Episode 3

The Sami Reindeer Herder

Episode Producers

Tor L. Tourda & Rickard Länta

Reindeer herder Rickard Länta, from Jåhkågasska, Jokkmokk, talks about how deforestation in Brazil is called devastation, while a similar action in Sweden is called forestry.

Is it really that people are the only thing allowed to be here? The expansion of the forest industry increases constantly, the age of the forest only decreases, and the pace of harvesting quickens all the time; the forest and lichen can never return. Even the moose are a threat to the industry as they eat the new sown pine trees. The forest industry begins by chopping down the forest where they live and feed, and then the industry plants new pine trees. Then, it complains that the moose are a threat to the forestry industry; the industry claims that the moose are vermin that need to be killed in increasing numbers.

Well, to me, that just does not make sense. Reindeer husbandry is a meat-producing profession but also a way of life. As a meat producer, I want to create climate-smart food, but it just gets harder and harder for me each day and each year with the current forestry policy. If the decision makers of the forest companies would look for a moment at how the animals live. For example, the hare, which lives for the day and doesn’t think about the future, is the same as forestry companies: they live for the day.  Do the private owners of forests really want a clear cut and juvenile forest? Do they not want to hunt moose or grouse?

The grouse, for example, needs a mature forest. And the forestry companies think of course that they communicate and work in agreement with us; but I feel that they have always ignored us. At least they beep their horns so we can jump clear before they crash into us. That is how their so-called “communication” functions. I am absolutely convinced that every single human being would have done the same as I have. When you are bitten for a long time, sooner or later you start to bite back. I speak for my family and myself. I want my children, my grandchildren and others to have the possibility to choose if they want to live the life that our ancestors and I have lived and to continue our heritage. I know that there are those who think that I am foolish, difficult and other things but come and live our life for a while before you judge. I bow to nobody and nothing, not forestry companies, mining corporations, waterpower, wind power, predators and infrastructure. I bow to none. The reindeer and the moose have always been here but now, oddly, there is no place for them anymore. Because everything else comes before them and their land is disappearing.

“Swedish clear-cutting involving clear-cutting and land preparation is deforestation. Especially in forests that are vital to the Sami villages’ reindeer pastures. All remaining hanging lichen forests must be left in peace immediately. Therefore, say no to the forest companies’ plans to cut down the forests. Without forest grazing for the reindeers in the winter, it is not possible to conduct reindeer husbandry. A “yes” to the forest companies’ plans means that the forest will certainly be destroyed.

“Therefore, you have everything to gain by saying no to harvesting and instead demanding that the forests remain untouched. The more villages that merge, the more forests that will remain.”

Björn Mildh

It’s strange, in these climate-conscious times, how, as the pine forests are cut from our land here, we must move to the coast. It is both economically and ecologically very bad. It is a 400-km trip each way with a car and a semi-trailer truck, we question if this  is really the way it is supposed to be? A calf wants to grow up, it wants to become an adult.  “Sarv”, the Sami word for a male reindeer, has been rutting all autumn, and it has burnt a lot of fat stores. The reindeers are emaciated and tired. They need to recover. A female reindeer, or a “vaja”, that carries a calf must have peace and calm to graze and to give birth to a healthy calf. But if there is no land to graze on, and no food, then the reindeer wander around and around seeking food. Eventually, they will become exhausted, and the calf will not live a year.  The male reindeer cannot recover before the next rutting season and the females will have no calves.

As a reindeer herder, I love the reindeer, and you do everything for those that you love, don’t you?

Rickard Länta

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