ Kotzebue\ caribou took reindeer\ snowmachine\ cutting\ dog team\ Nome\ Kotzebue airport\ caribou|

Section 5: shooting\ tracks\ reindeer -- nine dead\ wounded\ reindeer bell\ Bureau of Indian Affairs Juneau\ Kotzebue\ trouble\ Nygard, Ed\ Stalker, Jacob\ Nome\ Thanksgiving Day\ Brown, Raymond\ Lee, Raymond\ Stalker, Jacob\ Kotzebue\ reindeer -- 100 to go to Nome\ Goodhope\ more reindeer -- pay back to the government|

Section 6: snowshoes\ Nome\ dog team\ reindeer -- tamed\ driving\ deer -- get more of\ Bureau of Indian Affairs\ separating\ mixed up\ corral\ pushing the wrong way\ Nome\ model herd reindeer\ corralling\ reindeer -- studying\ reindeer -- experimental\ age|

Section 7: steer\ weighing\ steer -- died, heart attack\ scared\ weigh in chute\ hang them\ Snake River\ work -- eleven years\ traveling -- to the herders\ private herders\ doing it right\ helping\ push in corral\ castrate|

Section 8: younger days\ reindeer\ staying with the reindeer\ summertime\ fall\ dog -- carry pots and pans\ reindeer dog\ binoculars\ weather\ wind\ reindeer -- go toward the wind\ coming down\ walking\ hurrying up\ camp\ daylight -- start traveling\ uncle -- strict\ reindeer herder|

Section 9: missing reindeer\ checking\ herd\ fawns\ reindeer -- play\ run fast\ crossing river\ thinking ahead\ river banks\ reindeer -- will go around\ finding good places to cross\ reindeer -- won't go down the bank|

Section 10: reindeer -- lost 18\ Noatak\ river -- big bank\ forced\ crossing -- didn't check where to cross\ mistake\ old-timers\ checking where to cross\ swim\ herders -- swim\ Downey, Noah\ Brown, Raymond\ driving reindeer -- falltime\ creek -- behind camp\ guns\ supplies -- 3 days\ rope|

Section 11: hauling\ crossing a creek\ rope -- around Johnson\ reindeer\ Johnson -- can't swim\ Downey, Noah\ pull across\ reindeer -- wander, can't find\ meeting with the reindeer herders\ wind -- blows a certain way\ reindeer herders -- taking turns\ missing reindeer\ talk quick|

Section 12: mountains\ snow\ cool place\ tracks -- finding them and figuring them out\ smelling tracks\ main herd\ finding the reindeer\ stray away\ Kotzebue\ flying\ walking\ try to come home\ going up north\ reindeer -- go back to where they have fawns|

Section 13: reindeer\ caribou\ Wilson, York\ Gray, Lawrence\ the Hadleys\ range\ half-breeds\ reindeer and caribou\ caribou -- have a longer nose and tail|

Section 14: Nome\ Teller\ Golovin\ reindeer herder\ caribou -- never seen before\ Noatak\ Kivalina\ caribou\ horns -- different\ attitude -- different\ bull\ caribou -- big legs\ caribou -- get into the herd\ snowmachines -- none\ tired\ caribou -- first one in the 1950's\ herd -- caribou entered|

Section 15: slowly mixed\ Nunivak Island\ drive reindeer\ corral\ Nome\ North Star\ butcher\ dogs\ reindeer -- try to put into corral\ reindeer -- no marks\ smell\ reindeer -- run around like caribou/ Nome|

Section 16: sled deer\ spotted fawn\ fawn -- not yet a year old\ train\ dad -- taught him\ pull\ harnessing it\ fawn -- try to learn how to pull it\ mistakes -- understand\ Johnny Cake -- first sled deer\ school\ Noatak\ reindeer herder's kids -- with parents and reindeers|

Section 17: sled deer -- trained another\ Johnny Cake\ song\ names of sled deer -- tied on halter\ cut horns\ horns -- save one to grab bigger reindeer\ Uncle Ross -- named sled deer when working for the government\ reindeer -- 1,000\ laying down close to tent\ move around with reindeer\ wintertime|

