“I didn’t choose this life, it chose me”

May 9, 2018 • Philip Burgess

A nice article and photo (in German) was published in Berliner Zeitung a few months ago which we are reposting here, with their permission. Journalist Bernd Hauser visited Kautokeino in the spring and spent time with Issát Turi (pictured with his mother Kirsten Turi) and family in their winter pastures. Turi talked about the challenges facing reindeer herders in Finnmark and how herders can best continue to practice their traditional livelihoods. Turi is also an author in the EALLU food book where he wrote about the traditional ways that Sámi slaughter reindeer in order that the flavours of the reindeer meat are enhanced. The article closes with a quote from Turi that encapsulates the essence of the livelihood: “Nicht ich habe dieses Leben gewählt. Es hatmich gewählt!” (I didn’t choose this life, it chose me)

Berliner Zeitung 2018

Lynx Kill Far More Reindeer Than Science Previously Stated

October 19, 2016 • Philip Burgess

Lynx predatorFascinating research on predators emerging from NINA in Norway regarding the rate and number of reindeer (and sheep) killed by Lynx is far higher than authorities have previously stated. Indeed, the numbers are far closer to that which herders have always claimed, especially in Troms and Finnmark, that predation by Lynx is a major threat to herders’ economy and livelihood.

In February of this year, 10 Lynx were captured and fitted with GPS collars which were monitored by researchers. Once animals were stationary for some time, researchers would then look for dead animals in those areas. Researchers found that a make lynx can kill a reindeer or sheep each day. One lynx in particular killed 100 reindeer.

While compensation for losses to predators are compensated, up until now Finnmark and Troms County reject 90% of all claims. Hans Ole Eira, Head of the Lakkonjárga district is quoted as saying that he is glad that research is finally proving that herders should be believed.

Read the full story here (in Norwegian)


New Phd: State Management & Traditional Knowledge in Reindeer Husbandry Management

May 19, 2016 • Philip Burgess

Ellen Inga TuriSámi scholar Ellen Inga Turi is defending her Phd on Friday, May 20 in Umeå, Sweden. Her work is groundbreaking and touches on the field of management, reindeer husbandry and traditional ecological knowledge.

The PhD is entitled “State Steering and Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Reindeer Herding Governance: Cases from western Finnmark, Norway and Yamal, Russia”. Her Faculty Opponent is Professor Dietrich Soyez from the Department of Geography at University of Cologne, Germany. The thesis is part of the research project IPY EALÁT which has been coordinated by the Sami University of Applied Sciences and UArctic Ealát Institute within the International Reindeer Centre Husbandry in Kautokeino / Guovdageaidnu.

The area of investigation were in the Sami reindeer grazing area of West Finnmark in Norway and the Nenets reindeer grazing area in Yamal, Western Siberia, which are the largest reindeer herding areas in the world, both in terms of number of people and reindeer. In these areas there are certain similarities, but also major differences in terms such as political organization and management systems.

Read more…


Samisk reindrift, norske myter – Fagseminar og boklansering

February 8, 2016 • Philip Burgess






Reindrift har et dårlig rykte i Norge. Det har lenge blitt hevdet at det er for mange rein i Finnmark, og at dette går utover lavmattene på vidda, produktiviteten i næringen og dyrevelferden.

Facebook Event her

Den nye boka “Samisk reindrift, norske myter” drøfter forestillinger og realiteter om samisk reindrift. I motsetning til bildet som skapes av medier, politikere og forvaltning, argumenterer forfatterne for at den tradisjonsbaserte reindriften er en økologisk bærekraftig aktivitet. Næringen trues derimot av arealinngrep som gruvedrift og feilvurderinger i statens reindriftsforvaltning. Boka viser at det er grunn til å legge om til en reindriftsforvaltning der utøvernes egen tradisjonsbaserte kunnskap tas på alvor.

