Four essentials to survive winter in Lapland

A female herder stands before a group of visitors in Finland, Pyhatunturi. She welcomes us into the land of her habitat, a reindeer farm. Since 500 years this land is passed on from fathers to sons and the latest generation, their daughters. In the shepherd shed she lights fire, starting to tell her story about daily life with family and animals on the farm.

Shepherd shed in Pyhatunturi Photo: Miranda Willems

The community of this village shares the catch of fish every year in springtime. Divided by the amount of family members, they receive an equal and honest percentage of the catch, free of money and power. The amount of honesty and trust here is very essential to their local Arctic life. They share equally in their community.

Essentials to stay alive in winter
Lapland spreads land above the Arctic Circle. Existing of Norway, Finland, Sweden and a piece of Russia. The population counts 180 thousand people, the reindeer population counts 190 thousand. The population density is two person per kilometre, which tells us that it is a huge empty land. Animals are fundamental for the social-economical system. The farm keeps more then 300 reindeers. The reindeers are living by themselves in nature during summer. During the winter there is not enough food for all, so human gather two third of the population and feed them. The human keeps the farm of reindeers for food, breeding and touristic purposes. The community needs four essentials to survive. 1) a lasso to catch 2) a female calf to breed 3) a knife to cut ear marks and to cut the meat 4) ear marks to recognise the so called, owners of the animals.

“Nature. The greatest power we live by”
The temperature decreases from -2 to -30 degrees in winter. The land received 50 centimetres of snow in two days last week. The biggest challenge for all life here is not the cold, it is hunger. In autumn they prepare for winter by stocking food. A great role in life here is played by mosquitos. Firstly, mosquitos pollinate berry flowers and secondly, they take care of the reindeers to gather in tribes. The reindeers gather to protect from these animals by gathering in groups. Tribally gathered reindeers brings a smell that keeps them away from the reindeers. Reindeers have memory like elephants, which returns them to the food and farm here. The herder voices that their community life is lived by laws of nature for 150 percent. We have to, to survive.


Habitat of reindeers in Pyhatunturi Photo by Harry Kraus

The scope of the Arctic life towards the future
As a tribal leader she explains that a sensitive feminine approach is very important to raise reindeers and live trustfully with them. Building trust with the animals they do by training and guiding with patience. We are getting closer with them step by step when we raise them into adulthood. In years they are running to us very enthusiastic. By her body language you can tell she is most proud of her habitat and profession. For next generations she wishes more kids to pass on this practice into the future. Like herself, her 21 year old daughter learns to live with a knife since the age of two. The practice is learned since they are born. The life of this community has barely changed over the past generations. Since the climate is changing the family has not received the temperate of the past, which was more towards -50 degrees. Even in this new age their way of living is led by laws of nature. New technology is used for tracking the animals with helicopter or GPS, but still they like the old way most. Children go to cities to study, for future perspectives. After graduation they return back, appreciating and respecting their roots even more. Fresh air is my biggest appreciation in life, she speaks.



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