Every year the Paliskuntain yhdistys the governing body of the reindeer herding cooperatives in Finland hosts the poroparlamentti (Reindeer Parliament) in Rovaniemi. Today, the 67th Reindeer Parliament is now underway and continues tomorrow.
You watch the livestream (and archived streams) here, follow the event on Facebook here and follow the hashtag #poroparlamentti.
The Canadian Ambassador to Finland, Andrée N. Cooligan took the opportunity of a work trip to Hetta to hop over the border to visit the offices of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR). Her visit coincided with the visit to ICR of the Director General of The Department of Sami and Minority Affairs, Bjørn Olav Megard. This visit coincidentally followed Ambassador Cooligans’ visit to the University of Lapland where she met with the Rector, Mauri Ylä-Kotola, who is a new member of the ICR Board.
The Department of Sami and Minority Affairs has chief responsibility for formulating and coordinating the state’s policies towards the Sami population and the national minorities.
Canada is the outgoing chair of the Arctic Council and plans are afoot to present the final ICR/WRH EALLIN deliveries to the upcoming Arctic Council Ministerial in Iqaluit next month, the future EALLU project and ICR were able to inform the Ambassador about the work of ICR and the Association of World Reindeer Herders and discuss plans for the upcoming 80th anniversary of reindeer herding in Canada, in Inuvik.
Inger Anita Smuk (ICR Board Chair), Anders Oskal (ICR Director), Ambassador Cooligan, Bjørn Olav Megard (Dir Gen Dept Sami and Minority Affairs).
RT and Isvestia were reporting yesterday that the police authorities in the Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug were considering using reindeer for assisting them in their police work. Trying to keep a straight face here in the Reindeer Portal, we read,
The idea of purchasing livestock reindeer is currently being discussed within the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a potentially effective measure to curb the crime rate, a source told Izvestia newspaper.
“At the meetings it was noted that the criminals often hide in the tundra and other hard to reach places using reindeer sleds, where the police do not always have a chance to pursue them. The same problem arises with the delivery of the suspects to police stations,” the source told the publication.
Big news in the Sami region, especially in Finland, was the news that a young Sami herder from Enontekio has won the Finnish version of Big Brother. Big Brother, for those of you who are not aware is a globally syndicated franchise whereby a group of people, dubbed as “housemates”, live together in a large house. During their time in the house they are isolated from the outside world and are not commonly aware of outside events. Contestants are continuously monitored by in-house television cameras as well as personal audio microphones during their stay. Each series lasts for more than three months, with at least ten contestants entering the house. To win the final cash prize contestants either vote each other off the show, or are voted on by the viewing audience. In other words, it is not for the faint hearted, and it makes for hugely popular viewing.
This weekend, Andte Gaup-Juuso, A young Sami reindeer herder was the overwhelming winner of this years version of ‘BB’ in Finland. His plans were as follows – go home, start his snowmobile, go into the mountains and see his reindeer. He also said to the media that the 100,000 Euro(!) will also go into developing his herd.
The Guardian newspaper carried a lengthy article on the explosion of mining in northern Finland, Norway and Sweden. As anyone resident in the region knows, there is a huge minerals exploitation boom underway and many are surprised to learn that this part of the world has very favourable regulations regarding the claims process for mining. This boom is directly impacting on reindeer pasture loss. To give an idea of the scale of the boom, the article notes that,
So far in 2014, 349 applications for mining permits have been made, of which 243 have been for Finland. Over one-eighth of Finland, an area twice the size of Wales, has now been designated for mining and hundreds of applications for exploration licenses have been received by the government.
Currently in the Finnish media, attention is being paid to the massive open pit mine planned for the Sokli area,
Fertiliser company Yara International plans a massive 40-60 sq km open-cast phosphorus mine near Sokli in eastern Lapland between the Urho Kekkonen national park and the Värriö nature park. Billions of gallons of polluted waste water would have to be be drained, via pristine lakes and rivers, and millions of tonnes of waste would be created every year.
