Reindeer herders


There is a folk living in the northest parts of the Scandinavian Peninsula, that appreciates the laws of nature more than the laws of the three countries. Though over the time a part of their nation gave up their ancient life style and language, they managed to keep their independence. Among the people living there, only the Samis breed reindeers, which is their inherent right, and they shepherd their animals from pasture to pasture, forest to forest without taking the country borders into consideration. In addition, they can pursue the traditional art of fishing and hunting free, without the necessity of permissions, which is the living for many Sami families.

For a better knowledge of this folk, that has the same roots with our nation, Attila Lóránt visited Lapland and its people several times between 2007 and 2008. First the Samis - who do not like the title Lappish - were very cautious with him, but after having gained their trust he got insights into the ancient methods of shepherding, marking, slaughter and preparation of the deers.

On their snowmobile they followed the horde, whose location they could determine with the help of satellite signal transmitters and neighbouring farmers. The animals have difficulties at finding food underneath the frozen snow, so Attila and his host broke the snow before the herd with the snowmobile. Next time he visited the land was summer, when the Samis were in the midst of huge work. Throughout the year the reindeers graze mixed in common herds, separation is held only two times a year, when all the Samis from the region gather together in the village built for this occassion and fold the reindeers into the pen together. First, in the end of summer, everybody finds their newborn calves, and based on the identification of the mother they cut a family mark in the ear of the calves. The children participate in this work too, they keep their firstcut piece of skin for their whole lives. The second time the Samis gather and work together is in autumn, when the families slaughter and prepare the deers for the winter. In the near of Kiruna, 150 kms above the Arctic Circle Attila also took part in this work and helped the local men in skinning.


During the conversations with locals it turned out that the Samis, who now have own parliament, flag and anthem, do not desire to establish an autonomous state. As they say, governments come and go, but winter comes every year, the reindeers lamb every year, so their duties are out in the snowy forests and meadows. However peaceful these people are, their life is affected by the world outside: the radioactive contamination caused by the Chernobyl disaster destroyed many Sami families' businesses, as they had to kill their contaminated deers. Still, 20 years later farmers have to measure the levels of cesium in the animals' flesh.

- Sara Nordangard and Attila Lóránt worked on this project. You can read more details and see photos of the expedition in National Geographic Hungary ( n. December 2011) -