Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

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cover.jpgThe Reindeer Herding Project Jukebox was a collaborative effort between the Reindeer Herders Association (RHA) in Nome, Alaska and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Department. It was part of a larger project titled "Reindeer in Transition" that was funded by The National Science Foundation, Human Dimensions of the Arctic Program. The purpose of that project was to study the human and biological results of increased caribou migrations onto the Seward Peninsula.

Reindeer were introduced to the Seward Peninsula in 1892 from Siberia by Sheldon Jackson, the Presbyterian churchman and General Agent for Education. Reindeer are essentially domesticated caribou with some differences in behavior and appearance and generations of Alaska Native herders have made a living from their herds. Unfortunately, some herders were losing their reindeer to wild caribou herds. A key component of this research was the oral history interviews conducted with herders from 2000 to 2005. They discuss herding practices, traditional knowledge passed from one generation to the next, and the changes they have observed both in herding and in the environment.

The interviewers for this project were: Bill Schneider, Curator of Oral History, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF); Rose Fosdick, Director of the Reindeer Herders Association, who had a long standing interest in documenting herding; Knut Kielland, research biologist with the Institute of Arctic Biology, UAF and the principal investigator on the NSF project; Greg Finstad, Director of the Reindeer Research Project, School of Agriculture and Land Resources Management, UAF; and Kumi Rattenbury, a UAF graduate student.

The Reindeer Herding Project Jukebox was created in 2005 by the Oral History Program, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University Alaska Fairbanks. In 2021, it was upgraded from its original HTML format to Drupal. The information in this project reflects the context of the original creation date. Some information may now be out of date.


Larry Davis Larry Tingook Davis

Larry Tingook Davis was Iñupiaq and born in 1930 in Deering, Alaska. His father was a reindeer herder in the Deering area and Larry traveled with him as a boy. Larry eventually moved to Nome and in 1967 he snowmachined from Nome to Cape Espenberg and returned with 200 reindeer to form his own herd. Eventually, the herd would swell to 10,000 in the 1990s. Larry was actively involved with reindeer herding in Nome from 1967 until his death. His reindeer herd was one of the few herds that had... Read More

Rose Fosdick Rose Atuk Fosdick

Rose Atuk Fosdick is Iñupiaq born in Nome, Alaska. Her parents and grandparents were from Wales, Alaska, and her parents moved to Nome in 1946, traveling by skinboat from Wales. Her grandfather, Louis Tungwenruk, was the chief herder of the Cape Reindeer Company at Wales, Alaska during the cooperative hunting period. In 1990, Rose became the program director of the Kawerak Reindeer Herders Association in Nome,... Read More

Fred Goodhope, Jr. Fred Goodhope, Jr.

Fred Goodhope, Jr. is Iñupiaq from Shishmaref, Alaska. He grew up in a reindeer herding family, with his grandfather and father both being herders in the Goodhope River area and around Deering, Alaska. After the herds shrunk in the 1930s, in 1958 his father applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to re-start a reindeer operation. They based their herding out of Shishmaref and the Espenberg River area. Fred attended school in Shishmaref and helped his father with the herd which by 1972 had... Read More

Tom Gray Tom Gray

Tom Gray is Iñupiaq from White Mountain and Nome, Alaska. Although he did not come from a family of reindeer herders, he started herding in the early 1980's with reindeer he transported to White Mountain from Wales, Alaska. He made a total of seven trips over the years to bring enough reindeer from Wales and Shishmaref to establish a large enough herd in White Mountain. He faced many challenges trying to establish a herd, obtain range for it, and earn enough money to make a living as a... Read More

Nathan Hadley, Sr. Nathan Hadley, Sr.

Nathan Hadley, Sr. is Iñupiaq from Buckland, Alaska. His father, Paul Hadley, started reindeer herder in the early 1950s and Nathan grew up herding with him until the 1960s when he went into the military. When Nathan returned home, he went back to helping with herding and eventually took over the herd. Despite challenges of having caribou infiltration shrink his herd, Nathan wants to continue to maintain his range and corral in hopes that reindeer herding can return to the area. Nathan has... Read More

Merlin Henry Merlin Henry

Merlin Henry is Iñupiaq from Koyuk, Alaska. In the 1930s, his grandfather was chief reindeer herder for Koyuk and in 1960 his father, Archie Henry, became a reindeer herder with animals he transported from Deering and Candle, Alaska. Merlin did not attend school because his father needed help with the reindeer herd. Merlin entered the military and left the region, but eventually returned home to help his father. When his father passed away in 1981, Merlin took over the reindeer herding... Read More

Daniel Karmun Daniel "Dan" Karmun Growing up on the Seward Peninsula in northwestern Alaska, Daniel Karmun comes from a family with a heritage of reindeer herding. His father was a reindeer agent in Wales and also worked with reindeer at Deering. In addition to being a reindeer herder, Dan also worked in reindeer management as a Reindeer Agent with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, with Kawerak Native Corporation helping develop reindeer programs, and as Program Director for the Reindeer Herders... Read More
Herb Karmun Herb Karmun

