Being Caribou: Five Months on Foot with an Arctic Herd
by Karsten Heuer
In April 2003, wildlife biologist Karsten Heuer and filmmaker Leanne Allison embarked on a five-month research journey to follow the 2,000-mile migration of a herd of 120,000 Porcupine Caribou, from their winter range to their calving grounds in Alaska, and back again. From Old Crow, Yukon, the Heuers followed ancient paths and the primordial rhythms of the herd through Canada and over the border to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the United States. The couple travelled on foot and by ski through unforgiving landscapes; fording swift, deadly cold rivers, as well as encountering ravenous grizzlies who tracked them as prey.
Having began the expedition as seasoned outdoor adventurers, Karsten and Leanne soon learned they would only be able to find and discern the intent of the herd by adopting the ancient ways of the area's indigenous people. Advised by a Gwich'in native in Old Crow at the start of their trip to "listen to dreams", Karsten and Leanne find they must shed the many insulating layers of pragmatism that distance them from the natural world. They discover a transformational truth in listening to the music of the earth, paying attention to the urgings within dreams, and in truly, beyond their expectations, being caribou.