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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nick's Reindeer

Now that we've processed all the reindeer meat (2 afternoons spent cutting up meat in Paul's barn) it's time to share the harvest. I love the fact that I will get to share some of the meat with one of the original owners of the herd, Nick - that's Nick Alokli of Akhiok and not St Nick of North Pole. Nick is an Alutiiq elder who is helping to revitalize the Alutiiq language. As a kid in Akhiok he helped herd and manage the reindeer herd. At the museum we have a small exhibit on Alutiiq reindeer herding and in an old faded photo (top photo) he is pictured helping to butcher a reindeer. He's the kid, third from the left, wearing the naval style cap. I originally found this photo in a book about bear hunting guides, Pinnell and Talifson, by Marvin Clark titled 'The Last of the Great Brown Bear Men'.

In years past I have often proxy hunted for Nick. Proxy hunting consists of filling an elder's deer tags - basically shooting his deer for him. He has told me about his reindeer herding days and expressed an interest in getting to eat reindeer again. But, prior to last week, every time I've tried to get him some reindeer I've failed. It feels good to finally succeed. I'll be rewarded by his grin on receiving the meat.

Yesterday I already gave some of the meat to Florence, another Alutiiq elder who I proxy hunt for. Her father, originally from Akhiok, also helped herd the reindeer, and she told me that she had not eaten reindeer since she was a child in fish camp. Her father had spotted the herd up on a mountain on the other side of the bay and had gone and harvested one. On receiving her latest shipment of reindeer meat she immediately took out a piece for dinner. It's been over 50 years, but two Alutiiq elders will be eating reindeer again.

The other two posted photos depict our camp and the reindeer herd. Note the smoke coming out of the stove pipe in the one of camp. And that is the mountains of the Alaska Peninsula across Shelikof Strait behind the reindeer herd. Patrick

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