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Sami: Norway: Kautokeino

Reindeer in Kautokeino, Norway.
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Jokkmokk in Sweden and Kautokeino in Norway are the stronghold of Sami reindeer pastoralism. Both communities speak the North Sami dialect and practice reindeer husbandry. At the same time those communities are firmly anchored into modernity and host important sami cultural institutions such as museums in Jokkmokk and Kautokeino, a Sami university college and international Sami film and theatre centers in Kautokeino.

Sami Observatory in Kautokeino (Norway)

Kautokeino is one of the main winter villages in the west of Finnmark, with 2000 inhabitants living in the village itself and 2923 in the whole commune, mainly reindeer herders. It is also one of the six regional Sami reindeer areas of Finnmark (called West-Finnmark by the reindeer administration), including 25 so-called districts with 210 reindeer units for less than 100.000 reindeer.
The Sami reindeer herders of Kautokeino are leading their herds throughout a hilly continental plateau of medium height (300 to 500 m). This tundra ecosystem includes birch woodlands (Betula pubescens) and treeless heath characterized mainly by shrubs, dwarf shrubs and lichens (among others Empetrum hermaphroditum, Betula nana, Salix herbacea, Cladonia rangiferina) (Oksanen & Virtanen, 1995). During 8 months of the year the soil is covered by snow, with a temperature average of -15°in winter and +12,5°C in summer) (Meteorologisk Instittut, 2013). That is why the traditional knowledge of the herders, especially in winter, takes into consideration changing weather circumstances, including a great number of variables as wind, snow and ice, freeze-thaw cycles, in relationship with climate change.

In addition to the threat posed by extreme weather events for the reindeer herders, pressure on the environment through human activities is increasing. Rich in fossil and renewable resources, northern Norway is at the heart of the development processes of extractive industries. This phenomenon is particularly strong on the coast of Finnmark, between Tromso and Hammerfest, where the Kautokeino Sami migrate with their reindeer in summer. In addition to mining projects ( Nussir for copper in Kvalsund) gas and oil are exploited intensively (Barents Sea). Summer tourist residences for Norwegian people are also increasing in numbers. There is a real push towards Arctic resources that threatens traditional economies.

Our observatory will take into account global change, including changes in governance which have an impact on reindeer herding, to try and understand them through traditional sami knowledge and science. We will take into consideration the resilience of sami social organization, as the siida and the family, where women still play an important role in reindeer herding economy. Women knowledge and capacity of adaptation is crucial in a changing world where reindeer herding activities are completed by wage labor.

By Marie Roue