Read more…


“Samisk reindrift, norske myter” Seminar in Kautokeino

January 21, 2016 • Philip Burgess






On February 9th, a seminar is being held in Kautokeino to mark the launch and publication of this important new book: “Samisk reindrift, norske meter”. Although the final participant list and presentations are to be finalized, there will be presentations and discussions led by the book lead authors and editors, Tor A. Benjaminsen (NMBU), Inger Marie Gaup Eira and Mikkel Nils Sara (Sami University College). Read this post here on the Reindeer Portal to read more about the book and where it can be purchased and here to read about the DÁVGGAS project. The seminar is being organized by NMBU, ICR, UEI and the Sami University College.

Samisk reindrift, norske myter. Finnes det alternative løsninger for forvaltningen av reindriften i Finnmark?

Fagseminar i forbindelse med lansering av en ny fagbok om samisk reindrift i Finnmark Diehtosiida, Guovdageaidnu-Kautokeino 9. februar 2016, kl 09.00-14.00


New book: Samisk reindrift, Norske Myter

January 19, 2016 • Philip Burgess






A new book goes on sale today entitled ‘Samisk reindrift, Norske Myter’ (Sami reindeer husbandry, Norwegian myths) and it is the primary deliverable from the DÁVGGAS project, an interdisciplinary project involving researchers from NMBU and the Sami University College.

Edited by Tor A. Benjaminsen, Inger Marie Gaup Eira and Mikkel Nils Sara, the book is a collection of articles written by the project resaerchers and is sure to be an important contribution to the ongoing and often contested debates surrounding the continuation of an age old indigenous livelihood with the confines of a contemporary nation state. A seminar held in combination with the books publication will be held in Kautokeino, on February 9, 2016 (details to follow). The book is in Norwegian – you can view the introductory chapter here and purchase the book here.


From the foreword of the book (apologies, my translation),

Read more…


‘Moving with the Reindeer in Winter’ – Stunning Drone footage of reindeer migration

January 8, 2016 • Philip Burgess

Beautiful footage shot by by Jan Helmer Olsen who lives in Karasjok. It is shot by drone and taken while the reindeer migrate to their winter pastures, in Finnmarksvidda, Norway. The migration is timeless and majestic and is part of the perennial rhythm of herding life in the North.


New Article from DÁVGGAS Project: Seeing Like the State or the Pastoralists?

July 29, 2015 • Philip Burgess

Finnmark_county_mapA new academic article has recently been  published from the DÁVGGAS project. Entitled “Seeing like the state or like pastoralists? Conflicting narratives on the governance of Sámi reindeer husbandry in Finnmark, Norway” The article is authored by by ,  and & Inger Marie Gaup Eira and will published in the Norwegian Journal of Geography.

From the abstract:

The article examines key actors’ perceptions on why Norwegian policy objectives aimed at securing sustainable reindeer husbandry through participation have failed in West Finnmark. Based on government documents, media debates, and interviews with the actors, the authors identify two competing narratives on why there are ‘too many reindeer’ despite continued state efforts at destocking.

Read more…


Loss of Pastures: Balsfjord Power Line Gets Final Approval

May 5, 2015 • Philip Burgess

Last week the Balsfjord to Hammerfest power line received final approval from the Norwegian government (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy). Construction can now begin. This is a major investment by Statnett (3-4 billion NOK) in a 420 Kv power line that will be 360 km long, 40 metres wide and cross 8 municipalities (Statnett).

Balsfjord power line

The route of the Balsfjord power line. Source:

It will cross 30 reindeer herding districts in northern Norway and have dramatic impacts on some districts, according to herders. Herders have been vociferous in their opposition to the project and have asked for it either shelved or that significant route alterations be undertaken, or that areas critically effected could have submarine/underground construction.

Acting Head of NRL, Per John Anti believes the consequences for reindeer herding in the area will be negative.

It will particularly impact on calving country. Research shows that the reindeer avoids areas from one to four kilometers from the disturbance, particularly females with calves. This causes pressure in other areas of these regions.

