The taming of the stew: humans, reindeer, caribou and food systems on the southwestern Seward Peninsula, Alaska
AuthorMiller, Odin Tarka Wolf
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AbstractThis thesis addresses the question, what is the role of reindeer within communities of Alaska's southwestern Seward Peninsula, particularly as a food source? Employing a mixed-method approach, I conducted several months' fieldwork in the Seward Peninsula communities of Nome and Teller between 2016 and 2018, using methods that included participant observation, ethnographic interviews and a household survey designed to describe and quantify use of reindeer as food. As two varieties of the same species, Rangifer tarandus, reindeer and caribou are very similar in appearance. When caribou herds migrate nearby, reindeer tend to join them and become feral. Given the important role caribou played in Bering Straits Iñupiaq culture before their disappearance and the subsequent introduction of reindeer during the late 1800s, I contextualize the history of reindeer herding as part of a broader pattern of human-Rangifer relationships. During the past 30 years, reindeer herding has been disrupted by the return of migrating caribou to the region. Results from my fieldwork suggest that herding involves not only keeping reindeer separate from caribou, but also achieving community-level recognition of reindeer herds as domestic, privately owned and non-caribou. This is reflected in reindeer's role as a food source. Among Seward Peninsula Iñupiat, reindeer's gastronomic role is similar to that of caribou and other land mammals. Yet reindeer products can be monetarily exchanged in ways that caribou and other wild foods cannot. A further distinguishing feature of reindeer, as a domestic animal, is that it can be controlled and commodified while alive. As rural Alaskans seek to adapt their food systems to rapid social-ecological change, some have expressed renewed interest in reindeer herding. I conclude that herders must actively negotiate between views of reindeer herding as monetary and marketable, on the one hand, and as a food that embodies Iñupiaq values of generosity and (nonmonetary) sharing, on the other.
DescriptionThesis (M.A.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2019
Table of ContentsChapter 1: Introduction -- 1.1 Research questions -- 1.2 The setting -- 1.3. Literature review -- 1.3.1 Reindeer herding and food production in Alaska and the Circumpolar North -- 1.3.2 Community food systems in contemporary Alaska -- 1.4 Theory -- 1.4.1 Ambiguities of reindeer: wildness versus domestication -- 1.4.2 "Sentient commodity" and "Native food" -- 1.5 Methodology -- 1.5.1 Field methods -- 1.5.2 Initial fieldwork -- 1.5.3 Nome: Random-sample survey -- 1.5.4 Teller fieldwork and attempted census survey -- 1.5.5 Analytic procedures -- 1.5.6 Limitations -- 1.6 Summary, propositions and thesis overview. Chapter 2: History -- 2.1 Introduction -- 2.2 Human-Rangifer systems through the mid-20th century -- 2.2.1 Caribou hunting systems of the 19th century and earlier -- 2.2.2 Reindeer introduction and the early private period -- 2.2.3 Corporate/collective period -- 2.2.4 Post-reprivatization, 1940s-1960s -- 2.3 Development toward commercialization, late 1960s-1980s -- 2.3.1 Late 1960s: Rural Alaska economies and reindeer herding -- 2.3.2 Late 1960s: Introduction and adoption of snowmachines -- 2.3.3 Late 1960s-early 1970s: New herds and changing ownership -- 2.3.4 1960s-1970s: Institutional changes -- 2.3.5 1970s-1980s: Velvet antler sales, meat sales and increasing profitability -- 2.3.6 Late 1970s-1980s: New herd ownership and management -- 2.3.7 Herding activities and community involvement, late 1960s-1980s -- 2.3.8 Meat distribution and consumption during this period -- 2.4 Return of caribou, 1980s-present -- 2.4.1 1980s-1990s: Gradual caribou appearance on eastern Seward Peninsula -- 2.4.2 1980s-1990s: Caribou experience among nonherders on the western Seward Peninsula -- 2.4.3 1990s-2000s: Major declines in reindeer herds as WAH winter range expands westward -- 2.4.4 1990s-2000s: Changing community relationships to caribou and reindeer -- 2.4.5 2000s-present: Remaining enclaves of reindeer herding -- 2.5 Chapter 2 summary. Chapter 3: Human relations to living Rangifer -- 3.1 Introduction -- 3.2 Reindeer, caribou and the Seward Peninsula landscape -- 3.2.1 Reindeer and caribou: some pertinent biological traits -- 3.2.2 Overall Rangifer distribution on the Seward Peninsula -- 3.3 Current patterns of human interaction with Rangifer herds -- 3.3.1 Western Arctic Caribou Herd -- 3.3.2 Kakaruk herd -- 3.3.3 Davis herd -- 3.3.4 Olanna herd -- 3.3.5 Pet reindeer -- 3.4 Social representation of live Rangifer in Nome and Teller -- 3.4.1 Management of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd -- 3.4.2 Ownership and management of reindeer herds -- 3.4.3 Differentiation of wild caribou and domestic reindeer -- 3.4.4 Reindeer hunting and reindeer-caribou ambiguity -- 3.5 Communities, local economies and reindeer herds -- 3.5.1 Community relations to the Kakaruk herd -- 3.5.2 Community relations to the Davis herd -- 3.6 Chapter 3 summary. Chapter 4: Reindeer products and food systems -- 4.1 Introduction -- 4.2 Seward Peninsula food systems -- 4.2.1 General food patterns in rural and Northwest Alaska -- 4.2.2 Changes, challenges and broader trends in rural Alaska food systems -- 4.2.3 Local concepts: reindeer and "subsistence" -- 4.2.4 Nome: Food system overview -- 4.2.5 Teller: food system overview -- 4.3 Reindeer distribution and exchange in local economies -- 4.3.1 Use and sourcing of reindeer products in Nome -- 4.3.2 Use and sourcing of reindeer products in Teller -- 4.3.3 Sharing, commodification and monetization of reindeer products -- 4.3.4 Economic interests of herders and nonherders -- 4.4 Reindeer and food culture -- 4.4.1 Reindeer and taste -- 4.4.2 Relative preferences for reindeer and other large mammals -- 4.4.3 Preparation of Rangifer products -- 4.4.4 Reindeer commercialization, culinary tradition and innovation -- 4.5 Nonfood reindeer products -- 4.6 Chapter 4 summary. Chapter 5: Discussion and Conclusion -- 5.1 Economic implications of a specialized human-animal relationship -- 5.2 Reindeer, food systems and adaptation to change in rural Alaska -- 5.3 Further research opportunities -- 5.3.1 Women's roles in contemporary reindeer herding and food preparation -- 5.3.2 Human-Rangifer relations and animal agency -- 5.4 Conclusion -- References -- Appendices.
