The Sámi People: Pastoralism vs. Agriculture
This paper explores the relationship between the Sámi people of the Arctic Circle and the natural world in which they live. The territory the Sámi inhabit is generally referred to as Sápmi or Samiland and includes the Northern reaches of the Scandinavian lands and the far Northwestern peninsula of Russia. The connection between the Sámi and Sápmi is most universally drawn by outsiders through the two modern economic avenues of pastoralism and agriculture. In part, this paper will trace the Sámi cultural lineage through the original hunter/ gatherer culture, the pressures that drove the Sámi to adopt pastoralism about 400 years ago, and the continuing pressures that are now forcing them to adopt the more spatially confined agriculturalism. While it is difficult to assess just who is involved, Sámi or non-Sámi, the face of agriculture in the far North has been changing to include ranching, farming and aquaculture.
Any discussion of how each system has evolved requires at least the barest definitions of the three systems. According to Tim Ingold (1980 3-4) the hunter/gatherer society relied strictly on predation on wild stocks of reindeer in direct competition with other predators, ie. wolves. Under this system, every individual in the society had equal access to all the products of the herd. This means that no limitations were placed on either utilizing grazing areas or on ownership of individual animals. It also means that individuals of the society generally shared the proceeds of the hunt with the expectation of reciprocal sharing. Finally, contact with the herd was mostly limited to the seasonal harvesting of animals when the migratory routes of the Sámi crossed that of the reindeer.
In contrast to the hunter/gatherer lifestyle, (Ingold) pastoralism changes the relationship between the Sámi and the reindeer entirely in that access to the products of the herd becomes restricted or compartmentalized within the society. Pastoralism involves accumulation of the natural increase of products according ownership of the producers. The system generally limits the predation on the products to the owners rather than the panorama of natural predators. The Sámi involved with pastoralism extended their own migration routes to coincide with those of the deer. The grazing access by owned herds remains a resource held in common.
Juxtaposed against both hunter/gather and pastoral systems, agriculture (Funk and Wagnalls 1966) may include, but is not limited to the raising of grazing animals, or ranching. Additional facets of agriculture may also include forestry, aquaculture, grain, hay and vegetable crops. Options for consideration among agricultural products are mostly limited (Jaksjø) by the short timeframe of the extreme Northern climate. Few agricultural products are produced in sufficient quantities to be exported. Food items such as cheese, fish, and certain liquors are some of the more common of these. Otherwise (www.worldlanguage . . .), the region is limited to self-sufficiency in most basic food products. Timber, pulp and paper make up the balance of agricultural products exported.
An important form of agriculture, ranching (Ingold) [and by inference, farming] restricts both access to the products and to producing resources. Harvesting of products is no longer limited to predation [or gathering], but now involves a money market economy which distributes the products outside the immediate society. The system also concentrates the wealth of the participants with its fairly rigid structure. Technological innovations (Kalstad) such as fencing and motorized equipment, coupled with a movement toward a money-based economy and away from subsistence style pastoralism, have pushed reindeer keeping as well as their keepers into the new dimension of ranching or agriculturalism.
The early nomadic people who were found in Sápmi at the end of the thirteenth century (Niemi, 1997 62-65) encountered a trickle of incoming populations from the South. These settlers brought with them entirely different views on the proper use of resources available within the territory. The most profound effect on Sámi culture centered on the land use value system of the new population--that of private property vs. common usage of the land. Additional pressures were brought to bear on the Sámi including taxation, overrunning of traditional homelands by farmers and other entrepreneurs, and the destruction of traditional belief systems. During this period, the Norwegian king asserted his exclusive right to tax the Sámi within his territory, while the Catholic church established a mission that was juxta pagones or near the pagans.
The hunter/gatherer lifestyle was the most prominent form of Sámi culture when contacts with the outside world were reported about two thousand years ago (class lecture 2001). The impact remained limited until the Middle Ages when Russian farmers began settling Sápmi in earnest by 1556. By 1595 the political entities of Denmark-Norway, Sweden-Finland, and Russia had carved up overlapping “spheres of interest” in Sápmi. The three powers settled on boundaries for the lower territories, but left the Northern boundary along the “keel” mountain range to be defined in 1751. These political machinations mainly resulted in the Sámi becoming subject to multiple, sometimes contradictory governing bodies.
