October 26, 2013

The Reindeer Industry and Transcontinental Arctic Indigenous Social Connection


This is a NASA enhanced satellite map of the world that centers the North Pole. If one looks toward the top of the map they can see the regions of Alaska and Siberia. Towards the map's bottom are the tips of the European Nordic countries. Following the last post that briefly described the origins of the reindeer economy with Native Alaska this post illuminates the unique shared history between Native Alaska and the Saami, Sami or Sámi, an Indigenous people from northern Europe. They have also been called "Laplanders," which refers to the Native cultural geography they inhabit transnationally through Europe.

Three Sámi (Lapp) women, one smoking a pipe, wearing their traditional caps
The picture below contains a Saami family in 1896 near Nordland, in Europe. The grownups to the left "are Ingrid (born Sarri) and her husband Nils Andersen Inga. In front of the parents are Berit and Ole Nilsen. The lady on the right is Ellen, sister of Ingrid. In front of Ellen are the children Inger Anna and Tomas. The children of Inger Anna are reindeer herders still today."

Detroit Publishing Co. Print no. 7123
The photograph below depicts the first Saami family in Alaska taken three years later in 1889.

 "First Lap[p] family from Tromso, Norway, [in] Teller, Alaska, 1898."  "Lapp family on steps of cabin, Teller, Alaska." Photographer: Miles Brothers. AMRC. Eide Collection Identifier AMRC-b70-28-13
In 1894, Sheldon Jackson began employing and importing Saami with aspirations they would help Alaska Natives take to the livelihood. Alaska Natives referred to them as the "Card people" because Saami hats and shoes resembled, to the Natives, the depictions on the face of playing cards. Government functionaries grew critical of the reindeer operation when by the early twentieth century Saami herdsmen owned the majority of Alaska reindeer. An Indigenous people, the Saami faced European colonization and the establishment of national borders through out their traditional lands.

 "Sami family." "Group photograph of a Sami (Lapp) woman, two boys, and a baby in front of a wooden structure in Nome, Alaska." "Nome - Alaska." ca. 1901-1902." Grace Carr Raymenton photographs, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.Grace Carr Raymenton photographs, circa 1899-1902. UAA-HMC-1059  Identifier UAA-hmc-1059-20
Since Saami culture revolves around reindeer it makes perfect sense that these people would take a leading role in the management of this economy, though Americans had poised this as an operation for Alaska Native vocational training. Alaska Natives and Saami then worked side by side, making connections still with Native Alaska today.

"Laplanders milking reindeer at Port Clarence, Alaska, 1900." "Shows a man and a woman in traditional dress."Photographer Hegg, Eric A. Date1900. Eric A. Hegg Photographs Order Number HEG544. U of Washington Special Collections. 
The migration of Saami workers into Alaska may have been influenced by political developments in northern Europe at the time. Norway in 1905 declared independence from Sweden as a nation-state. Borders between the two countries tightened and thus restricting transnational Saami movements. Traveling their cultural geography when herding also faced impairments with areas controlled by Russia.

 "The genuine Lapps, Nome, Alaska." "A Lapp, or Sami, couple stand outside their cabin, while a child looks out the door, Nome, Alaska." Photographer: O. D. Goetze.  (Otto Daniel)
AMRC. O.D. Goetze Collection, Identifier AMRC-b01-41-72
With the United States government concerned that the Saami owned and operated the majority of reindeer herds in the Alaska region they made a policy change. The government discontinued hiring Saami workers because the reindeer program's intent was to train Alaska Natives for the occupation. That is not to say the Saami left Alaska, or that they discontinued immigrating into the region or other parts of the nation. Because they faced oppression from European nations, when the arrived in the United States many chose to identify as Finnish, Norwegian or Dutch, as to escape persecution.