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Alaska’s Reindeer Program 1986 Report of the University of Alaska Reindeer Program: 1986 Report the Applied Reindeer Research ProjectEpps, Alan C. (Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station School of Agriculture and Land Resources Management University of Alaska-Fairbanks, 1987-07)The University o f Alaska-Fairbanks reindeer program has existed under its current organizational framework since 1981. Program guidance across the three functions o f research, extension, and instruction continues to meet with support both internal and external to the university. The program ’s user group, the Alaska Reindeer Herders Association, is an ideal Land Grant/Sea Grant recipient for such guidance. Several major issues outlined by the Reindeer Herders Association’s first five-year plan have been addressed during the past few years. In most cases the university’s input has helped to resolve the association’s concerns. Currently a new five-year plan is being developed, and the university’s reindeer program is responding by redirecting its efforts toward emerging issues. This report identifies recent accomplishments in the reindeer program , continuing efforts, and projected areas of future effort.
Reindeer, dogs, and horses among the Tozhu reindeer herder-hunters in the Siberian taigaArakchaa, Tayana; Plattet, Patrick; Koester, David; Schweitzer, Peter; Koskey, Michael (2018-12)Anthropological studies have typically represented reindeer as the uniquely key domesticated animal species for Siberian people. For Tozhu reindeer herder-hunters, however, such a perspective ignores the important roles of dogs and horses. These species are equally vital and interdependent partners of daily life in the mountainous areas of Tuva where Tozhu people live. Each animal comes with specific characteristics, challenges and benefits that necessitate a multispecies perspective--the reindeer-dog-horse triad of Tozhu hunting and reindeer herding economies. This research completes the picture of how taiga-dwelling Tozhu and the three important animal species co-exist together. It seeks to portray: 1) how the Tozhu reindeer herder-hunters interrelate the role of these animals in hunting and reindeer herding; 2) how their intense crossbreeding of dogs and horses has in turn influenced human-animal relationships; and 3) how humans and animals cooperate with each other to achieve shared goals. An overview of anthropological studies of human-animal relations is presented in Chapter 1 and has revealed that humans and their animals are bound in mutual relations in which humans and animals have reciprocally influenced each other. In discussions of hunting and herding, the basic social concepts of "trust" and "domination," connected to "captivity" and "freedom," have become prominent social concepts for interpreting human-animal relations. In the case of the animals with which Tozhu herder-hunters interact in the taiga, both principles, "trust" and "domination," can be observed, though the widespread idea that animals give themselves to humans is not shared by the Tozhu. Chapter 2 of this thesis provides necessary background on the history of the Tozhu people. Chapter 3 outlines the social organization of reindeer herding and hunting in the Tozhu district of the Tyva Republic and focuses on the history of reindeer herding and hunting during the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, particularly the transition of Tozhu from small to large scale reindeer herding production. Scholars have described this transition as an abrupt change to meat-oriented production. Close scrutiny of the history of Tozhu reindeer herding and hunting reveals that the particularities of the fur trade dictated a gradual shift from small-scale to large-scale reindeer herding in order to provide reindeer hunters and villagers with reindeer to utilize as a means of transportation. Collective farms reconstructed reindeer herding and hunting by introducing new forms and techniques in their economies. Chapter 4 describes the role of reindeer and the nature of human-reindeer relationships among the Tozhu. Chapter 5 focuses on the role of the indigenous breeds of hunting dog, particularly their role in hunting and on crossbreeding during the Soviet era. The chapter also discusses how dog breed, gender, experience, age, and specialization affects hunting. It also examines the stealing and eating of dogs in the Tozhu district. Chapter 6 describes the role of horses in Tyvan ontology and in Tozhu economies. It also discusses crossbreeding during the Soviet and post-Soviet era and how the Tozhu are interfacing with crossbreeds today. Analysis of changes in hunting and reindeer herding organization and the history of dog and horse crossbreeding sheds light on the balancing of human relationships with their animals and animal relationships with their humans. Hunting with dogs, for example, has actually provided a stimulus to domesticate reindeer for riding. The practice of riding allows humans to keep up with the dogs during the search for prey in winter. Tozhu practice also includes maintaining a balance between animal captivity and freedom in order to manage multiple animals successfully. All three species are essential for herder-hunters, and one species cannot be said to be more or less important than the others.
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