Sámi response to the incursions from the South (Weinstock 2001) included a variety of lifestyle changes. The Sámi increasingly abandoned the hunter/gatherer traditions. Some fled the central regions for the northwestern coastline where there had already been a Sámi presence, albeit a limited one. These Sámi newcomers to the coast mostly abandoned hunting, and took up grain farming and fishing. Others intermarried into the immigrant populations from the south and took up farming in the central regions. Some were pressed into servitude in various cash based enterprises instituted by the newcomers. Many of the remainder took up pastoralism in order to preserve viable numbers of reindeer on an increasingly fragmented grazing range.
The new pastoralism taken up by the Sámi still largely, according to Ingold (1980), resembled the traditional hunting management in key areas. While the term domestication might be applied in some ways to the new system, it’s scope is limited. Many of the animals have been marginally tamed, and have learned to seek protection from the herder in the face of predation or other stress. Each herder maintains economic control over a defined and identifiable group of animals. The herdsman marks each of his animals with systematized cutting away of parts of the ears. The herdsman’s offspring use variants of their ancestor’s marks to establish recognition patterns among herdsman groups. These managed herds are judiciously guided away from farmlands in order to avoid conflicts with the agriculturalists.
In contrast to both the hunter/gatherer system and the agricultural system, the limited domestication of the reindeer by pastoralists implies other facts not in evidence. Selective breeding is a huge component of true domestication, says Ingold (1980), with the expected outcome of eventual speciation of the animals. In the case of the reindeer, this is simply not possible. The main factors in limiting true domestication are the realities that these herds are held in their historic ranges concurrently with wild stocks. No mechanism could eliminate interbreeding with the wild population for good or ill. They are adapted to live in a self-limiting climate. Other domesticated species that might supplant the reindeer as commercial livestock are generally selected against by the harsh climate in many of the areas inhabited by the reindeer. According to several general information web sites, reindeer are specifically adapted to the lower availability of food during the winter. They lower their metabolism in response lower volume of food eaten. This adaptation is not duplicated by other domestic livestock. Add to this the social component: while one herder might cull inferior animals from the breeding pool, this act places no incumbency on his neighbors to follow suit. Until all the herds are completely segregated and confined, selective breeding and true domestication of the reindeer will not be a factor.
Aside from maintaining reindeer for the necessities of life, ownership of livestock conveys wealth to the participants. Redistribution of wealth among pastoralists remains more accessible than among agriculturalists. Wealth among pastoralists is attached directly to the animals. One owner whose herd increases beyond his capacity to manage alone might hire another pastoralist to assist with the labor. Reindeer remain the medium of exchange, whereby the employee might eventually be paid in livestock. The pastoralist’s herd still commingles with that of the assistant on commonly held grazing land.
Conversely, an agriculturalist is engaged in a cash economy. He has more options for paying employees than tradition would dictate. While he might pay in kind with livestock, the land required to sustain the stock is not transferred alongside, nor is it necessarily available by other routes. Also, agriculture is not limited to livestock raising.
The keeping of stock other than reindeer (Stoor) in spite of the difficulties of doing so, had already begun in Sápmi by the eighteenth century, with many Forest Sámi acquiring cows and goats earlier than Mountain Sámi. These settled Sámi had already established homes on historic campsites near productive fishing lakes and hunting grounds. Goats were a natural supplement to reindeer herds because they produced milk in the fall after reindeer had gone dry for the year. Successive reindeer disasters forced every family to seek alternate income resources to supplement their reindeer and goat herds. Cows were frequently the next step in the transformation of the Sámi from nomad to settler. The appeal of cattle over reindeer stemmed from the much reduced mobility of the species, its wider range of suitable forage, and its dual purpose of both meat and milk compared to the mostly meat products obtained from reindeer. Milk, milk products, goat meat, veal, and hides were the main products of the new livestock resource.
The switch (Stoor) from herding reindeer to herding goats and cows was, however, not without its own price, and the Sámi responded in a predictable fashion. When conditions of herd health and suitable grazing for reindeer deteriorated, the Sámi acquired more cows and goats, reducing numbers of reindeer in direct proportion. However, when conditions improved in favor of reindeer, the reverse was true: they reduced or eliminated their cow and goat herds. The labor-intensive practices for maintenance of the non-native livestock took a heavy toll on their owners.