People are often surprised when they meet Alaska Natives with Nordic last names, but if ones spend anytime in the region, or knows people from Native Alaska, then they would be too aware of the splendid array of surnames we have that are derived from Saami geographic areas. Some of these last names may have been assumed when Saami made their homes in Alaska Native villages, marrying into Indigenous families. Though my archival work in this area proves limited, I will admit that I find the lack of photographs containing Saami with Alaska Natives unusual yet unsurprising since both were subject peoples.


Here is a link showing  two major reindeer routes through Alaska.
http://www.baiki.org/content/alaskachron/map.htm
BBC Article about contemporary Saami in Russia
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6171701.stm
Excellent resource: http://www.baiki.org/content/alaskachron/pre1890.htm

October 17, 2013

The Reindeer Industry and Native Alaska

video

According to Dean Olson in the report "Alaska Reindeer Herdsmen: A Study of Native Management in Transition," that he authored in 1969, the idea for implanting reindeer into the Alaskan ecology came to Dr. Sheldon Jackson while he and Capt. M.A. Healy set out on a cruise through the Arctic in 1890. Seeing Siberian Native economies built around reindeer the two began hatching a plan to import the animal across the Strait. Hoping to employ Natives as reindeer herders Jackson asked the federal government for the 2000 dollars.

"Sheldon Jackson, D.D., LL.D., Vice President Alaska Geographic Society, May 15, 1899."
Identifier ASL Jackson-Sheldon 1

Capt. M.A. Healy, U.S.R.M., Commanding U.S. Revenue Cutter "Bear."
Collection. ASL. Identifier ASL-Healy-MA-1 ASL-P01-3278  
The government was unwilling to provide the funds so Jackson collected donations with which he shipped 16 deer from Siberia to the Aleutians. At that point, the reindeer industry began without haste. Jackson appealed to the federal government for funding and by 1892 four Indigenous Siberians came with a shipment of 171 of reindeer to Port Clarence Alaska, where a reindeer station was built as well as herding instructional facilities. Olson reports Native resistance to the development in Wales, Alaska. Sounds like the reindeer station became a site of immense tension, resulting with the death of one worker. Two years after their arrival the Siberian Natives returned home. By the end of the century hundreds of reindeer lived in Alaska. Transportation routes for herds stretched throughout the Alaska mainland. According to Carrie Bucki Manager of Reindeer Research Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks, many people preferred hitching reindeer to sleds over dogs because reindeer ate grass and therefore less expensive to keep as work-animals.

"A reindeer harnessed up for pulling a sled.
Reindeer called Qimukti in Iñupiaq were commonly used for pulling sleds."
Point Barrow, Alaska, 1899-1908. ASL-PCA-320 IdentifierASL-P320-28
Alaska Native herders worked throughout the mainland into the 20th century. Here are some photographs I found of Native folks herding. Take note the first image taken in Golovin, Alaska looks to be taken during one of the less snowy seasons. The image beneath that one Theresa Creek, Alaska appears to have captured the wintertime corralling of reindeer. The next post will explore some of the social implications the reindeer industry brought Native life.

"Herders driving reindeer to corral. Golovin, Alaska." "View of reindeer herders driving reindeer to Lomen Reindeer Corporation reindeer processing plant corral at Golovin,Alaska. July 1938." Photographer: Ray B. Dame. Original photograph size: 8 1/8" x 10". Identifier AMRC-b75-175-211

 "Theresa Creek Reindeer Corral, 3/1942." "Deer passing from outer to inner holding pocket. Photographer's number 803. CreatorDale, George Allan, 1900- Contributors Butler, Evelyn I. Evelyn Butler and George Dale. Photographs, 1934-1982. ASL-PCA-306 IdentifierASL-P306-0717

video

"Reindeer herding in Southwest, Alaska 1930's" Collection NameEugene L. Snow Collection Alaska Film Archives, University of Alaska, Fairbanks IdentifierAAF-51

Resource for those with more interest in the history can find a wonderful primer written by Carrie Bucki Manager of Reindeer Research Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks here: http://www.uaf.edu/files/snras/MP_04_07.pdf

October 6, 2013

Asserting a Racial Geography in Northern Alaska, 1901-1906: "The ability to imitate with masked fidelity."