The Al Jazeera news network has released a fascinating 25 minute documentary by filmaker Glenn Ellis that looks specifically at the impacts of massive increase in mining activity in Sweden and Finland and includes segments from the ongoing controversial mining proposal by Beowulf on reindeer herding pastures in Sweden.
Europe’s far north is a place of spectacular beauty, of mountains and forests, lakes and rivers, illuminated in winter by the ethereal glow of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.
It is also home to an astonishing array of plants and animals which have survived largely thanks to the indigenous people of the area – the Sami.
To this day many Sami follow herds of free-roaming reindeer, maintaining a tradition that has helped preserve their ancient environment into the 21st century.
But in recent years a new species has arrived: the multinational mining company. Keen to exploit the region’s extraordinarily rich mineral deposits, the industry is being welcomed by Scandinavian governments who want to share in the bounty of jobs and income they promise to bring. But the Sami feel that their way of life and the remarkable natural world they inhabit are being put under threat. So they have been fighting back.
Read the full article on Al Jazeera here and you can watch the documentary below
Declining sales, losses to predators and growing production costs are making the business of raising reindeer increasingly unprofitable
In Finland, the production year for reindeer herders is calculated from June 1st. According to a forecast by MTT Agrifood Research Finland, final figures for reindeer husbandry for the current year will show average income in the sector slashed by more than half. The average income for a reindeer herding enterprise in the 2012 – 2013 production year is expected to be a mere 2,870 euros, down from the 6 500 euros seen in 2011 – 2012, which in turn had declined by 20% from the previous year. Calculations show that a family operating a reindeer production operation can expect to see an average hourly income of 4.30 euros for the some 1,300 hours of work invested in the business, and no more than a 1.5% return on an average capital investment of 59,000 euros. Reindeer husbandry is more profitable in the far north, in areas occupied by the indigenous Sami people.
Sami Ruismäki and his reindeer gave a sleigh ride to some children on the upper level of a parking garage in downtown Rovaniemi. The reindeer park will be open until Epiphany. Photo: TIMO LINDHOLM, Source Helsingin Sanomat
Tourism has brought reindeer to the centre of Rovaniemi. Behind the project are Rovaniemen Kehitys Oy, a company promoting tourism in Rovaniemi, and local entrepreneurs, according to a report in Helsingin sanomat.
The Sirmakko family has set up a reindeer park in downtown Rovaniemi, on the upper deck of the parking garage adjacent to the City Hotel. Cars have been removed to the floor below.
”The reindeer will be kept in the reindeer parking garage until Epiphany. Depending on the day, the number of reindeer on the adventure level will be around six”, says entrepreneur Taina Riskilä.
”Entrepreneurs and tourists alike have long wished to see reindeer in the centre of the city”, claims coordinator Risto Saukkoriipi from Rovaniemen Kehitys.
”Today’s tourism is so hectic that not all visitors have time to go to the nearest reindeer farm ten kilometres away from Rovaniemi. They are happy if they have a chance to see some reindeer for example after having been to a restaurant. Tourists’ life is evening-oriented”, Saukkoriipi argues.
According to Adjunct Professor Mauri Nieminen, who works as a senior researcher at the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, the reindeer park marks a new nadir in reindeer herding degradation.
”A parking garage full of petrol fumes is not a natural environment for reindeer but is bound to cause suffering to those animals”, Nieminen charges.
The Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute has launched a study to find out how the increased feeding on farms and the constant proximity of human beings affect the disposition of reindeer.
”Farm reindeer are more domesticated. We suspect that if they are released into the wild they could more easily be hit by a car or be caught by predators”, Nieminen explains.
In the previous winter season, a total of 152,000 out of Finland’s approximately 200,000 reindeer were fed on farms or in the forest if necessary.
This being the season – it is worth revisiting this story on the Reindeer Portal that unpicks the story of Santa Claus, reindeer, and the appropriation of the cultural elements of Sami reindeer husbandry to service the needs of the tourist industry, most especially in Rovaniemi, Finland. Read the story here.
