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Poulsbo, Washington - 1940
Balto Sisters
(l-r) Sophie, Ellen, Mary, and Anna


 

 


Anchorage, Alaska - 1950
Former herders Anna Spein Twitchell (Sami) and Tim Twitchell (Yup'ik)

1935: On February 25, "The Great Trek" finally arrives at the reindeer station on the Mackenzie River Delta in Kittigazuit, NW Territories with 2,382 reindeer. Baer returns to Seattle where "Andy Baer Day" is declared in honor of his feat. He is nicknamed "The Arctic Moses."

More Alaska Sami retire from reindeer work and move south to the Kitsap Peninsula, Washington. The Tornensis, Baer, Haetta and other families settle in the townships of Poulsbo, Kingston and Eglon. Some establish chicken farms and sell their produce in Seattle markets, while others survive by fishing. Alfred Nilimaa and his wife Marit Pentho make a fortune and move back to Kautokeino, where they buy a hotel. Others marry into Inuit, Yupik and white families and remain in Alaska and Canada.

1937: "The Reindeer Act" places the management of the Alaska herds under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, legally transferring ownership of all reindeer to Native Alaskans. The model for this development is the Swedish and Norwegian government policies toward the Native Sami, who have exclusive rights to own and work with reindeer there. The Alaska Sami are forced to sell their reindeer for three and four dollars a head. They feel the US government has betrayed them and more leave for the Kitsap Peninsula.

1939: All reindeer not owned by Inuit are rounded up. Many escape and become part of wild caribou herds. The reindeer owned by Lomen and Company are bought by the US government for a lump sum of $720,000.

The Alaska reindeer industry declines for several reasons. The year-round management required by reindeer means ignoring hunting, fishing and trapping cycles, the US government does not allow the Inuit to kill reindeer for their own use or to sell any except the steers, and competition for grazing areas and the mixing of herds creates confusion.

1947: After World War II herding is re-established on the Seward Peninsula by the US government and experienced Native herders are put in charge. 1950: There are 25,000 reindeer in Alaska.

1950: There are 25,000 reindeer in Alaska.

1959: Alaska is admitted to the Union as the 49th state.

The jursidiction of the Canadian Reindeer Project is transferred to the Canadian Wildlife Service, establishing seven large herds, but there is little direct management by the 66 Native herders.

1971: The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act is passed, legalizing Native land claims to Indigenous village sites and the right to traditional ways of life.

1974: Silas Kanagegana purchases Canadian reindeer. Together with another Inuit, William Nasogaluak, and business advisor Douglas Billingsley, Kanagegana forms Canadian Reindeer Ltd. which soon grows into a million dollar industry.

1975: There are 30,000 reindeer in Alaska, mostly on the Seward Peninsula, and Unalaska and Nunivak Islands.

1977: There are fifteen large herds on the Seward Peninsula alone.

1980: A Swedish film crew comes to Alaska and interviews Clement Sara in Bethel, AK. Clement, who came as a child with the Manitoba Expedition in 1898, passes on in 1983, at the age of 88.

1987: Nasogaluak's herd grows to 8,000.

1992: Jos. Kalvemo and a film crew from NRK Sami Radio in Karasjok begins work on the documentary The Sami in Alaska, filming in Karasjok, Kautokeino, Alta, Seattle and Poulsbo, WA, Bethel, AK and Kotzebue Sound.

1993: The finished documentary debuts on Norwegian national television.

1997: A court ruling allows non-Native Alaskans to own reindeer.

1998: The centennial reunion for the descendants of the Alaska Sami families is held in Poulsbo, Washington in June coordinated by Norma Hansen from Poulsbo, Washington, Bill Wilcox from Port Angeles and Jan Henrik Keskitalo from Kautokeino, Sápmi. Eighteen from Kautokeino and Karasjok attend, along with 150 relatives and friends from Alaska and the "Lower Forty-eight." Kalvemo's video "The Sami in Alaska" is screened. Poulsbo becomes the sister city of Kautokeino and flags of the US and Sápmi are exchanged in a ceremony in the town square.


Poulsbo, Washington - 1998
Sami family reunion at Earl & Norma Hansen's

Copyright © 2001 BÁIKI: the North American Sami Journal
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