In October 1901, Susan R. Bernardi went to Kingegan, a village located in Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, to work as an instructor at a religiously-based government-funded school. Kingegan's closest major town is Nome, a former-village where the population more than tripled from 1890-1900 because of the gold rush. After holding similar positions in the southern United States, her job involved teaching the Natives of Kingegan a general curriculum. As the most western inhabited place in the Americas the village surely proved most distinct from any of her previous experiences. Writings and photographs from her personal collection helps understand the way in which people from the United States would came to think about Alaska and Arctic people more broadly. With an album containing 105 photographs held at the University of Washington special collections one can peruse captivating images taken during her time there. For instance the photograph below depicts Bernardi in a classroom of Inupiat students, seated at desks, reading their text books. She peers intently at the students, with the United States flag hanging above her head. Take notice of the globe next to her. On the chalkboard one can make out a date "May Tenth" and some basic arithmetic. In the written passages of the collection Bernardi refers to the Inupiat villagers as "Eskimo," a term, to say the least, that makes for a host of complications in it's usage and proves entailed with countless derogatory meanings and unintended significations. Bernardi was not alone in employing the term to describe the vast cultures of people who inhabit a large portion of the Northern world. In fact, the written parts of the album along with the images provide for the reader and viewer an archive on how Westerners thought of Arctic people as they set upon their communities with various agendas.

"Susan R. Bernardi teaching Eskimo pupils at U.S. Government School, Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, ca. 1906"
The image above belongs to a genre of photographic work, that when taken, attempted to depict how indigenous students could be taught a curriculum of knowledge and basic skills that would shape them into competent modern individuals, however unequal to their Western benefactors. Today we can see how these photographs document a rather unsettling history of colonial education that was taking place throughout the continent at the time. For the people of the Kingegan village lived competently long before the arrival of the school. There are many great works documenting the experiences indigenous children, and their families, endured at Indian boarding schools throughout the United States and Canada. The Bernardi collection proves compelling because it documents how a newcomer, one who was to bestow civilization upon the locals, came to situate this region's people within her beliefs about the broader world.  

"A lesson in geography. To Quont'nuk and Menadéluk"
PH Coll 49.87b
The photograph above "A lesson in geography" spells out an unfortunately familiar and still quite moving scene where the instructor appears to be lightly scolding her wards, Quont'nuk and Menadéluk. What is to be made of this disciplinary scene, staged for a camera, in the midst of a geography lesson? Is the message here that the instructor will work tirelessly to teach the students where they sit in the global order of civilization? From my own memories growing up in Kodiak, I can clearly parcel out the moments in social studies class when, as a young person, I was being taught to fill out a map of the contiguous part of the nation. In all my teachers' efforts, their lessons to educate me on the locations of many Lower-48 states proved a hapless endeavor. What did this geography lesson mean for the instructor and how did it translate to the students and their families at Kingegan? Below is a photograph of more students, I believe in the bottom row are "Kuzrina, Natongok, Anouruk, Keotkona."

Notes Handwritten in album: Kuzrina, Natongok, Anouruk, Keotkona ca. 1906
PH Coll 49.96
Along with photographs of life among the Native residents Bernardi lent her hand to locating the people of the village in relation to the indigenous people of the contiguous part of the nation, as well as to the people of the Japanese nation. Please note Japan is approximately 2,500 miles away from Kingegan (the distance between Barcelona and Moscow proves closer than these two places are). "Eskimos are not Indians," she clarified for the viewers of the collection, "but Mongoloids." Not part of the Bernardi collection, below is an uncanny map of the western racial imaginary that constructed the "mongoloid" as a type.


