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Sara family home near Bethel, Kuskokwim Valley

 

1914: There is now a white missionary, a white school teacher, and a white fur trader in every Inuit village in Alaska with a population of 100 or more.

Contrary to the rule that only Alaska Natives, Sami, and the government are to own female reindeer, Alfred Nilima, a Sami herder based in Kotzebue, sells 1,200 reindeer to Carl Lomen to market reindeer meat and furs in the United States. With gold money borrowed from Jafet Lindeberg, Lomen and Company is founded. Anders Baer is hired as head herder, along with other experienced Sami, Inuits and Yup'iks.

The first Reindeer Fair is organized by William Shields in the village of Igloo, 40 miles from Teller. These fairs featuring competition in herding skills and reindeer races soon bring the herders together annually.

1915: Leonard Seppala wins the All-Alaska Sweepstakes in Nome with his team of Siberian huskies. For the next three years he dominates the sport and Siberian huskies, introduced by the Chuckchi, become known as the world's finest sled dogs. The Ididerod Dog Sled Races grow from this period to become a yearly event.

There are now 70,000 to 100,000 reindeer in Alaska, divided into 98 herds. Although 1,200 Inuits and Yup'iks own 69% of the reindeer during this "Heyday of the Reindeer Industry," most Inuit and Yup'ik herds are less than fifty and the remaining 31% are owned by Sami herders, Lomen and Company, the US Government, and the missions.



Loman Brothers photo - mail delivery using reindeer

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



1925: In January, during the worst blizzard of the Alaskan winter season, Leonard Seppala mushes 340 miles in five and a half days carrying diphtheria serum from Nenana to the storm-stranded people of Nome. Seppola's Siberian dog sled team lead by "Togo" is so exhausted that several fresh teams of dogs must be used to finish. The lead dog of the final team, driven by Gunnar Kasson, is named after Samuel Balto. When the serum arrives in Nome, "Balto the Dog" is accorded a hero's welcome and receives the place in history that might have gone to "Togo." A statue of Balto's dog will later be erected in Central Park, New York City, the only public art to honor a specific animal. Later still, "Balto's dog" will become the subject of the Walt Disney full-length animated cartoon Balto.

1926: To promote the sale of reindeer meat and furs, the Lomen brothers collaborate with Macy's Department Stores to stage yearly Christmas parades with Santa Clauses and teams of reindeer driven by Sami and Inuit herders from Alaska. The major US cities targetted include Portland, St. Paul, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, and Brooklyn. The Lomens write fake children's letters asking about Santa Claus and reindeer which are published in US newspapers. Because of the letters and the parades, Santa Claus and reindeer become an integral part of the North American Christmas story.

1927: Nicholas Dimond buys a few reindeer from the Lomen brothers and begins his own Christmas reindeer promotion. Charles Boostrom and Joe Thomas (an Ojibwe from Grand Portage, Minnesota) join him to tour the Midwest annually. The reindeer are kept at Clearwater Lake in Cook County, Minnesota.

1928: Four Inuit herders headed by Chester Seveck form an association to compete with the Lomen brothers but they find that they cannot compete with the large well-financed company that has begun to absorb small Inuit operations.

The Lomen brothers begin the successful breeding of caribou with reindeer on Nunivak Island, producing larger reindeer.

1929: Seeing the Inuit and Yup'iks lose their share of the reindeer industry to the Lomen brothers, Isak Haetta and other Sami quit Lomen and Company in protest.

The cattle industry lobbies to discourage further reindeer meat promotion. In October the stock market crashes and the Depression begins. The market for reindeer meat and fur sales declines and no new markets are developed.

Game in the Northwest Territories is depleted. The Canadian government buys 3,442 Alaskan reindeer from Lomen and Company. Carl Lomen asks Anders Baer, an elder of sixty years living in Seattle, to lead the reindeer drive from Nabaktoolik, Alaska to Kittigazuit, NWT. Baer accepts and Mikkel Nilluka agrees to be his assistant. Other Sami include Andrew Bango, Tom Nakkala and Ivar West, and Inuits include Shelby David, David Henry, August Ome, Sam Segeok and Theodore Kingeak.

The 1,200 mile drive is planned as an 18-month Canadian Reindeer Project. It becomes known as "The Great Trek" which stretches into a perilous five-year journey. Severe weather, high mountain ranges, ravenous wolves, and supply shortages contribute to constant delays and the death of reindeer.

1930: The number of reindeer in Alaska has grown to 500,000, but the industry is considered to be on the wane.

The Lomen brothers continue to buy up the reindeer owned by the missions, the Sami and the Inuit and come to monopolize and control the industry in Alaska, including three of the most important shipping posts. They also hold strategic positions in state government and own the major retail stores where herding supplies are sold.

1931: Sami from Kautokeino are recruited to maintain the herd Baer is bringing into Canada from Alaska. The group includes Mathis Haetta, Aslak Tornensis, his wife Susanne Johannesdatter and their daughter, and Mikkel Nilsen Pulk, his wife Anna and their three children Isak, Nils and baby Ellen. These families become known as "The Canadian Sami." Ellen will marry into an Inupialeut family and later become mayor of Inuvik. Sixty years later her son Lloyd Binder and other family members will still be involved with reindeer.

Copyright © 2001 BÁIKI: the North American Sami Journal
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