Section 18: tent\ rope\ reindeer\ walking and digging\ halter -- get ready\ pull it\ halter -- put on\ tussocks\ being careful\ reindeer -- mad\ fighting\ tired|

Section 19: fighting -- good\ petting the reindeer\ tickle it\ start pulling\ close eyes\ try to win\ brace yourself\ do not slip\ step forward\ start winning\ 3 weeks\ reindeer -- becoming sled deer\ patience\ understand\ eat\ start to walk\ tail -- moves around\ giving up\ follow rope\ harnessing\ learning\ jumping around\ mad\ holler|

Section 20: sled -- get one\ long sled -- 100 yards\ wild reindeer -- will want to look back\ stop and go\ walk with the reindeer\ young bull\ steer\ Nome\ Honeycomb\ Sweetheart\ Julian\ fawn\ reindeer song -- come along reindeer boys|

Section 21: long rope\ reindeer\ halter -- take off\ herd\ rope sled deer\ accidents\ reindeer dog -- helps\ dog -- take reindeer across the river\ reindeer dog -- part Collie\ Kinney -- dog\ train -- running\ summertime\ understand\ walk -- behind reindeer\ left side\ right side\ reindeer -- keep in bunch|

Section 22: understands\ pushing the reindeer\ strays\ bunch\ different\ Ernie -- reindeer dog\ Bingo -- reindeer dog\ Nome\ corralling\ steer\ bulls\ reindeer -- save\ females -- don't kill many\ knowing the reindeer\ castrate -- summertime\ Noatak\ dad -- made dog collars\ harness\ corralling -- November\ Nome\ castrate -- soon as they could|

Section 23: castrating\ old way -- bite him\ Honeycomb\ Brown, Raymond\ bite him -- so it won't infect\ castrate -- cut him\ sled deer -- Honeycomb died\ doing it right\ Nome\ horns -- drop\ no fighting\ eat -- no more fright\ for sale|

Section 24: caribou -- tuttu\ reindeer -- NATIVE WORD\ full grown reindeer, big one -- punik?\ middleweight -- NATIVE WORD \ lightweight -- NATIVE WORD|

Section 25: 1950's -- big rain\ Noatak\ reindeer -- can't eat\ laid down\ Bureau of Indian Affairs\ dog team\ camp\ shovel\ Juneau\ thickness\ reindeer -- put inside trees\ reindeer -- scattered all over\ river\ oceanside\ drive reindeer back|

Section 26: National Guard\ reindeer -- tried to pull out of bushes\ eat -- grasses\ snowfall -- not much\ freeze-up\ reindeer -- will have a tough time\ deep snow\ look for better and softer place for reindeer\ reindeer -- move around\ fall time\ bulls -- fat\ reindeer -- keep 3 days in corral|

Section 27: long time ago\ corral -- over a month\ old-timers\ reindeer herders\ reindeer -- mixed with caribou\ reindeer -- separate from caribou is hard to do\ herders -- losing reindeer\ hunters -- killing off reindeer\ Golovin\ old-timers -- said the reindeer would come back\ Nome area|

Section 28: observe\ caribou migrating\ range -- hang around\ April -- head back\ North Slope area\ reindeer -- some will follow\ caribou -- might migrate early\ reindeer\ bulls\ September -- last part of mating season\ caribou -- mate later\ fawn\ camp -- moving\ fawn -- guess birth\ reindeer -- can't move because they have fawns|

Section 29: excited\ fawns\ smelling\ fawns -- could be left behind\ nursing\ fawn -- born in half an hour\ fawns -- try to stand up\ fawns -- follow mother\ run fast\ caribou -- heading back in bunches\ North Slope\ Teller\ Kakaruk, Wilfred|

Section 30: reindeer\ hanging on\ caribou -- might not come back\ reindeer -- go with caribou\ corral\ cutting horns\ reindeer -- driving\ nighttime crew\ crew -- cutting horns\ hunters\ reindeer meat -- richer than caribou|

Section 31: Wilson, York\ butcher reindeer\ Kotzebue\ sled deer\ carcass -- load\ dog team -- tie sled\ Seveck, Chester\ caribou -- no problem in old days\ Johnson -- started at 19|