Since people of the village failed to embody comparable traits with "Indians," they somehow had to fit into the larger racial imaginary. For as the passage ensued she wrote of the villagers' traits in relation to the Japanese, saying that "both have all inherent reverence for their ancestors, the Japanese possessing the characteristic a degree stronger than the Eskimos." The blanketing statement about both groups comes to illustrate the idea that there was a global hierarchy of civilizations (European at the top, indigenous at that bottom) that many people of the time invested their energies in proving as true and maintaining it as a truth for their benefit. In the ranking of civilizations the villagers, for Bernardi, sat beneath the way she imagined the Japanese. As noted by Coleen Lye in America's Asia, around the turn of the century the United States, eager to hold on to Pacific Rim colonies, began viewing Japan with suspicion (17-24). Perhaps because of these growing notions about the Japanese in the United States she felt it important to mark them as similar but distinct, even though they really aren't sharing a close proximity.  

Further in the collection, Bernardi's comparison continued, "the Japanese serve fish raw," and she noticed that "the Eskimo eats his raw but nature most often serves it to him frozen. Jade is used extensively by both Eskimos and Japanese. Both have the ability to imitate with masked fidelity." Also, one can notice the ascription of Inupiat as "He" while the Japanese are left without being assigned a gender. The description moves from comparing the foodways of distant peoples as to align them under a cryptic assertion that they both possess the "ability to imitate with masked fidelity." The Japanese and the villagers, in her view were capable of emulating western cultural practices. (Most likely she isn't meaning to say that they can perform celebrity impersonations.) 

Handwritten in album: "Telling whale stories."
PH Coll 49.35
In comparing her upbringing to the villagers she wrote, "We are prone to say "bread is the staff of life." "The Eskimo," she argued, "would change it to "oil is the staff of life." She viewed the that for the villagers were dependent on oil, a claim which later could be applied to others in the region when the Trans-Alaska pipeline was constructed in Alaska.

In the their use of oils she wrote:
"the oil of the hair seal the walrus and whale provides for most of the wants of the Eskimo. He uses it to warm his house and dry his boots, to cook his seal meat and if there is no meat to cook he can use the oil for food. In olden times cariboo were plentiful. The meat was dried and the skins used for bedding and clothes. Heated deer suet rendered is eaten with snow and blue-berries it looks like whipped cream and is called koni mi nook. "When a person dies a feast is prepared and all friends and relatives come to the home and eat so that the dead one may not be hungry. If two persons fall ill at the same time in the same house one of them must be immediately moved, for should one die his spirit would call to the spirit of the other and he would have to go." Again, one can see how the description of the villagers moves from foodways to interpersonal relations.

Five young women identified as left to right: Kuzrere or Grace (Mrs. Percy Blatchford of Nome), Koot egweena, Angnohok, Oo me eeuk, Ang arolok or Bessie (Mrs. Henry Miller of Teller) UAF-1959-875-33

Further in the description she wrote that the villagers "never cheat each other but think it a virtue to cheat a white man." This horrid generalization meant that Native people act unethically towards outsiders, justifying the need to educate the children so they'll act morally and respect non-Inupiat people in all dealings. The problem I have with this statement is that she's talking about the parents whom are trusting her with their children in her classroom. The collection presents many photographs of young people, adorned in "western" (her words) clothes, posing for the camera. For almost a century the people of this region lived through multiple forms of abuse as they were made to attend these schools. A quick google search will give a list of accounts on the topic. There is also plenty of scholarship out there that asks readers to consider the viewpoints and histories of people whom these types of photographs were taken of as to better understand the agency and resolve they acted with in such harrowing times.

Nora and Angnolok. Collection. S.R. Bernardi Photographs. UAF-1959-875-34
In the conclusion of the passage she wrote, "Good bye in Eskimo means "I am sorry to see you go." If you are calling at an Eskimo home you should not leave," she continued, "until your hostess tells you you may go." In the last sentence of her description she attests that, "if a man and his wife go to another village to trade and stay a few days it is a courtesy for the men to trade wives." Ending the passage with such an observation positions her work as justified in that she was bringing what she saw as a moral order to the people. The album's photographs and narrations are a great archival source for the articulation of Western racial beliefs about subject peoples in a northern part of the Alaska Territory amid the early twentieth century.