A Reindeer Harvest

This Sunday, April 3, for the 81st time since they were brought to the region in an epic trek across continents, Inuvik’s  3,000-strong reindeer herd will cross the Mackenzie River ice road on their way to their island calving grounds. 

Earlier this month, EDGE’s Angela Gzowski visited Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, and was given the opportunity to visit the herd by Lloyd Binder, son of Otto Binder, the famous reindeer herder who passed away earlier this year. Binder’s family owns the herd along with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation.

In Angela’s words: 

“I asked to go out to see the herd and Lawrence Amos, one of the herders, took me out on his snowmobile. He was going to check on the reindeer, which they do daily. And this time he was going to harvest one of the reindeer and Lloyd knew I wanted to see that. It was about an hour ride out, and it was the coldest day of my visit. I felt like my knees were going to fall off. Lawrence lent me his polar bear mitts halfway through. 

“It was pretty magical. There was a lot of fog, which Lawrence told me was a new thing, and he figured it was because of climate change. It was so beautiful, seeing this huge group of animals with all these frost-covered trees and the reindeer roaming through them. It was really quiet, except for when Lawrence would whistle at them.”


“While I was changing my lens, I heard a shot. Lawrence had seen the reindeer he wanted. It was limping so he figured it wouldn’t make it. So I missed it. The reindeer didn’t do anything when he shot it. It was really strange. They didn’t even move, really. Just kept on doing what they were doing.”

“The first thing he did was cut off its head, to drain the blood. Then he showed me step-by-step how to butcher it. Later on I noticed there was a little chart in the shack, showing all the parts of the reindeer.” 

This weekend Angela will be back to watch the 81st migration. To see more of Angela’s photography of her experience, visit her blog.

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