Documenting the Ethnohistory and Ethnoarchaeology of Reindeer in the Alaska Peninsula

The DEER Study

The DEER study is a five-year collaborative research project between the National Park Service and UAF College of Liberal Arts, which explores the history and legacies of reindeer herding in the Alaska Peninsula. With funding from NPS Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU), this project documents the history of reindeer herding within the Alaska Peninsula from 1904 –1950 and the migration of Inupiat to the central Alaska Peninsula in the early 1900s. One of our objectives is to shed light on a relatively unknown facet of the “American period” of Southwest Alaska by considering the connections between Inupiat migratory waves and reindeer economics in this region. This focus not only covers diverse themes, such as reindeer economics, cross-cultural relations, and perceptions of the environment, but it also helps us to understand how people creatively exploit changing circumstances to make their lives go well. The DEER study will also contribute to broader discussions in circumpolar pastoralism, including human-animal relations, migration, mobility and global markets.

NPS logo

Project Collaborators and Participants

With funding from NPS Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU), the DEER study is a five-year collaborative project between the Katmai Historic Preservation Coordinator Dale Vinson and members of the UAF anthropology department, including: PI Patrick Plattet, postdoctoral researcher Amber Lincoln. The histories and identities of Alaska Peninsula communities have been shaped by reindeer herding and Inupiat immigration. Project researchers are working with these communities, including: Igiugig, Kokhanok, Levelock, Naknek, South Naknek, King Salmon, Pilot Point, Ugashik, and Port Heiden. Our research relies on exchanging information with communities and individuals in order to answer questions raised both locally and by the scientific community.

Illustrated pictoral engravings of reindeer
1970am63. Courtesy of British Museum

Ongoing Research

Various sets of data will help understand the correlation between human population movements and modes of herding mobility across the Alaska Peninsula with emphasis on Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve (ANIA) and Katmai National Park & Preserve (KATM). We will review archival sources, document place-names and landscape features using GPS/GIS surveys, and elicit memories and stories from residents of the Alaska Peninsula. As the research builds, we will be expanding this website. Please return for updates.