|Reindeer Herding, Raymond Brown, Sr., Utuqqanaat Tusraayukaanich, Vol. 12, May/June 1999, p.1. Used with permission of the Kotzebue Senior Citizens Cultural Center, for educational purposes only.|
[Article from] Utuqqanaat Tusraayukaanich
A publication from the Kotzebue Senior Citizens Cultural Center (KSCCC)
Volume 12, May/June 1999
RAYMOND BROWN SR.
Raymond Brown Sr. told this Reindeer herding story to Hannah Mendenhall in the winter of 1999.
When I was a young man before the age of 16, I joined the Reindeer herder's at Sealing Point, along with Ross Stalker Sr. We took turns caring for the reindeer. Our shift was every 12 hours. After the shift, we stayed home for 36 hours. There were three shifts. In the summertime, we would move behind Sisaulik. We had a camp at lkpigauruk, now the camp of the late Walter Kenworthy.
We would take turns caring for the reindeer. In August, we would butcher the reindeer. The families that took care of the reindeer, were large families. They included John and Clara Stalker. When the weather got cold, Ross would move to town.
During the 1960's, in the fall time, when the ice was about 16 inches thick, we would take the reindeer across to the site where the hatchery is located. There were sleds that the reindeer pulled with long ropes. Johnson Stalker, James Smith and myself owned the sleds. When we made our own sled gear, we never let anyone use them except for ourselves. Sometimes we used one sled to take the reindeer to the Noatak flats. That was how we traveled in those days. We had houses there, they're probably still there if they haven't already fell down.
Ross Stalker had a reindeer coral there, above the Eli River, near the Noatak flats. All the Noatak people had dog teams then. Jacob Stalker Sr. would come up and visit, along with some other people. Dora Stalker did the cooking, along with other women. When they were done with this busy time, they would go back to town.
When we wanted new sled gears, we would lasso the reindeer, shorten their ropes so the reindeer were at least a foot from the mannik (big bumps on the tundra) which we used as a stake. We would cut their horns so they were short. We would keep them like that overnight till their neck muscles were very tired. When they fought and kicked, we would wrestle them until they grew tired. We wouldn't let them win. We would hitch them up & run beside them. We-would put a harness & big wooden collars on them. George Keats had very big reindeer. He had good control over them and they followed his directions well.
We lived in tents all winter long. We lined the sides & tops of the tents with reindeer skins. The floor was lined with branches and we slept on reindeer skins. When we were hungry, we butchered a reindeer.
During April & March we took the reindeer down the coast above Nazuruk. In the fall, we stayed near a river. In those days, we had good stoves. They were made of 55-gallon drums. By 1968, we had only 85 reindeer. When a hunter killed some by mistake, we caught up with him & let him pay his dues.
Johnson Stalker, Raymond Lee, and I had dog teams then. We went from one thousand five hundred reindeer to eighty-five. We also traveled to Nome once.