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March 31, 2009


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It's been awhile since I read Pertti J. Pelto, Tne Snowmobile Revolution: Technology and Social Change in the Arctic (Menlo Park, Calif.: Cummings Publishing Co., 1973. He discussed the impacts on reindeer herding and socio-economic change.

RE: Alaska One curiosity some have noted anecdotally is how long it took for people to reduce their harvest of fish to what is actually consumed by people. That is, fish, no longer fed to dogs (and thus not counted as dog food) was nevertheless still harvested in some areas (and not used.)

Ben Muse

Thanks for the recommendation, Pelto is on my list now. I spent some time looking up Pelto references on the web today, and found this in a paper by Court Smith, an anthropologist at Oregon State (Community Wealth Concentration: Comparisons in General Evolution and Development):

"A case enabling measurement of change in distortion and concentration is Pelto's analysis of the Skolt Lapp community of Sevettijarvi. This community of 50 families 'up to 1960 was basically that of an egalitarian society.' The snowmobile, along with other technological inputs like chain saws, brought about 'visible economic stratification.'

"Fishing and reindeer herding were the primary economic activities. Some Sevettijarvi families also engaged in wage labor. The Skolt Lapps 'considered themselves reindeer herders above all.' Reindeer ownership was compared by Pelto for 1958, before the snowmobile, and 1971, when Sevettijarvi had 70 snowmobiles. For 35 reindeer-herding households Pelto found that 'reindeer herds diminished sharply during the years of the 'snowmobile revolution.'' Table 5 shows the change in distortion and concentration in reindeer ownership. One household ended up owning 31% of the total herd in 1971. In 1958, the household with the most reindeer owned 7% of the total herd.

"Pelto used a scale for determining 'material style of life.' This scale is constructed by counting household ownership of items such as chain saws, snowmobiles, and telephones. Pelto's conclusion is, 'The families with greater material resources and greater access to local wage-labor jobs are also the most successful in reindeer husbandry.' The snowmobile revolution in Sevettijarvi produced greater distortion and concentration in the distribution of reindeer."

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I modified my sled this year, while living in New Brunswick Canada, to be pulled on suburban roads. Two huskies, one pure Eskimo, and one half Alaskan/half Eskimo, pulled my wheeled sled comfortably for about 3-4 miles a day. The only danger with Huskies is that they want to sniff along the road, and pee. They need to be disciplined to keep running, and permitted to do their thing at natural halts. I would kick for the uphills. You just need good wheels on the sled. We wore out one set The brake would be me holding and throwing the sled into the snow bank. We would pull over as soon as a car went by, and it was a 50 kilometre an hour zone.

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