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The 'Manitoba Reunion', Kautokeino
Written by Philip Burgess   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 01:00
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On February 28th, 1898, 113 reindeer herders - men, women and children from Kautokeino and Karasjok in Norway, 539 draft reindeer, 418 sleds, a number of dogs and lichen arrived in New York after a long and arduous ocean crossing from Bossekop, near Alta on the Finnmark coast. The ship they sailed in was called the 'Manitoba', hence the name “The Manitoba Expedition.” The herders and reindeer crossed the U.S. by train and after a series of mishaps, made their way to Alaska, heralding the introduction of Sami reindeer husbandry to North America - an extraordinary story that is the subject of an exhibition which it is hoped will be in Kautokeino/ Guovdageaidnu next year for the 4th World Reindeer Herders Congress.


The descendents of these reindeer herding migrants returned to Kautokeino, 110 years after their grandparents and great grandparents left for an at times emotional reunion. They were also joined by Faith Fjeld, the editor of Baiki, the North American Sami journal and Nathan Muus, its co editor.

Timed to coincide with the Easter festival there were a number of joint activities and information sessions. The International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry and the Assn. of World Reindeer Herders hosted the delegation several times and presented their work to an audience that included one of the main organisers on this side, Reindeer Husbandry Administration head, Ellen Inga O. Haetta. The delegation also visited the Sami University College and subsequently the Sami Parliament in Karasjok.

Many of the descendents remain in Alaska and Washington and have prospered -among them being Margie Brown, who is President of CIRI, one of the 12 in-state Native regional corporations established by Congress under the terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, known as ANCSA. Her sister, June was also present, and she is VP of Land & Natural Resources, for the Calista Corporation, another of the ANCSA corporations. Peter D. Blair, his wife and daughter were also Manitoba descendents. Dr. Blair is Executive Director of the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences at the US National Academy of Sciences and his daughter Mary is blogging the trip.

The Reindeer Portal interviewed several participants and will be showing these in the coming weeks.


Manitoba Reunion Photography on the Reindeer Portal

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Baiki, Faith Fjeld, The Manitoba Expedition
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