The Sami People of Lapland and the Importance of the Reindeer

Reindeer remind us of Christmas and we have all heard of Rudolph but the Reindeer also play a vital role for the indigenous people of Lapland (sami people). The Reindeer are still very much used for their meat and almost every part of the Reindeer is used which help provide the people of Lapland with an income. The sami people live in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and they have their own flag and national Anthem. They are bound heavily together with their own very strict customs and traditions.

The history of the sami people goes back beyond 3000bc and they have always been hunters and gatherers and many of them are expert lasso throwers and can recognise their own Reindeer from quite a distant. Reindeer husbandry and herding is now more sophisticated than it was years ago and the sami people now rely on snowmobiles and four wheel drives to herd and control their animals. All this makes the job far more expensive than it was years ago and with Reindeer husbandry not providing a huge income, the sami people still struggle to make a decent living. Today Reindeer herding is a tough existence and all four seasons provide the sami people with lots to do. Long days are spent in the forest herding and moving the Reindeer and in the sub zero temperatures of Lapland, the days are long and very hard.

Lots of sami people now supplement their income with tourism and offer trips to the Reindeer farms combined with a meal by an open fire and lessons and information in Reindeer herding. Other’s offer trips in the summer months, with fishing and gold panning being the popular ones. The people of Lapland are aware that reindeer farming is declining and fight hard to pass their traditions and cultures on the younger generation. Many of the sami youngsters are drawn by the bright lights of the city and don’t want to follow the time honoured traditions. Many young people choose to remain within the sami culture but also to live within the modern world, this way they get to have the best of both worlds. They remain embedded within the culture they adore and they also have the opportunity to live a modern life.

The Reindeer still play an enormous role in Lapland’s economy. The Reindeer meat and fur is sold and provides an important income, other parts of the Reindeer are used and very little is wasted, The skins of the Reindeer are removed and hung out to dry, these are the furs you will see when riding on a sledge or even for sale in shops. The skins are also used for shoes and Reindeer suede and leather are ideal for making clothes.

In the summer months you will often see Reindeer roaming freely and they will frequently dart across roads. They are attracted to roads because there is good grazing along the roadside and also there are fewer mosquitos which are bothersome. In the winter months you will also see the Reindeer roaming freely although not in such large numbers and again the Reindeer are attracted to the roads because there is less snow and easier to run and walk.
Just Lapland offer cabin rental as well as advice and information on holidays to Lapland.

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