That toll for the Sámi (Stoor) arose in part from their status as newcomers to the industry. Earlier settlers had already staked out the prime food sources. The Sámi were relegated to using marginal food sources, having to supplement with the bulkier birch twigs, and having to transport these staples over long distances. As the men frequently continued to follow the reindeer, the heavy labor of providing for the cattle and goats fell to the women and their able-bodied children.
On the other hand, nominal cultivation (Stoor) by the Sámi of plants and certainly the harvesting of hay and fodder grew out of the increasingly common practice of keeping cattle and goats. Cows and goats need shelter and feed throughout the severe Northern winters. The dung of densely housed animals needs to be collected regularly and disposed of. The ancillary practice of spreading dung on nearby fields resulted in lush grass which could then be grazed in summer or harvested and stored for the following winter.
The need for reliable sources (Stoor) for wintertime feed for livestock threw the Forest Sámi into direct conflict with the settled farmers on several levels. Where originally the disharmony had been between ethnic groups, those concerns melted away into problems of opposing economic systems. Disruptions by fire or clearing in the forest could destroy reindeer winter grazing resources. The free roaming reindeer could trample and destroy the farmers’ stacked hay. Then, as reindeer herdsmen switched to keeping cattle, grass itself became the issue. The most productive meadow lands had already been claimed by the established settlers. The newcomers were forced to access marginal feed sources made more productive either by clearing forests or by draining wetlands. In addition, the time and energy required to transport the livestock feed further taxed the resources of the newly settled Sámi as stock farmers. Some stockmen supplemented hay crops with birch twigs cut for fodder. When fed, the leaves from the birch twigs were steeped in hot water and sprinkled with flour.
Not always confrontational, agriculturalism among the Sámi helped at times to preserve the Sámi position within their homeland (Niemi 1997 67-70). One early segment of the agricultural Sámi population resulted from a collaboration with the Kvens in the fjord regions inland from the Northern Norway coastal area. The area had previously been settled by Sámi engaged in both fishing and reindeer husbandry. Depletion of the fisheries resulting from over harvesting, and poor markets for the catch prompted the Norwegian government to welcome the Finnish Kvens into the area. In the view of the government, the more dense the population of productive citizens, the stronger their case for sovereignty over the territory.
Prior to the Kven incursion (Niemi), the Sámi of these fjord regions had accessed diverse resources including intensive husbandry and seasonal migration. While the influx of Kvens did lead to periodic conflicts, they did intermarry with the local Sámi on Sámi terms. They often adopted the Sámi culture and language. In many areas, this integration assured the continuance of traditional Sámi rights. Signs of the intermingling, though, are evident in the continued use of Kven family names and building styles. The Kven expertise with certain farming practices led to welcome innovations to farming practices within Sápmi.
In addition to a successful melding of the fjord region Sámi with the incoming population of agricultural Nordic, or Kven, peoples (Niemi), the later political influence of the Napoleonic Wars softened the government view of the indigenous peoples with terms like “the first nation” and “the oldest people of the nation.” Also, these Sámi occupied a niche for which there was little competition--mountainous reindeer pastures. They excelled in riding out periods of economic depression with their adaptive balance between market and subsistence lifestyles. Lastly, it was easier for the government to maintain control of potentially disputed territories by fostering inclusionary relationships with the Sámi rather than by alienating them.
In opposition to some Sámi’s acquiescence to the shift to agriculture and other means of livelihood, and a perceived shift away from traditional values, some Sámi have sought a return to reindeer herding as a rekindling of tradition and culture (Sletto 1994). Finnmark has become the repository of the bulk of the return to the reindeer culture. Sámi employment in the reindeer industry in this area has risen by 80% between 1950 and the late 1980’s, for a change from 1,200 to a high of 2,163. Paralleling the increase in herder numbers, the reindeer population grew more than four-fold. While this shift has heralded a new spirit of pride and freedom among the Sámi, the cost in terms of resources has been tangible.
A major cost (Sletto) to the modern Sámi of returning to herding in such numbers is the serious overgrazing of fragile winter grazing areas. The social ramifications among the Sámi themselves is another issue arising from what the non-herding majority consider is the unbalanced attention given from all sides to the herders. The cost increases of herding that fuel volume growth, commercialism and environmental degradation have driven a wedge between the nomadic Sámi and those with more stationary lifestyles. They view as lopsided the fact that 40% of Norway’s land mass is required to produce 1.2% of the country’s meat while only 10% of the Sámi population in all of Norway are involved in the industry. Many outsiders and some few herders view the nomadic lifestyle as the only true traditional culture of the people. Perhaps an outgrowth of this biased view from the political powers is that the herders enjoy a direct relationship with the Norwegian government through the Reindriftsavtalen agency. Meanwhile, farming and fishing communities of Sámi must deal with agencies and under agreements that might not be sympathetic to their particular needs.
