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RIEVDAN – Knowledge: the Heart of Herding

Work Package 1

Work package 1 (WP1): Basic understanding of what sustainable Sámi reindeer husbandry and herding involves and the additional effect on adapting capacity to change. (WP leader: Dr. Inger Marie Eira, participants: PhD cand. Mikkel Nils Sara Sámi University of Applied Sciences), Dr. Robert W. Corell (Global Environment Technology Foundation) and Dr. Nancy Maynard (University of Miami). PhD Student: Helena Omma, Sámi University of Applied Sciences.

The objectives of this working package is partly to document traditional reindeer herders’ knowledge and provide an insight into basic understanding of Sámi reindeer husbandry and herding as livelihood and way of life involving and structured by individual ownership of reindeer and the collective fields of family enterprise, herding unit and the internal management system of herding units. Focus will be on aspects of knowledge and practices dealing with the sustainability of nomadic husbandry and herding, i.e. issues like 1) herd management, 2) relationship to local landscape and natural environment, 3) adaptation to varying climatic conditions, and 4) processes of knowledge, ethical considerations and decision making. Furthermore, the project seeks to increase adapting capacity by combining different fields of knowledge. The history of Sámi Reindeer Husbandry in western Finnmark indicate that the years 1917/18, 1967/68 and 1996/97 are typical extreme weather events (goavvi years) with starvation, loss of reindeer and negative impacts on herders’ economy. (Eira, I., 2012) The aim is to test the hypothesis that extreme grazing conditions in winter coincides with strong negative North Atlantic oscillation (NAO) phase in late fall. Combining historical data about reindeer herding, oral stories from elder herders and meteorological data can provide new insights on how the reindeer herding communities coped with and adapted to extreme weather events (goavvi).

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