Story of Reindeer Herding
by the late Raymond Brown

Utuqqanaat Tusraayugaanich, Vol. 22, January-April 2001, pp. 1-2.

Article provided courtesy of Kotzebue Senior Citizen's Cultural
Center (KSCCC) for educational purposes only.

When Raymond was a young man before he was sixteen, he joined the Reindeer Herders, they were at Sealing Point, along with Ross Stalker, Sr. When they take care of the reindeers, they took turns. A shift was every twelve hours. They they stayed home thirty-six hours. There were three shift groups. In the summertime, they would move behind Sisaulik, they had their camp at Ikpigauruk, now the camp of Walter Kenworthy. They would take turns watching the reindeer, and in August they would butcher the reindeer. The families that took care of the reindeer were a large family, that included John & Clara Stalker.

When it got colder, Ross would move to town. During the 1960's, and in the fall, when the ice was thick (about sixteen inches), they would take the reindeer across, near the site where the hatchery is located. They had sleds that the reindeer pulled with long ropes. They had two sleds that they owned. Johnson Stalker had his own, so did James Smith, and I had one myself.

When we make our own sled gears, we never let anyone else use them, just ourselves. We use one sled sometimes, then we take the reindeer to the Noatak flats, we had houses there, they are probably still there, if they didn't fall down.

Ross Stalker had a coral there, above the Eli River, near the Noatak flats. We traveled like that all the Noatak people had dog teams then, they would come up and visit, like Jacob Stalker, Sr.

Dora Stalker always did the cooking, she had help with other women, during the busy times. When we were done, she 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 "tussock" which we use as a stake. We would cut their horns so they were short. We would keep them like that for overnight till their neck hairs stood up. They would really fight, and kick their feet. We would wrestle them until they grew tired, we can't let them win. When we hitch them up we would run besides them. After, we try them out with harness, with big wooden collars, they had a hoop on the bottom, the new sled gears are called willow.

George Keats had really big reindeer, he had good control over them, they would stop when he wanted them to stop. When you train them good like he does, the deer would listen to you. They even knew you by your voice.

We lived in tents all winter long. We lined the sides of the tent with reindeer skins, and covered the top with branches and slept on the reindeer skins.

When we want to eat, we never hunted caribou. Johnson Stalker would butcher a reindeer. When we would use snowshoes.

In April through March, we take the reindeer down the coast above Nazuruk. In the fall, we stayed in the other river. We had good stoves made from fifty-five gallon drums.

By 1968, we had only eighty-five reindeer. Less than eighty-five when a hunter killed some by mistake, we caught him and let him pay his dues.

Johnson and I had dog teams then, from one thousand five hundred deer to eighty-five. Once we traveled to Nome, we had stove trouble. The smoke came back around the tent and back inside to the tent. We had to rig it up and place the stove pipe to go out through a window. Then we had gaslights. Raymond Lee was there too.

We left them at Nome and I was carrying Jacob Stalker, Sr., and we fell through the ice. I ask him "are you okay?" He said "alapaa." So we had to camp for the night whether we planned it or not.

When we reached "old man Nagozruk's" camp, we called the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office. We took our dogs and place them on the front street. After a couple of days, we ship the dogs to Kotzebue. I worked for the BIA for two and a half years.