Alaska Chronology


On February 4th, Per Mathison Spein marries Ellen Maria Sara in the first wedding between Reindeer Project members. It is an arranged marriage.

Summer 1900 is the peak of the gold rush and there are 30,000 miners in Nome alone. Lindeberg sends for Leonard Seppala, a Kven from Skjervøy, Norway, to help in his Nome mining operations. Seppala is a lifelong friend of Sakariassen.

Carl Lomen and his father, G. J. Lomen, a Norwegian-American lawyer from St. Paul, Minnesota, arrive in Nome. Carl will later become known as “the Reindeer King” because of his commercial reindeer business operation.

There are now 7,000 reindeer in Alaska. Of the original 113 people who were members of the Manitoba Expedition, 86 have stayed in Alaska, 24 have returned to Norway, and 3 have died.


Mary Antisarlook, an Inupiaq interpreter for Jackson, inherits her husband Charlie’s herd of 360 reindeer when he and his two brothers die in the measles epidemic. She moves the reindeer to Unalakleet and the herd grows to 1,500, earning her fame as “Mary, the Reindeer Queen.”

The Friends Mission in Kotzebue receives a loan of 95 reindeer to start a herd there. Sami herder Alfred Nilima is hired to assist in training the Natives.

The Reindeer Project herders bring 254 Tunganese reindeer to Teller Station from Okhotsk in Russia. These are larger animals that interbreed with the reindeer that are already there.

Reindeer now total 4,164 in Alaska between 10 missions.

Johan Tornensis moves to Kitsap County, Washington becoming the first of the Alaska Sami to settle there. He becomes the biggest property owner there.


Russia refuses to allow more reindeer to be sold to Alaska Natives.

In March, Sami mail carrier Johan Peter Johannesen Stalogargo dies during severe weather while delivering mail by reindeer to Kotzebue from Teller. His reindeer were exhausted and had broken loose.


The Sara and Spein families, including herders Mike and Nils Sara and Per Spein, arrive in the Bethel area with their reindeer. Peter Sara arrives from Norway with the U.S. Reindeer Commissioner and meets up with them on the Yukon River for the last part of their trip to Bethel.

Albert Lomen and his family arrive in Nome to join his father and his brother Carl. The Lomen brothers will later become active partners in “Lomen and Company.”

Sami herders at Bethel
Arrival of Sami herders at Bethel, 1903.

Bethel cabin
Sara family home near Bethel, Kuskokwim Valley


Reindeer stations are now run by the missions at Point Barrow, Kotzebue, Wales, Gambell, Teller, Golovin, Unalakleet, Eaton, Bethel and Nulato with over 60 Native owners and apprentices. Whites are not allowed to own breeding stock or female reindeer. The Sami have a separate arrangement with the U.S. Reindeer Service.

Wales Station
Reindeer Station, Wales


A negative report about the Reindeer Project is written by government investigator Frank Churchill. He finds that only 47 of the 732 reindeer at Kotzebue are owned by Inupiaq, and that the Friends Church owns 310 and Sami herder Alfred Nilima owns 370. In Deering, the head Native herder owns 318 reindeer, two assistants own 25, while 136 are owned by the mission there. Churchill also criticizes individual Natives who dominate the ownership of reindeer at various sites. He is also skeptical of the close relationship that the missions have with the Bureau of Education under Jackson’s leadership. Moreover, Churchill and W.T. Lopp argue against the ownership of reindeer by the Sami and the missions. Lopp feels that the number of apprentices has not been adequate. He is also part of the group that criticizes Jackson.

Back in Finnmark, Norway has gained its independence from Sweden. The annual migration of Sami and reindeer is disrupted by the closing of the borders between the two countries — ending centuries of nomadic migrations.

Eight Finnish-Sami immigrants from Houghton, Michigan join the Reindeer Project herders in Alaska.


Finding that the missions own more reindeer than the Alaska Natives, the U.S. Department of Interior publishes a report that is critical of Sheldon Jackson. Jackson resigns for this and other reasons. The next year W. T. Lopp becomes the new General Agent for Education in Alaska.

Alfred Nilima brings his brother John and sister-in-law Anna Mortensdatter to Kotzebue from Finland to assist him with his reindeer work. The government and Nilima have numerous disagreements regarding the spread of non-Native reindeer. Under Alfred’s leadership a small Sami community and reindeer cooperative is established at Kotzebue.

Nils Paul Xavier, a Lutheran minister named after a missionary in Kautokeino, Norway, helps found Pacific Lutheran College in Parkland, Washington. He is a member of the Tornensis family from Kautokeino and the uncle of Johan Tornensis in Alaska. Nils Paul’s granddaughter Dagney will later marry Fredric Schiotz, a longtime president of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America.


New government regulations involve the Alaska Reindeer Service. They intend to improve the education and distribution of reindeer to Natives in Alaska.

A small reindeer herd is brought from Norway to St. Anthony’s, Newfoundland.


Under the direction of William Grenfell, a friend of Sheldon Jackson, Sami herders from Norway bring 300 reindeer to Labrador. In nine years the herd grows to 1,500, however by 1915, the Sami herders return to Norway, unhappy with their pay. The herd is not properly cared for so the animals join the local caribou.

William Shields becomes the new Superintendent of Education for Northwest Alaska and takes over some of Sheldon Jackson’s duties.


The U.S. government stops employing Sami as herding instructors and begins to replace the main herders with Alaska Natives.

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