BSNC Shareholder Presents Proclamation Honoring Sami Reindeer Herders

Inga Kemi Turi, the youngest granddaughter of Sami reindeer herder Samuel Kemi, and BSNC shareholder Pearl Johnson hold the Alaska Legislature’s honorary proclamation. Kemi was the first Sami reindeer herder to contract with Sheldon Jackson, arriving in Alaska in 1894. Photo courtesy of Nils Johan Heatta.

On March 16, 2016, the Alaska State Legislature recognized the 122nd anniversary of the arrival of the Sami reindeer herders and their families from Scandinavia with an honorary proclamation for their humanitarian endeavors.

In 1894 and 1898, Sami were recruited by the U.S. government with assistance from Sheldon Jackson reindeer herders to teach reindeer husbandry to Alaska Native apprentices from western Alaska. Despite language difficulties, this large-scale teaching and hands-on training program transformed the lives and culture of many Alaskans by providing a marketable, locally available protein source. In addition, tanning hides made fur available for outerwear and by-products through present day. The Sami’s heroic efforts included traveling with reindeer from Haines to Circle City to save miners stuck in snow without provisions. They also herded reindeer from Teller Mission to Barrow to save the crew of a ship trapped in ice.

On Aug. 19, 2017, BSNC shareholder and Sami Cultural Center of North America Board Member and consultant Pearl Johnson traveled to Jokkmokk, Sweden, to participate in the 6th World Reindeer Herders Congress. Every four years the Association of World Reindeer Herders brings reindeer herders from across the circumpolar North to network, share experiences and traditional knowledge, hear from scientific experts, learn of cultural practices and celebrate. While attending, Johnson presented the proclamation to the descendants of the original Alaska Sami herders.

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