Changunak Antisarlook Andrewuk (also known as Sinrock Mary or the Queen of Reindeer) (1870 - 1948) was a Russian and Inupiat businesswoman who became one of the richest women in Alaska due to her work in the reindeer industry.
Life and work
She was born Changunak in 1870. Her mother was Inupiat and her father was Russian. He worked at the Seward Peninsula as a trader. Mary spoke English, Russian and Inupiat. She was raised in St. Michael, Alaska. She learned various skills from her mother, including tanning, herbalism, sewing, and Inupiat culture.
She married Inupiat Charles Antisarlook in 1899. They moved to Cape Nome. She served as a translator for Michael A. Healy. Healy brought the first Siberian reindeer to Alaska to help feed and sustain the Indigenous communities. Antisarlook served as a reindeer herding apprentice and then the couple were given reindeer. Charles Antisarlook died from the measles in 1900. After his death, Mary was not allowed to take over the ownership of "his" property due to her being an Inupiat and a woman. She ended up being able to keep the reindeer herd, which totaled approximately 500. This led to her becoming one of the richest women in Alaska.
The herd was originally based around Sinuk, a small settlement also called "Sinrock", from which Mary took her nickname. For practical reasons Mary moved it south. She sold reindeer meat to the United States Army in the region, which had become busier due to gold being discovered. The gold mining industry caused many problems, including diseases brought by the white miners to the tribe, so Mary relocated to Unalakleet, Alaska, with her family and reindeer in 1901. In 1902, she married Inupiat Andrew Andrewuk. She adopted children and taught them reindeer herding, and also other members of the tribe. Under her management, the reindeer herd grew to 1,500 at its peak, and ten trainees were adopted. The Sinuk settlement did not prosper, however: it was effectively wiped out by influenza, in 1916.
Mary was also in demand as a linguist and interpreter. She took on these roles in government-supported expeditions, in Alaska, and beyond into Siberia. She was a companion to Sheldon Jackson too, on his travels.
Death and legacy
Mary died in 1948. A documentary titled "The Reindeer Queen: Once the Richest Woman in Alaska – The True Story of Sinrock Mary" was released in 2000. In 2009, Mary was inaugurated into the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame.
- "Changunak Antisarlook Andrewuk (Sinrock Mary)". Alaska Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- "Sinrock Mary: Mary Antisarlook". Native Lives and Traditions. University of Alaska Anchorage. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "Eskimo woman named Changunak (aka Sinrock Mary) sitting in front of reindeer hide, probably Unalakleet, n.d.". Alaska, Western Canada and United States Collection. University of Washington. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Brooks, Maria. "The Reindeer Queen: Once the Richest Woman in Alaska – The True Story of Sinrock Mary". DER Documentary. Documentary Educational Resources. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Dorothy Jean Ray, Nineteenth Century Settlement and Subsistence Patterns in Bering Strait, Arctic Anthropology Vol. 2, No. 2 (1964), pp. 61-94, at pp. 73–4. Published by: University of Wisconsin Press.
- Roxanne Willis, A New Game in the North: Alaska Native Reindeer Herding, 1890-1940, The Western Historical Quarterly Vol. 37, No. 3 (Autumn, 2006), pp. 277-301, at p. 288. Published by: Western Historical Quarterly, Utah State University on behalf of The Western History Association. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25443371