Historical Spotlight: Ted Katcheak and the Seward Peninsula Reindeer

Reindeer husbandry was introduced to the Seward Peninsula via Port Clarence in 1892 by Sheldon Jackson, due to a severe decline in the Western Arctic Caribou herd population. Currently, there are approximately 21 reindeer herders and 20,000 reindeer in western Alaska. These herders belong to the Kawerak Reindeer Herders Association, which provides assistance in the development of a viable reindeer industry to enhance the economic base for rural Alaska and to improve the management of the herds.

One of those herders is Theodore Katcheak, a life-long reindeer herder from Stebbins. Katcheak learned to herd from his father Benny who tended the Stebbins Community herd. In 1974, Katcheak started managing the Stebbins herd full-time. Today, Katcheak is one of the owners of the tri-party herd, a herd jointly owned by the Katcheak family, the Stebbins Community Association and the Native Village of St. Michael. In 2014, the tri-party herd had to relocate due to an expired lease. Now thousands of reindeer roam on the mainland east and south of Stebbins and St. Michael.

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