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IV. Reindeer Progress in Alaska*

BY
LILLIAN E. ZEH

 

THE herding and breeding of domesticated reindeer, introduced as an experiment a number of years ago with animals imported from Siberia by the government, has now become the most prominent feature of the industrial education of the Eskimo and the main activity of many native villages of Arctic Alaska. The progress in civilization that has been made by lifting up the natives formerly living as savages, and eking out a precarious existence by hunting with no other domes-tic animal than the dog, to the estate of civilized, self-supporting herds-men, as accomplished through the reindeer industry, is a remarkable educational achievement. The Alaska Reindeer Service has now reached its most successful stage, as it marks the beginning of the period of full utilization of all the reindeer owned by the Government for the benefit of the native population.

At the present time there is hardly a surplus Government rein-deer north of the Kuskokwim river. This has been made possible by the establishment of new reindeer stations, the employment of more natives as chief herders, by accepting the largest practical number of apprentices, and by transferring reindeer to both chief herders and apprentices in lieu of salary or supplies, the chief aim and fundamental policy of the Government being to turn the reindeer over to the natives as rapidly as they learn the industry and appreciate its value. The total number of reindeer in Alaska at the last census was neatly 23,000, and of this number over 11,000 are owned by the natives. One of the most striking and gratifying features is the large income which the natives derive from the sale of reindeer products, their share for the past fiscal year having been over $18,000. This amount does not include the value of the reindeer skins used for clothing, nor that of the meat consumed as food. These material benefits and the very considerable income thus derived demonstrate the fact that the reindeer industry has become one of the most prominent factors in the economic life of the Eskimo.

The total number of Alaskan reindeer is distributed in herds among twenty-eight stations, eighteen of these being owned by the Government and ten by church missions. The Lapps own over three thousand. The natives are very anxious to get deer and look upon them as a safe

"American Forestry, January, 1913.


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