Modern management practices by pastoralists have been influenced by modern technological advances (Kalstad). The use of snowmobiles, motorcycles, and fences has led to a more market intensive economy among reindeer herders. This trend mirrors other industrializing trends in the far North. The compound effects of economic change has led to family cultural changes as well. Families of pastoralists are now frequently concentrated in stable communities. The children attend schools within their communities. Pastoralists who leave the industry often seek to remain in the community into which their families have already integrated. The families visit seasonal camps only during times of intense activities such as harvesting and earmarking. They arrive in the camps by car. They seldom participate actively in driving the herd from place to place. The families do, however, continue to deal with hides and antlers of slaughtered animals. These items have become useful fodder for the tourist trade and important sources for income.
One price of the increased involvement with herding within a modern setting (Palm) is that the Sámi pastoralists face a host of challenges never imagined by their hunter/ gatherer ancestors: cities, major highways, and farms. These modern impediments to reindeer migration have sprung up out of a patchwork of settlement by mostly non-Sámi immigrants as well as some Sámi who have adopted non migratory lifestyles. The pastoralists now routinely use snowmobiles or even helicopters to gather and move their stock. They must often either cross major highways, or drive them along roads and bridges. Calving grounds have traditionally been on islands near the coast that were beyond the reach of predators. The Sámi now routinely use large landing craft to transport their animals between the mainland and the calving grounds. Fences must often be set up daily along the route in order to contain the herd. Within the confines of these fences, no adequate forage exists for the number of animals in transit, thus creating a need for supplemental feeding of hay.
Co-ordination of all the efforts (Palm) geared toward moving a modern migratory herd requires critical timing and a specialized labor force. Helicopters and landing craft must be arranged in advance, and the herd must be moved into place in a timely fashion. Layover sites must be planned in advance in order for the fences to be set up. The setting up of these fences is time and labor intensive, and must be repeated every day. Adequate provisions of feed by the truckload every day must be procured along the migration route. The herders must be supremely adept at cueing in on the animals in order to prevent stampedes in the face of road traffic or other unforeseen occurrences along the route. All it takes is one car horn blast at a critical time to send the herd into the forest. May the spirits help the herder who is forced to regather his herd from the thick and darkening woods after such a stampede.
Another cost of traditional herding (Forrest 1997) is the continued government involvement in the Sámi way of life which began with the first territorial organization of Fennoscandia or Sápmi. These governments viewed the Sámi as 1) nomadic and thus having no ownership of the land, 2) backwards, with reindeer herding as competition to modern agriculture, and 3) economically unviable, needing government protection. These views led to policies beginning in the 1970’s of paternalistic legislation geared toward bringing the reindeer industry into modern agricultural standards.
In addition to the internal cultural emphasis on the return (Sletto) to roots among the Sámi, the government took a hand in the process. In 1968 it took on the task of encouraging growth in the industry through its agency the Reindriftsavtalen. Government subsidies almost tripled from 14 million kroner to 38.2 million ($3.8-6 million) over a thirteen year period. During this period, however, economic pressures shifted the percent of government subsidies in the bottom line from 10% early on to a 40% share. As more Sámi succumbed to the lure of tradition combined with government subsidies, more animals were needed to sustain an income, and they drove the market price down in a steep spiral.
An unintended but very real result of government involvement in Sámi affairs is the catastrophic overgrazing (Sletto), in certain winter grazing areas. The Norwegian Department of Agriculture has concluded that 99% of one grazing district and 40% of another district are on the verge of desertification caused by overgrazing. These two areas comprise the bulk of the winter grazing land of most of Finnmark’s reindeer. According to statistics on the main settlement areas in Norway ie. Guovdageaidnu, Karasjohka, Deatnu, and Unjarga from the local Reindeer offices, the region was host in 1980 to 110,700 head. That number peaked in 1990 at 165,200, and then slid back to 139,004 head in 1994.