Harry "Herb" Karmun, Sr. (Zinitqu) was Iñupiaq born in 1936 to Mamie (Moto) and Alfred Karmun in Deering, Alaska. He was raised in Deering and Candle and came from a family with a long history of reindeer herding with his grandfather, Harry Karmun, his father, and his uncle, Wilbur Karmun, all being herders. Herb learned about reindeer herding, corraling and butchering from these men and grew up helping his father with the herd using dogteams and later snowmachines. Eventually, Herb started... Read More

Ted Katcheak Ted Katcheak

Ted Katcheak is Iñupiaq from Stebbins, Alaska. His father, Benny Katcheak, started reindeer herding in Stebbins in the 1950s, and Ted grew up helping his father with herding. His mother, Minnie, his brothers and sisters, and his aunt also spent time at the reindeer herding camp. Ted received a high school degree and some college education in anthropology and in 1974 worked for Bering Straits Native Association as their Land Use Site Specialist. Then, when his father got older and was unable... Read More

Roger Menadelook Roger Menadelook

Roger Menadelook was Iñupiaq and was born in 1942 in Teller, Alaska. He came from a family with a long history of reindeer herding. In the 1930s, his grandparents were the first Iñupiat schoolteachers at Sinruk on the Seward Peninsula, and is where they got involved with reindeer herding. At one time, his grandfather, Charles Menadelook, had a large number of reindeer he got from Sinruk Mary. Roger's father also became a herder, but the reindeer disappeared during his time so he had to give... Read More

Leonard Olanna Leonard Olanna

Leonard Olanna is Iñupiaq from Brevig Mission, Alaska. He comes from a family with a long history of reindeer herding. His grandfather, Harry Olanna, herded for the Lomen Brothers around Brevig Mission in the early 1900s, and in 1970 his father started a herd with reindeer from Wilbur Kakaruk in Teller. Leonard grew up helping his father, and took over management of the herd when his father passed away. That herd crashed, and then in 1994, Leonard started his own herd with animals from the... Read More

Donald Olson Donald Olson

Donald "Donny" Olson was born in 1953 in Nome, Alaska and grew up in Golovin, Alaska. He comes from a family with a long history of reindeer herding. His great-grandfather on his father's side, Ollie Olson, came to Alaska in 1898 as part of the Saami herders that Sheldon Jackson brought over from Scandinavia to teach Alaskans about herding and settled in Golovin, Alaska and married a local woman. There also were reindeer herders on Donny's mother's side. On both sides, the reindeer stayed in... Read More

Faye Ongtowasruk Faye Ongtowasruk

Faye Ongtowasruk is an Iñupiaq elder who was born in 1928 in Wales, Alaska. She grew up around reindeer herding and helped with chores like washing dishes at reindeer camp during the spring roundup. Her husband Clarence Ongtowasruk was a reindeer herder in Wales, Alaska and she had a son, Norman, who learned about herding from Johnson Stalker in Nome who herded as well. After Clarence's death in 1992 and her son's death, Faye took over management of the herd. While she was the official owner... Read More

Palmer Sagoonick Palmer Sagoonick

Palmer Sagoonick is Iñupiaq and was born in 1946 in Shaktoolik, Alaska. His grandfather, Simon Sagoonick, was from the Shishmaref area but herded for the Lomen Company around Shaktoolik and settled there. Palmer's father, Gustav Sagoonick, herded the Lomen reindeer with his father until around 1937 when the Lomen's shut down their herding operation. Gustav then went to work for a herder from Unalakleet, John Katoogan, when that herd was around Shaktoolik. Eventually, the Bureau of Indian... Read More

Johnson Stalker Johnson Stalker

Johnson Stalker is Iñupiaq from Buckland, Alaska. His father, John Stalker, was a reindeer herder starting in the 1940s and his uncle, Ross Stalker, herded for the government with herders like Chester Sevik and brought reindeer to Noatak. Johnson grew up helping with the reindeer herding around Buckland and "learned to read deer" instead of ever getting much formal school education. When Johnson was twenty-one years old, he partnered with his uncle Ross to manage his herd. Ross handled the... Read More

Herman Toolie Herman Toolie

Herman Toolie is Siberian Yup'ik from Savoonga, Alaska on St. Lawrence Island. His family's heritage is in reindeer herding traced back to both sets of grandparents when reindeer were introduced to Gambell. His father, Jimmy Toolie, got involved in herding when he was twelve years old based out of Savoonga, which had been a reindeer camp, and herded until the "great die out of reindeer" around 1943. Bad winter weather of rain and freezing conditions made it difficult for the reindeer to... Read More

Clifford Weyiouanna Clifford Weyiouanna

Clifford Weyiouanna was born in 1942 and is Iñupiaq from Shishmaref, Alaska. He and his wife's family have a long history of reindeer herding. His grandfather, William Malakiak, worked for the large herd introduced by Sheldon Jackson at Wales, Alaska, and eventually he, his wife, and his brother earned enough reindeer to start their own herd. Clifford's father continued the family's herding tradition and Clifford grew up helping with the herd. In 1970, he started his own herd with 500... Read More