In the 1940’s and 50’s wild musk oxen were a disaster or two away from extinction and the villages of coastal Alaska were moving into a cash economy that had scarcely existed before. Where others saw two utterly insurmountable challenges, John Teal’s eyes sparkled and a vision was born. In this windswept and inhospitable land he saw an opportunity for Native people to live together peaceably with this animal such that both would thrive.
After more than a decade of research, Teal started what came to be known as the Musk Ox Project in Alaska. Supported by funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, as well as assistance from the University of Alaska and countless volunteers, the Project started Alaska’s first domestic musk ox farm in Fairbanks in 1964. Each year the herd grew. Each year their qiviut was combed and spun into exquisite yarn.
The Project Today
The farm is presently located in the Matanuska Valley near Palmer, Alaska, where members of the project and a host of volunteers continue the work that began in 1954. Our commitment to the gentle and sustainable domestication of the musk ox, and to the establishment of a cottage-based textile fiber industry, is as strong now as it was when John Teal began the project in 1954.