The long term effects of this overstocking (Sletto) will be felt for some time to come as the lichen on which the animals graze in winter may take twenty years or more to rebound. In his report, Erling Moxnes, the Foundation for Research in Economics and Business Administration’s senior research economist in Bergen, Norway stated that lichen grows very slowly, but that the reindeer industry treats it as if it were a fastgrowing grass. “Every year,” he continued, “the reindeer eat it shorter and shorter, until, in the end, it’s gone.”
Finally, the technological shift within the herding industry by Sámi family units (Sletto) has tended to fracture the feeling of community that had traditionally fostered co-operation among the herding community. Many herders now move between two households, one on the coast, perhaps, and one on the wintering grounds. Meanwhile families are largely removed from the day-to-day activities of herding (Kalstad). The children are losing much of the knowledge fostered by daily contact with the herds as they experienced in the past. Can they truly hope to continue their own cultural traditions?
In an effort to continue their close traditional connection with the natural world, the Sámi are looking to other avenues of making a livelihood within the agricultural sphere. Online sources still attribute about 7 to 8% of the total Sámi population as being directly involved in agriculture of some sort. This number from the indigenous population compares favorably with 5% of the total general population (www.gastrolab . . . ) that was reported for Finland for 1998. Many Sámi in Norway (Britannica.com) still pursue livelihoods as coastal fishermen, while some of those in other areas have devoted their quest for a livelihood to farming, forestry, and freshwater fishing. One might expect similar distribution patterns in other areas of Sápmi beyond the reaches of the Norwegian borders. While it is difficult to assign exact numbers to Sámi involved in each area of pursuit, It will be useful to look at the main disciplines of agriculture as they are practiced today in order to gain a sense of what the Sámi might be doing.
A sampling of the agricultural disciplines of Finland, for instance, reveals through statistics (www.gastrolab . . . ) that the foci on agriculture are both within and outside of the purview of traditional Sámi endeavors, and originate from the 8% of the country that is arable, as well as from the adjoining sea. These include the traditional resource, fish, amounting to 150 million kilograms of ocean captured species. There are also 1.2 million cattle, 1.4 million pigs, and note that grains, sugar beets, and potatoes are the chief crops. From the forest covering 65% covering its land mass, Finland's chief industries produce paper, furniture and other wood products. In response to a growing worldwide demand for organic foods (www.organic . . . ), Finland now boasts 147,423 hectares in cultivation on organic farms. Denmark and Sweden support comparable areas devoted to organic farming. 10% of the lands within Sámi territory in Finland (http://virtual.finland.) are in private hands. On these lands the Sámi practice forestry, fishing and agriculture.
Throughout the recorded history of the region, fishing has been consistently one of the most important industries for the Sámi. This industry historically encompasses both freshwater and saltwater harvests. For the purposes of this paper, however, only the saltwater fishery will be examined.
Traditional fishing (Joshi) is subject to the vagaries of nature as much as it is to external factors such as dwindling fish stocks, international disputes or quotas. The world’s demands for fish may likely outstrip the natural capacity to meet the demand very soon. On the other hand, fish farming may make it possible to even out the boom and bust cycles by creating systematized production at controlled but continuous levels. Norway has been involved for decades in aquaculture, and advances in the techniques have made a tremendous impact on the nation’s economy. Equipment utilized within the industry was not only developed and manufactured in Norway, but it provides a resource for the technology for many other burgeoning fish farming countries. The industry has increased its output within the last decade to the point that it accounts for one third of the nation’s production in terms of value. Projected output for the future is for a steady increase. Trout and salmon represent the most subjects for farming at this point. By 1997, an estimated 3,441 sites were involved in trout and salmon farming. Other species that are currently farmed on a smaller scale include catfish, halibut, mussels, oysters, scallops, turbot and wolf-fish. These species may well enjoy increased attention in the future.
Industry analysts (Joshi) point to the value of aquaculture as a viable source of jobs along Norway’s Jagged coastline. At present, 10,000 jobs along the coastline are attributed directly to aquaculture. Research and development of the science of fish farming has opened up a venue for scientists and universities both now and into the future. The government views the industry as a stabilizing influence on the entire population as it provides employment outside of the cities and helps to maintain a better distribution of people throughout the nation.
Government regulations (Joshi) require any firm that aspires to obtain a license to farm to show various layers of agencies, from the community government upward, they will be able to protect the environment both on land and in the water. Further, they must not impact traditional fishing grounds, nor cause pollution, nor allow fish diseases to spread, nor conflict with other industries. Only after these conditions are met, will a license be granted.
