Alaska Chronology


Jan Henry Keskitalo, a grandson of the Hætta family from the Reindeer Project, and three other young Sami visit Alaska from Norway. They spend time in Unalakleet and trade stories with two of the so-called “Last of the Lapps” in Alaska, Mary Bahr and Andrew Bangs (Anders Bongo), who are in their 80s. Ethnologist Hugh Beach records the occasion in photos and interviews. During the visit a number of old Sami items are found in a storage hut in Unalakleet. These include a treasure chest, reindeer harnesses, a scoop knife and Sami boots with Inupiaq trim. Some of these items will later be featured in the “The Sami, Reindeer People of Alaska” exhibit.


Clement Sara, another of the so-called “Last of the Lapps” passes on at age 88. Born in Kautokeino, Norway in 1895 he came to Alaska on the Manitoba at age 4 with his father Nils Person Sara, his mother, sister, and three brothers. His Yup’ik wife Martha Oscar, passed away in 2002; 4 children and 17 grandchildren survive him.


The Western Arctic Land Claims settlement, otherwise known as the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, is passed in Canada regarding use of renewable and nonrenewable resources in the Western Canadian Arctic. The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is formed. A disagreement with Canadian Reindeer Limited, who owns the large Mackenzie Delta herd in the Northwest Territories ensues.


An accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Russia releases radioactive clouds that drift over central Sweden and Norway. Over 30,000 reindeer have to be slaughtered and buried because they are contaminated along with rest of the environment.


There are now more than 16,000 reindeer from a dozen herds on the Seward Peninsula. Nasogaluak’s herd grows to 8,000 reindeer.


The Samediggi [Norwegian Sami Parliament] opens in Karasjok, Norway. Sami people from 13 districts in Norway elect 39 members.

Johan Mikkel Sara, a descendent of a Reindeer Project family, is elected three times to the Samediggi, where he presently serves. He promotes close ties between Norwegian and Sami American families.


Johs. Kalvemo and a film crew from NRK Sami Radio, Karasjok, Norway, begins work on the documentary The Sami In Alaska, filming in Karasjok, Kautokeino, and Alta, Norway, Seattle and Poulsbo, Washington, and Bethel and Kotzebue Sound, Alaska.


The finished documentary debuts on Norwegian national television.

The Sametinget [Swedish Sami Parliament] is formed and opens in Kiruna, Sweden with 31 elected members.


Nellie Cournoyea of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, William Nasigaluak of the Canadian Reindeer Limited and Lloyd Binder, son of Otto Binder and Ellen Pulk Binder, form the Kunnek Resource Development to purchase the Mackenzie Delta Canadian reindeer herd. It takes four years for the paperwork to go through. Lloyd and his Sami-Inuvialuit family own about 20% of the shares, and 33% are owned by other Inuvialut members of the Inuvialuit Community Economic Development organization. Additional shareholders own the rest.

Lloyd Binder, a third generation Sami herder in Canada, is the manager of the herd of 5,000. The principal economic benefit is sales of reindeer antler velvet in Asia as an aphrodisiac.


The Western Arctic Caribou Herd (WACH) changes its winter migration pattern for the first time in over 100 years. This brings 90,000 caribou into the Seward Peninsula. They occupy the reindeer wintering areas. Many reindeer disappear as they run off with the caribou during their summer migration north.


A centennial reunion for the descendants of the Alaska Sami Reindeer Project families is held in Poulsbo, WA coordinated by Norma Hanson from Poulsbo, Bill Wilcox from Port Angeles, and Jan Henrik Keskitalo from Kautokeino, Norway. Eighteen relatives attend from Kautokeino and Karasjok along with 150 more relatives from Alaska and the United States. Poulsbo and Kautokeino become Sister Cities.

Poulsbo, Washington - 1998
Sami family reunion at Earl & Norma Hansen's


On April 1st, the sovereign Native-controlled state of Nunavut is founded in Canada, where part of the Canadian Reindeer Project took place.

There are 19,000 reindeer in Alaska according to the Alaska Agricultural Statistics Service, down from 41,000 in 1992. They are mostly on the Seward Peninsula, Nunivak, Umnak, and St. Lawrence Islands, and St. Paul and St. George Islands in the Pribilofs. Small herds are also located at Palmer and Delta Junction and on the Kenai Peninsula.

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