Helena Ruotsala: Reindeer Herders and the Forest in Finnish Lapland

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This is a short presentation in finnish of one of the participating projects in the nordic project Cultural Processes in Nordic Woodland Communities:

Reindeer management is an old traditional livelihood in Lapland. It constitutes an economic sector which, in addition to providing a subsistence livelihood, has important cultural value because it is the traditional occupation of Lapland's inhabitants.  Well-suited to the ecological conditions of the area, the skills of reindeer management are passed from one generation to the next and are essential to both community and individual identity.
 It is well known that profitable reindeer herding has required specialized knowledge about the environment as well as a sense of responsibility for it.  A reindeer herder is guided by his intimate knowledge of his surroundings, and different locales require different kinds of knowledge for appropriate  management and utilization. The reindeer herder's working environment comprises, depending on the resources, greatly varied work settings, distinguished from each other by different names. For instance, reindeer work is done in the "reindeer forest."
 The reindeer herder is not alone in the "reindeer forest."  In addition to the traditional Lapland livelihoods -- agriculture, cattle herding and fishing -- new users have come to the same reindeer pastures and grazing lands. It has been possible in some instances for reindeer herders to work in harmony with the newcomers, but freqently conflicting interests and competition for the same natural resources create sources of strife, which are exacerbated by the inevitable reduction in the area reserved for reindeer herding.
 This article analyzes the role played by forests and forestry in reindeer management. The relationship between reindeer management and forestry is ambivalent, largely because reindeer herders own forests which they are forced to sell when income from reindeer management is insufficient to finance the inevitable loans required for herders to subsist.  The felling of forests and the ensuing soil treatment has resulted in the reduction of feeding grounds;  reindeer herders feel that bureaucratic and commercial forestry management plans do not take into account the needs of the local inhabitants who have worked this land for generations.

Helena Ruotsala
Address: University of Turku, Ethnology, Henrikink. 3, FIN 20014, TURUN YLIOPISTO
e-mail: helena.ruotsala@utu.fi
Telefon: (arb.)+358-2-333 6350, fax +358-2-333 6360

This page was updated on July 11, 2000