Sami Reindeer People of Alaska

May 3, 2014 — Aug. 30, 2014

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The Reindeer Sami People of Alaska exhibit honors the Sami families who came to Alaska from Norway in the 1890s. In the second expedition 113 Sami came with 538 reindeer, reindeer moss, herd dogs, 419 pulkas sleds, harnesses, skis, and other equipment used in herding. By 1910 Inupiaq and Yup’ik reindeer herding was fully operational. The Sami kept their own herds and developed a transportation system. The reindeer hauled freight for the army and equipment for the gold miners. They also delivered U.S. mail before airplanes took over. By 1920 there were more than 500,000 reindeer in western Alaska as the result of the combined efforts of the Sami, Inupiaq and Yup’ik herders. The Reindeer Act on September 1, 1937 forced the Sami people, who were not considered Indigenous, to give up their reindeer. Many of them moved to Washington, some of them moved back to Norway, and those with Inupiaq and Yup’ik family stayed in Alaska. This exhibit hosts photos of the Sami who lived in Alaska and illustrates the Sami’s handicraft duodji, which means functional art made beautiful.