An excited dog barks, tail wagging, as it runs out from behind a snowy ATV – the Reindeer have arrived! Life won’t return to ‘normal’ for months.
Where do the Reindeer come from?
It’s thought that after the last Ice Age reindeer began pushing northwards, followed by Europe’s only indigenous population, the Sami.
The reindeer herd wander through northern Finland, Sweden, Norway and in the Kola peninsula in Russia, the tribe’s ancestral home. The tribe no longer follow the herd but have settled farmsteads that open their doors each season and offer the herd protection, medical care and food.
This way of managing the herd doesn’t negate the need to follow them, far from it. The word Sami has many roots in the countries across this region, but one literally means ‘reindeer walker’.
Just about 10% of the Sami people are engaged with reindeer farming in this way, that’s less than 3000 people. Fishing and sheep farming are the staple industries, although the reindeer attract most attention and outside interest. The BBC, National Geographic… even Marie Clair have been drawn to the tribe to make little video explainers about the people and their reindeer in this harsh environment.
Even the Norwiergen Tourist board promotes the country using imagery and ideals appropriated from the Sami people – such is its raw beauty that commercial interests can’t help but drool at the scenery. But the Sami have had anything but a warm welcome from this country, or indeed any.
Go there yourself?
Maybe sometime you might go and join in the work yourself? Sounds fanciful, but some people do, why not you? Every year folks make the track up north and get to stay with host families within the Arctic Circle. It’s probably not everyone’s idea of fun though, so check out a couple of host families, and be sure you know what’s expected of you!