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Sami: Sweden: Jokkmokk (2)

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Sami reindeer herders express major concerns about changing weather conditions especially during wintertime because layers of ice or deep snow can hinder reindeer accessing the lichen to survive. Winters with perfect grazing conditions are rare, and there are generally frequent changes in the weather during winter, such as episodes of thawing and re-freezing, or more rare (but more dramatically) rain may fall on snow. Consequently, reindeer herders are always dependent on identifying places where “there is guohtun”, i.e. places where it is possible for reindeer to access forage. By contrast to Western science, in indigenous knowledge exceptional events are not considered as aberrant observations, but as experiences that contribute to the corpus of knowledge in a similar fashion to systematic experiments. Therefore, in such empirical knowledge systems, the longer one lives, the more skilled one becomes through repeated experience of “exceptional” climatic events and consequent changes in grazing conditions in different forest types. In this respect Sami reindeer herders’ knowledge is thoroughly developed whereas academic literature has so far overlooked this aspect. One of the most dramatic predicted effects of global climate change in the region is an increase in frequency of such “extraordinary” phenomena, hence understanding their consequences for reindeer herding may become increasingly important.

To cope with this climate uncertainty in the short- and long-term reindeer husbandry needs vast territories. In the context of climate change the available pastureland and their diversity are major components of reindeer husbandry’s adaptive capacity. For that reason the development of other land uses such as forestry and mining represents a threat for reindeer husbandry by reducing reindeer grazing areas or altering them. The Jokkmokk municipality is no exception in this respect. Forestry is an important land user in the area, which reindeer herders have to deal with. Jokkmokk is particularly known as a pioneering area with respect to instigating dialogue between reindeer herders and forestry. At the beginning of the 1980s, the ‘Jokkmokk’s model’ was known as the first consultation framework, between Sami herders and forest managers, to address the conflict between reindeer herding and forestry. Today there is a need for developing the co-management of forests where both forestry activities and reindeer husbandry are present on the basis of forest ecology and Sami indigenous ecological knowledge.

Until recently mining was not a major concern for reindeer husbandry in Jokkmokk, in contrast to the adjacent municipality of Gällivare. In 2012 an important mining project has been initiated on the territory of Jåhkågasska herding community. This project is meeting important resistance in Sami herding communities of Jokkmokk, while not being taken into account so far. In this local context there is also a need for acknowledging Sami traditional knowledge on their activity and its fate if it has to deal with a mine.

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Responsible researchers in France

Marie Roué

Samuel Roturier

Co-researchers

Sirges Reindeer Herding Community:
Mats-Peter Åstot
Nils Åstot
Lars-Evert Nutti
Ole Magnus Utsi
Olof Thomas Utsi

Partners

Jåhkågasska Sameby, contact person: Leif Länta
Sirges Sameby, contact person: Mats-Peter Åstot
Turpon Sameby
Udtja Sameby
Unna Tjerusj Sameby
Jon Moen, University of Umeå
Hans Winsa, Sveaskog Förvaltings AB (Swedish Forest Company)

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