Researchers at the Arctic Centre have been carrying out research on the Yamal Peninsula with Nenets reindeer herders for many years primarily under the theme of Global Change and Land use change. Videos and photos from this years field work on Yamal, led by Dr. Bruce Forbes can be see here.
Finland’s largest processor of reindeer meat, Lapin Liha, is to begin to import reindeer meat from the Yamal Peninsula.
This will signal the first time that Yamal reindeer meat is imported to a country that already has a domestic reindeer meat industry.
Lapin Liha stated to the media that this was necessary as there was simply not enough reindeer meat supply in the market in Finland to meet their production goals of 40,000 reindeer per year. Currently they are processing around 24000 per year, 3000 of which come from Sweden.
Lapin Liha plan to import 200-250,000 kilos per year, all of which will come from the EU certified slaughterhouse in Yar-Sale, which was constructed by the Finnish company Kometos Oy.
Read the news release here on the Lapin Liha site.
Finland’s rare wild forest reindeer may be facing total extinction, says the Finnish Hunters` Association. The group is calling for Finland and the EU to jointly protect the wild reindeer by further regulating the population of large predators.
The sharp drop in the number of wild Finnish forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) is attributed to the growing numbers of wolves, lynx and bears that prey upon them. The Hunters` Association is calling for more permits to hunt these predators in parts of the country where they threaten wild reindeer.
In Kainuu, in the northwest, the wild forest reindeer population has decline by half over the past decade. Counts now give an estimate of only about 800 of the animals left there. In addition to the wild forest reindeer in Kainuu, there are about 1000 in the old-growth forest areas of west-central Finland.
The wild Finnish forest reindeer are the last population of their species in the world.
On Sunday Anne Ollila became the first woman to head the Reindeer Herders’ Association of Finland.
Both she and the reindeer herding sector face great challenges, writes the daily Lapin Kansa:
“The challenges are not insurmountable because a Finn never leaves a reindeer in the lurch. Lapland wouldn’t be Lapland without reindeers.
The reindeer herding sector will continue to be important for the economy of the north, which serves not only its own people but because of rising tourism also a growing number of customers.
For the future it is vital that reindeers and reindeer meat continue to enjoy an excellent reputation. In a world of green values it’s good to stress that reindeers which grow up surrounded by clean nature leave behind smaller ecological footprints than other ruminants.”
(Source: Helsingin Sanomat) In-car satellite navigation systems will start issuing warnings of possible reindeer on Finnish highways. The experiment set to start this autumn relates to a Ministry of Transport and Communications project, the aim of which is to cut the number of reindeer accidents in half. Reindeer may not have the bulk and potentially lethal threat of elk, but they do pose a considerable problem on Finnish roads. Annually around 4,000 collisions with reindeer take place on the highways of the north. Between January and July this year, around 400 road accidents involving a reindeer have been officially reported.
(Source – Metsähallitus / NRK Sami Radio) Metsähallitus and three Sámi reindeer herders from Nellim in Finnish Lapland have settled their disagreement, formerly under review in various courts of law and the UN Human Rights Committee. An agreement between Metsähallitus and Kalevi, Eero and Veijo Paadar specifies which state-owned lands in Nellim are to be available for Metsähallitus’s forestry operations and which lands are to be excluded from forestry operations for the next 20 years. The agreement also terminates all lawsuits between the parties. The Reindeer Blog has been following this story in the past.
The agreement furthermore terminates the process underway at the UN Human Rights Committee, as the Paadars will withdraw their petition to the committee.
This article by Kaisa Raitio and Rebecca Lawrence was originally printed in IWGIA 04/06 and is reprinted with the authors permission.
