Normadic Herding-Sami


In the Lands of the Midnight Sun lives the Sami, formerly called the
Lapps by the Scandinavians, are the indigenous people of the far north of
Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. Their language is Finno-Ugric, related to
Finnish and Hungarian. The Sami people\'s traditional, semi-nomadic subsistence
ways include reindeer herding and fishing and hunting. Their clothing,
handicrafts and music are distinctive. The Sami are thought to descent from a
people who reached Finland after the end of the last Ice Age. When they got to
Finland, at first they occupied the southern parts of Finland, and from there,
started to migrate towards Lapland. Today there are more than 70,000 Sami, from
whom over 40,000 live in Norway, Sweden up to 25,000, in Finland 6,000 and in
Russia 2,000. In Finland the birth-rate amongst Sami is slightly above the
average for the country in general, while there are no marked differences in the
death-rate. At the same time, the average size of family is very much higher in
the case of Sami, 5,7 persons as compared for 3,8 for the Finns, partly as a
consequence of the high birth-rate and partly due to the close ties prevailing
between the members of the family. There is a Sami Parliament spanning these
borders, which participates in the global indigenous peoples\' movement at UN.
Reindeer has always been an important resource of food, clothing, tools
and other products to the Sami. They are milked at different stages of their
nomad\'s seasonal migration. The meat, fresh or preserved, is excellent, not
least because, so far as possible, it is obtained from selected animals which
are at their prime age (from 4 to 5 years) not, as with venison from wild deer,
when the hunter is able to bag his quarry. It is comparatively lean and
unusually rich in proteins and important vitamins. The tongue and marrowbones
are delicacies. The blood is used for gruel, pancakes and sausages. Other parts
are eaten fresh or preserved. The animal\'s own stomach is cleaned and used to
store food. It\'s intestines serve as sausage casings. One animal produces about
40-65kg of meat.
From the pelt they can get the finest natural cold-weather clothing
available. It is still now a days widely used as such throughout the Arctic and
is indispensable for bedding and groundsheet. The dressed hide is made into
other garments- leggings, tunic and boots. The bones are used to make knife-
handles, sheaths, buttons and other small objects. The sinews are traditionally
used in the construction of things like sledges or panniers, and for sewing
leather objects.
The traditional way of life for the Sami has been the same for centuries.
Their economy based almost exclusively on hunting and fishing evolved into one
dominated by reindeer husbandry, as reindeer herds were tamed. The Sami led a
nomadic lifestyle based around the seasonal migration of their reindeer. In
summer time, the animals were herded into the mountains in search of food and
cooler temperatures, and in winter they were taken to the shelter of the lowland
forests. Until quite recently like many other peoples, had to make their
equipment themselves from local materials- wood, bone, leather and roots. Metals
for blades, knives and tools came from the outside of their region, but only in
small quantities. Their most remarkable way of hunting was pitfalls. Lines of
pitfalls were dug along the reindeers\' migratory track in places such as narrow
valleys or tongues of firm land in lakes and marshes which limited their freedom
of manoeuvre. These pits were oval and 2-3m long, 1-2m broad, 1-2m deep. The
hole at the top was carefully concealed by covering of twigs with peat, leaves
and moss on top of it.
On April 1986, when the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in
Russia exploded, it released a plume of radioactive particles that floated north,
then fell with the rain on Scandinavia. At the time when Chernobyl blew up, the
reindeer herdes were in the mountains pasturing, marking calves. Later that
summer when they brought the reindeer in for slaughtering, many carcasses
registered thousands becquerels per kilogram of meat. The legal limit for
caesium-137 is 300 becquerels per kilogram. These slaughterhouses were closed
immediately. As a result of this, all the sudden, the Sami could not eat their
own meat.
The slaughterhouses have re-opened since, but much of the meat is still
unfit for human consumption. Still the Sami fear most that the contamination
will have long-term consequences for the reindeer. The peculiar ecology of the
region and the way the reindeer feed make them particularly vulnerable. The Sami
way of life