The glowing picture painted by both the aquaculture industry and some segments of the government may have detractors (Vatonema) within the local communities. Lyubov Vatonema of the Kola Sámi along the Ponoi River claimed in his article that an American company named G. Loomis rented the river in 1992. In the two years following the rental agreement, the company reputedly never met with the locals, cut off the local’s access to the river, disbanded two fishing associations, burned down a fishing camp used for tourists, cut fishing nets, gutted the infrastructure of the community and generally intimidated the local population from which quarter might come any objection to the company’s policies.
In addition to displacement of the local populace by the aquaculture industry, environmental concerns have surfaced concerning Norwegian corporations operating abroad. Scenes, a Scottish environmental publication, reported that EWOS, a multinational Norwegian aquaculture concern operating in Scotland, is the highest source of phosphorus and the second highest source of nitrogen in the waters along the coastline of Norway. The affected area runs from the Swedish border to the southern part of Norway. As a result, the waters are now designated as eutrophic [excessively productive]. Among other issues concerning aquaculture is the depletion of wild stocks of other species in order to feed the captive and predatory salmon. There is also the huge potential for disease and parasite problems among such tightly confined fish.
Concurrent to the growth of the fish farming industry and a source of relief to environmentalists is a study of the Sámi people as a resource in balancing the pull of industrial fish farming and the needs of the fish populations. The study is known as The Norwegian MAB Research Programme: Sustainable Management of Common Property Bio Resources (1992-98)(MAB). The study is being conducted by UNESCO and looks at Man and the Biosphere, or MAB. The program focused on the management of
“common property bio resources through knowledge on the interaction between
nature and man, consumptive and non consumptive use of natural resources, formal
and informal management regimes (including their legitimacy and control
mechanisms), political instruments of regional and industrial character and their
effects on resources and society. The programme is multidisciplinary involving social
and natural sciences as well as law.” (MAB)
The Norwegian Ministry of Environment funded the study which covers:
* Indigenous rights to both pastoral and marine resources;
* Small scale/traditional versus large scale/modern capital intensive harvesting;
* Preservation of sami/coastal [sic.] culture vs. economic rationalization;
* Levels of management: state vs. local communities. (MAB)
The study (MAB), among other things, looked at the Sámi dependence on marine resources and how they are impacted by fisheries regulations. It also noted the recent discoveries by scientists of local fish stocks and the impact of that discovery on the issue of resource rights and the political agenda. More importantly, the study identified the depleted conditions of the marine fisheries and the failure of existing systems to protect the resource. The Sámi Parliament has introduced into discussion a coastal Sámi fishing zone. There already exist in Norway fisheries advisory boards at the county level which have been included in the MAB study.
The fisheries, (MAB) the coastal communities, and the culture are all in jeopardy, and have been the subject and the cause of disputes in all areas of the society. The MAB is concentrating on how to strengthen both sustainable small scale communities and coastal fisheries, such as those of the Sámi, in the face of long standing conflict. In furtherance of the cause, scientists have begun to rely on the observation powers of the local Sámi fisher folk. The locals in particular have access to information about fish in estuaries and fjords which has been previously unavailable to biologists. The huge variations in both environmental and biological aspects of the individual coastal regions makes scientific study nearly impossible without the specialized knowledge of the Sámi.
The broader knowledge base of the indigenous Sámi will help scientists to map dispersal of fish, breeding and spawning areas, as well as harvest sites. Their involvement in collecting data will help them to build a stronger argument in favor of the Sámi Parliament’s request for a coastal Sámi fishing zone. The government has already expressed an interest in co-management of the fishing resource.
In addition to utilizing the knowledge base of the Sámi (MAB), there are other reasons to consider a change in management practices. In Northern Norway, as in many other areas, there is a growing belief among the populace that the centralized government is neither legitimate nor effective. The co-management method of dealing with these issues is gaining worldwide attention.
In addition to concerns by the Sámi about the historic fisheries, forests have become a concern for the indigenous peoples of the far North. As stated before, Finland's chief industries produce paper, furniture and other wood products. Forestry products (Sweden) account for the lion’s share of the exports of Sweden with a 13.4% share of the market. Norway also lists pulp and paper as major industrial exports. With this in mind, this paper will examine the relationship between the forestry industry, government agencies and the Sámi people.
