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Stefansson explains how the herds of caribou have been exterminated from Alaska to the detriment of all.

September 1, 1909

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My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 4

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Human Predatory Pattern
Eskimo

I had been compelled to come to Point Barrow for the lack of matches, but now that I was there I needed a great many other things, for the season was so short that I could not possibly get east to the Mackenzie River before the freeze -up. Instead of being able to winter in a region well supplied with fish and game, as I should have been had I obtained matches at Herschel Island, I was now compelled to winter on the northern coast of Alaska, where ten years before there had been vast herds of caribou , but where there now is practically no game at all. The let-alone policy of the Government, the cupidity of traders, and the ignorance of the Eskimo themselves have practically destroyed the caribou as the buffalo was destroyed in our own West. The situation here, however, was fundamentally different. In the West the destruction of the buffalo was a necessity, for he cumbered the land which the farmers needed for the planting of crops; but the caribou graze on lands where no crops will ever grow. Shooting buffalo for their hides and for sport destroyed them a few yearsbefore they would have had to go anyway; but the shooting of the caribou for the same reasons cannot be similarly extenuated, for had no more been killed than were needed for food and clothing for the population of the country itself, they would have lasted in definitely, and would have been forever an economic resource not only for the Eskimo but for the country at large. 


As there could be no hope of our party “living on the country ” the coming winter, I had to buy from the whaling vessels food enough to take us through twelve months. I had no money, for I expected to buy nothing in the Arctic, but fortunately, several of the whaling captains knew me and realized the circumstances; I had there fore no trouble in getting what I needed.