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1920: Lomen and Company and the Bureau of Biological Survey (BBS) experiment with cross breeding reindeer and caribou on Nunivak Island. The Natives are against Lomen influence on their island, because the Lomens are trying to claim the island as rangeland. Nothing comes of the cross breeding and some Native sources say that it never took place.
The BBS and the Alaska College of Agriculture and School of Mines begin a number of cooperative efforts aimed at improving reindeer management in Alaska.
Nils Paul Xavier’s son Johan Ulrik Xavier serves as president of Pacific Lutheran University for one year. Along with B.J. Muus, founder of St. Olaf College, he is among the first Sami American presidents of a U.S. institution of higher learning.
1921: A herd of 1,162 government reindeer sets out October 27th on a huge drive of nearly 1,200 miles from Goodnews Bay on the Bering Sea to the Cantwell area in Athabaskan country near Denali. It is lead by Ben B. Mozee, Superintendent of the Central District of the Bureau of Education, with five Native herder assistants, Marphie Apodruk, Joe Bazook, Wassillie Jackson, Elie Apetuk and Willie Kasayulie, who was chief herder for the drive.
1922: The herd of 1,300 to 1,600 reindeer arrives in Cantwell on August 9th. W.T. Lopp, Mozee’s boss, envisions the Cantwell area as being a railway transit point for reindeer in central Alaska. The herd is also intended to provide a commercial food source and economic boost for the Athabaskan Indians there. It lasts just six years due to disinterest on the part of the Athabaskans and the lack of government subsidization. Many of the reindeer join the caribou or are attacked by wolves.
A small reindeer herd is brought from Norway to Amaddjuak Bay, Baffin Island
1923: A small reindeer herd is brought from Norway to Anticosti Island, Quebec.
1925: In January, during the worst blizzard of the winter season, Leonard Seppala and his huskies mush 340 miles in five and a half days carrying diphtheria serum from Nenana to the storm-stranded people of Nome. Seppala’s team, including his lead dog Togo, is so exhausted that fresh teams of dogs must be used to finish. Driven by Gunnar Kasson, the lead dog of the final team is named Balto after Samuel Balto. When the serum arrives in Nome, Balto the dog is accorded a hero’s welcome and receives the place in history that might have gone to Togo. Seppala owns both dogs. A statue named “Balto the Dog Hero” is later erected in Central Park, New York City — the only public sculpture up to that time to honor a specific animal. Much later Balto will become the subject of a full-length Walt Disney animated cartoon.
William T. Lopp is dismissed from his position with the Alaska Bureau of Education.
1926: To promote the sale of reindeer meat and furs, Lomen and Company collaborate with Macy’s Department Stores to stage annual Christmas parades with Santa Clauses and teams of reindeer driven by Sami and Native herders from Alaska. Matthis Ivar Klementsen Nillika is the first Santa. These parades extend into the 1930s. Participating cities include Portland, St. Paul, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Brooklyn. The Lomen brothers write fake children’s letters asking about Santa Claus, which are published in U.S. newspapers. Because of the letters and the parades, Santa Claus and reindeer become an integral part of the North American Christmas story.
1927: Nicholas Dimond buys a few reindeer from the Lomen Brothers to begin his own Christmas reindeer promotion. Charles Boostrom, Gunflint Trail, and Joe Thomas, an Ojibwe from Grand Portage, Minnesota, tour the Midwest annually. The reindeer are kept at Clearwater Lake in Cook County, Minnesota.
The Lomen brothers now monopolize the reindeer industry. The empire they have established involves thousands of reindeer and includes corrals, slaughterhouses, cold storage plants, refrigerated ships and retail stores where herding supplies are sold. They also control three of the most important shipping posts and hold strategic positions in the state government. At the peak of the commercial reindeer industry, the Lomen Brothers sell 50,000 reindeer carcasses between 1927 and 1930.
1928: Four Native herders led by Chester Seveck form an association to compete with the Lomens, but they are no match for the huge, well-financed company that has begun to absorb smaller Native operations.
1929: There are conflicts over grazing rights between herders for the Lomen Corporation, the Alaska Natives, the Sami and the missions. Half a million reindeer are grazing together, mixing and migrating and creating confusion. Traditional Sami methods of nomadic herding by extended families have given way to the commercial large herd management techniques used by the Lomens. Seeing the Alaska Natives lose their share of the reindeer industry to the Lomens, Isak Hætta and other Sami quit in protest.
The cattle industry lobbies to discourage the sale and promotion of reindeer meat in the United States. They later lobby for passage of the 1937 Reindeer Act, which specifically excludes the Sami from reindeer ownership. In October the stock market crashes and the Depression begins. The market for reindeer meat and furs declines and no new markets are developed. The Lomens begin to think of selling their reindeer enterprise to the government.
In the Northwest Territories, the Canadian government uses the Reindeer Project as a model for supplementing the Inuvialuit subsistence economy. The Canadian government buys 3,442 Alaskan reindeer from the Lomen Corporation. Carl Lomen asks Anders Bær (Andrew Bahr), an Elder of sixty years now living in Seattle, to take the reindeer from Nabaktoolik, Alaska to Kittigazuit, NWT. Mikkel Nilluka signs on as his assistant. Andrew Bangs (Anders Bongo), Tom Nakkala, Ivar West and Alaska Natives Shelby David, David Henry, August Ome, Sam Segeok, Theodore Kingeak and others join the group. They leave Kotzebue Sound on December 14th.
The Canadian Reindeer Project is to take 18 months, but it becomes known as “The Great Trek” when the 1,200-mile reindeer drive stretches into a perilous five-year journey. Severe weather, high mountain ranges, ravenous wolves, and supply shortages contribute to constant delays and the death of many reindeer.