The Borneo Post - Good English - - Front Page -

THE SAMI herds­men of La­p­land near the Arc­tic Cir­cle herd rein­deer.

And they don’t usu­ally clam­ber down chim­neys.

The Sami, pre­vi­ously known as the Lapps, are a mi­nor­ity in­dige­nous group of the re­gion. To­day La­p­land stretches across parts of northern Nor­way, Swe­den, Fin­land and even Rus­sia.

In La­p­land, there are more rein­deer than peo­ple. The rein­deer have long served to meet many needs of the Sami, from food to cloth­ing to, of course, trans­porta­tion. Even to­day, ev­ery sin­gle rein­deer in La­p­land be­longs to some­one, and is tagged ac­cord­ingly.

In many ways, life for the mod­ern-day Sami rein­deer herder has not changed all that much. Many herders now man­age the land with ski­mo­biles.

Daily, the herders’ work still re­volve around that of the rein­deer, the sea­sons, and na­ture. Rein­deer roam free throughout the ma­jor­ity of the year, and the herders must be con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tor­ing them dur­ing this time.

If they find a rein­deer with a tag that be­longs to a neigh­bour, they no­tify them. If a rein­deer has been killed from a bear or wolver­ine, or a more re­cent preda­tor, the car, then they note it and tell the gov­ern­ment, who in turn pays them a small amount for the loss. In May the baby rein­deers are born and the herders must mark the calves and then move the rein­deer to sum­mer graz­ing land. In Oc­to­ber there are herd­ing round-ups that the en­tire vil­lage at­tends where some rein­deer are se­lected for con­sump­tion. The life of a rein­deer herder is al­ways a busy one.

What’s fas­ci­nat­ing about the rein­deer cul­ture was the way that the Sami use the rein­deer as a re­source in a healthy and sus­tain­able man­ner. Rein­deer are nat­u­rally a very healthy meat—they are low in fat, and have very low hor­mone lev­els from a rel­a­tively stress-free life roam­ing through La­p­land. The Sami peo­ple use the rein­deer, but only a num­ber that is healthy for the rein­deer pop­u­la­tion and the re­gion. As it stands, the land in Fin­nish La­p­land can only sup­port an av­er­age of 200,000 rein­deer; but dur­ing the sum­mer months, the rein­deer pop­u­la­tion in­creases to around 350,000 rein­deer. Since there are not enough re­sources to sup­port the ex­tra pop­u­la­tion, they use the dif­fer­ence of around 150,000 rein­deer for con­sump­tion.

The rein­deer are not just used for meat. Tra­di­tion­ally the Sami would use ev­ery part of the rein­deer, us­ing their skin and fur for in­su­la­tion and cloth­ing, their veins for thread, their bones for tools, the blood for cook­ing—ab­so­lutely noth­ing went to waste.

Some rein­deer were also se­lected to pull sleds. Though it is a dy­ing prac­tice, rein­deer sleighs used to be a pri­mary mode of trans­porta­tion for the Sami peo­ple.

The rein­deer sleigh is the only way to legally ‘drive drunk’ in Fin­land. If a bar pa­tron had a little too much booze, the bar­tender used to put him in his sleigh and slap the rein­deer to take him home—the rein­deer al­ready knew the way, so the ine­bri­ated per­son had only sit back and try not to vomit.

To­day you’ll find it is pri­mar­ily tourists who are tak­ing the sleighs for a whirl. The herders are find­ing new and in­no­va­tive ways to build their busi­nesses and meet a de­mand, while also ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about their cul­ture and the rein­deer.

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