To celebrate the holiday season, we browsed past issues of Arctic Anthropology to find articles featuring our favorite furry friends of the North: the reindeer! Reindeer have played an important role in Arctic cultures for centuries, from European Russia to Alaska, providing people with transportation, food, and livelihood. Below are a few selected articles, freely available until the end of January.
“Reindeer Returning from Combat: War Stories among the Nenets of European Russia” by Stephan Dudeck (2018)
Dudeck studies the oral histories of the Nenets, an indigenous group of the northwestern Russian Arctic. The Nenets traditionally herded reindeer as part of their nomadic lifestyle, and from 1942 to 1944, Nenets herders used reindeer and sleds to transport supplies and wounded soldiers to and from the front in the Soviet war with Finland. In this article, Dudeck interviews Nenets elders about their personal experiences during the war.
“Towards a Multiangled Study of Reindeer Agency, Overlapping Environments, and Human-Animal Relationships” by Jukka Nyyssönen and Anna-Kaisa Salmi (2013)
Nyyssönen and Salmi discuss relationships between reindeer and humans, specifically with the Sámi, an indigenous people of northern Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. Through an examination of archaeological sites in Finnish Lapland, the authors describe Sámi religious rituals where reindeer were sacrificed, arguing that the reindeer were able to demonstrate their agency by feeling fear and resisting being killed.
Mager studies the reindeer industry in Barrow, Alaska, which began to decline in the 1930s and 40s in part due to reindeer running away to join wild caribou herds. According to the oral histories collected in this study, to this day, locals can identify reindeer-like animals in caribou herds.