The official status of the Sámi as the indigenous peoples of Finland has been recognised in Finnish legislation since the early 1990s. The right of the Sámi to practice their culture is enshrined in the Finnish constitution (1999), and in this context Sámi culture has been understood to include traditional Sámi livelihoods, such as reindeer herding, hunting and fishing. In addition to the constitution, the Reindeer Husbandry Act (1990/848) and the Act on Metsähallitus (Finnish Forestry and Parks Service, 1378/2004) give reindeer herding – and Sámi reindeer herding in particular – relatively robust protection.
Finland has also ratified Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires recognition of the cultural rights of ethnic minorities. Applied in Finland, this requires the Finnish state to protect and give recognition to the rights of the Sámi to practice traditional indigenous land uses, such as reindeer herding. In concrete terms, the national and international regulations require that reindeer have free access to grazing lands irrespective of land ownership, and that other uses of state-owned land should not be practiced in a way that significantly hinders” reindeer herding (Reindeer Husbandry Act (1990/848). The Finnish government has been criticised, however, both by Sámi organisations – for not ensuring adequate practical protection of reindeer herding – and by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – for failing to pass legislation on the more fundamental question of Sámi customary title to land. The Finnish government has failed to pass legislation on Sámi land ownership issues three times (1952, 1973 and 1990) and the forestry industry has been a powerful lobbyist in opposing any legislation that might give recognition to Sámi claims to land (Tuulentie 2003). In this climate, continuous and heated debates persist over how the rights of the Sámi can be balanced against other resource management interests within the traditional territories of the Sámi, of which 90% is currently claimed by the Finnish state as crown lands. One of the most controversial debates of recent times has focused on the conflicting interests of reindeer herders and the logging industry. This artaicle aims to briefly outline some of the local, national and global links and challenges in a dispute over logging in the municipality of Inari, in Northern Lapland, where the protests by Sámi reindeer herders and environmental NGOs over state logging on reindeer winter grazing areas have received considerable international attention.
(Pic. Helsingin Sanomat) Three Sami reindeer herders from Nellim, in Northern FInland have just lost their case against the Finnish state forestry giant Metsahallitus in the Lapland District Court. The reindeer herders argued that the logging practices of Metsahallitus was destroying reindeer pastures – ground lichen and hanging tree lichen and were not only threatening their livelihood as reindeer herders, but also their ability to practice Sami reindeer husbandry and maintain their Sami culture.
Maa- ja metsätalousministeriö on päättänyt maksaa 1 732 261 euroa korvauksia loppuvuonna (1.7-31.12.2007) aiheutuneista porovahingoista sekä alkuvuonna (1.1. – 30.6.2007) aiheutuneista porovahingoista siltä osin kuin niitä ei vielä oltu korvattu täysimääräisesti.
(Summary in English: The Finnish Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture has decided to pay subsidies of 1 732 261 € to cover the damages – that haven’t been reimbused in full – caused by predators to reindeer husbandry during 1.1.2007 – 31.12.2007. The Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture couldn’t pay subsidies in whole last year since the claims for damages exceeded the budget allocated for 2007. The damages made up 2,55 million euro last year, and thus reached the highest level for 20 years.)
(Wolverine – Gulo Gulo) The number of reindeer killed by predators rose sharply last year. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reimbursed reindeer herders more than two and a half million euros for lost livestock, the highest figure in 20 years.
The figure was one-fifth higher than the year before. Herders sought recompense for more than 4,000 lost reindeer. The ministry says the increase is partly due to growing predator populations.
However the amount of kills by wolverines also climbed steeply even though the number of these medium-sized predators has actually declined. There are only about 120 wolverines in the country, mostly in the north and east. The ministry is looking into why the number of wolverine kills has jumped. (Story/ Pic Source YLE News 21.04.2008)
(From Helsingin Sanomat, March 2, 2008) “…It is not immediately apparent that Nellim is a place where the three most enduring disputes of northernmost Finnish Lapland converge: the conflict over the use of forests, disagreements over land ownership and the rights of the Sami people, and the dispute over reindeer husbandry. All of these are interlinked. For the same reason, human relations in Nellim are tied up in knots…” Read the full article here.