Forestry legislation (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) in Finland has gone through a transformation during the 1990’s with an eye to sustainability. The new legislation aims to integrate the needs of forestry on the basis of economics, the environment and the cultural and social consequences. In furtherance of this goal Forestry Centres have been set up in each region to identify the issues and administer solutions. In addition, the Forest Management Association Act of 1998 established a channel of communication between landowners and the educational arm of the forestry oversight community to ensure a viable flow of information into the future. The goal of the National Forest Program (NFP) is to increase the industry’s use of forest products by 5-10 cubic meters by 2010. In addition to overseeing the boreal resources within its own borders, Finland has been involved in numerous conferences on sustainable use forestry on a global basis.
Furthermore, the NFP recognizes and promotes in conjunction with
forests utilization and protection the multiple-use of aspect, including hunting, reindeer husbandry, wild mushroom and berry picking, scenic and cultural values, recreation and tourism. Forest related know-how and innovations are advanced by intensifying research, the implementation of results, and training. (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry)
Rather than sit idly by while the government plans for use of the forests, the Sámi have become involved in establishing guidelines for forest management (Indigenous Peoples and Forest Management in Fennoscandia and Canada.) They will do this at an upcoming conference as the Sámi Council along with the Grand Council of Crees and with other concerned Indigenous Peoples. The council will meet October 10-12, 2001 in Jokkmokk, Sweden.
The purpose of the conference (Indigenous Peoples and Forest Management in Fennoscandia and Canada) is to establish the importance of the boreal forest to the indigenous lifestyle and its impact on the cultural survival of the peoples involved. The conference participants have recognized the threats created by modern forestry, but seek to identify methods of sustainable management, among them certification schemes, resource rights, and ecologically sound practices that promote the economic development of indigenous populations. Attention will be given to the Northern Dimension policies of the European Union. Included in the panel will be forestry experts, representatives of environmental associations, and members of various groups of indigenous peoples. The conference will allow for generous dialogue among all the participants. In order to accommodate the indigenous peoples for direct input opportunities, pre and post conference meetings will be held outside the regular meeting areas. The Sámi Council can be reached at: http://www.samicouncil.org. The Grand Council of the Crees can be reached at http://www.gcc.ca Further information and updates on the conference are available online from the conference website: http://www.sapmi.se/forest conference/
Sámi Council supported forest certification, according to Taiga Rescue Organization, will assist consumers in promoting and accessing products from well managed forests based on ethical and environmental ideals. Conscientious consumers concerned about forest degradation and deforestation, will have the option to buy timber products from well managed forests. Labeling of products at the point of purchase will inform the purchaser of authenticity of the standards met in the process of harvesting the timber according to established norms to protect the environment of the resource and its allied societies. Three key elements of a certification model should include: the establishment of standards, certification against that set of standards, and a method of accrediting of certifiers.
In the process of fighting for the continued viability of the Northern environment, the Sámi have brought their historic values and knowledge into the modern world. Already established is the importance of the boreal forest to the indigenous lifestyle and its impact on the cultural survival of the Sámi people as well as of other peoples of similar cultural backgrounds. In turn, the specialized knowledge of the modern Sámi is helping to solve the problems of both the forestry industry and the fishing industry. The mere presence of these people in sensitive ecological niches, on an ongoing basis, and with knowledge accumulated over millennia has offered a resource to scientists that could never be duplicated by those not having the background.
Although the influx of outsiders has spatially separated the Sámi people from one another over the centuries, it is that very physical separation that has fostered the cultural re-integration of these former nomads. Their deep and abiding connection to the natural world has forced the Sámi to come back together through organizations like the Sámi Council in order to preserve their natural world. In addition to their successes in preserving the forests and the fisheries, they have held on to the more internationally visible pastoralism of their ancestors. While the face of reindeer herding has changed over the centuries, it continues to be an integral part of the Sámi personae. Herds of reindeer and their guardians now confront cars where once there were only wolves and bears. They must cross highways and train tracks, where once there were only rivers with ice bridges of uncertain strength. The fisher Sámi now encounter mechanized trawlers where once there were only whales. The forest Sámi encounter bulldozers where once there was only the sound of the wind through the trees. Still and all, they remain the Sámi, and they still encounter others of their own kind with enough regularity to fortify themselves and sustain the effort to remain forever Sámi.
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