Read more…


New Article: Barriers to Incorporating Traditional Knowledge into Policy, Focus on Reindeer Herding in Finnmark

October 22, 2014 • Philip Burgess

Polar GeographyA timely contribution has been made to the debate about how governance and traditional knowledge intersect and the barriers that exist when trying to incorporate traditional knowledge into local and regional governance policies with a special focus on reindeer husbandry in Finnmark, Norway. This paper by Ellen Inga Turi and Carina Keskitalo paper highlights barriers to knowledge integration induced by the design of supportive policy instruments of information and institution building, where traditional knowledge is de-prioritized in relation to scientific knowledge.

The paper has been published in the most recent edition of Polar Geography

Read more…


Herding on Thin Ice: Unique Thesis on Challenges Facing Reindeer Husbandry in Finnmark Published

June 21, 2013 • Philip Burgess

Tracie Curry Thesis ScreenshotTracie Curry recently defended her Masters thesis in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University, entitled Herding on Thin Ice – An Excercise in Resilience and Adaptive Strategy. Interested in learning more about the drivers of change and development in the Arctic, and the impacts that these developments were having not only on the landscape but also the people who depend on these landscapes for survival, Curry was drawn to Finnmark and  reindeer herding. For her topic, Curry looked closely at the case of Hammerfest, located on Kvaløya Island in the Finnmark region of northern Norway where families of herders are currently struggling to maintain their traditions in the face of multiple development threats. In her words,

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More Wind Parks for Finnmark on Reindeer Pastures

September 16, 2010 • Philip Burgess

Finnmark Kraft has been granted a licence to establish a new wind park on the Berlevag peninsula, where there is already a wind park. As many as 100 wind turbines could be established supplying up to 300 MW. The company have been reluctant to estimate how many towers they would build in the past, as when numbers were estimated for the Kvalsund region, reindeer herders objected.

John Masvik, CEO of Finnmark Kraft, stated in Finnmarken newspaper,

There were strong views in reindeer herding, one might say. We have learned from this, and it is important for us to enter into dialogue with them as quickly as possible

This would occur after the current autumn migrations are completed, by November and December. The regional administration are extremely keen for the development to proceed.

Source – Finnmarken


Debate on Mining in Finnmark Heats Up

May 4, 2010 • Philip Burgess

(Map shows the mining claims in Kvalsund, an area important to migratory reindeer husbandry in Northern Norway, source: NGU) According to an article on TV2, one of the largest networks in Norway, Finnmark is sitting on a potential ‘treasure trove’ of over 1 billion NOK of valuable minerals and including cooper, gold, iron ore and valuable natural stones.

Helga Pedersen, deputy leader of the governing Labour Party was quoted as saying,

We are for mineral exploration in Inner Finnmark – But it’s not that we can say yes all, everywhere and at any price. We must also develop this industry and take account of the environment and to those on the plateau before (mining)

Here she is of course referring to the indigenous Sami, many of whom (especially reindeer herders) have been critical of the current ‘gold rush’ for minerals that is occurring in Finnmark. Surprisingly perhaps, Pedersen herself is of Sami ancestry and she has been a vigorous supporter of developing mining in the county. Legal researcher, Øyvind Ravna is quoted in the article as saying,

A charge should be introduced which would provide direct compensation to the  indigenous Sami people if they are  to accept such activities in their core areas

Ravna pointed to the activities of some mining ventures in Canada where First Nations are compensated directly for mining activity on their land. Pedersen is quick to rule out talk of compensation for mining for the Sami, which would be very unpopular among many Norwegian communities,

Meanwhile, in the regional media, the County Mayor of Finnmark is quoted as saying that people are getting angry that mining is being held up,

For far too long there has been talk of the great riches found in the county and how many jobs a new mining industry can provide. Now is the time that they should be realized otherwise people will become frustrated and eventually angry


Reindeer Ferry Warming Up in Norway

April 8, 2010 • Philip Burgess

In northern Norway, summer pastures for reindeer are often located on the coastal islands of Finnmark and Troms counties. Traditionally, reindeer swim across from the mainland to the islands but with increasing pasture losses and migratory route fragmentation, since the early 1970s, many herders use a reindeer ‘ferry’ to transport reindeer over distances that have now become too far to swim (reindeer are exellent swimmers).

Reindeer ferry season is about to begin this year on April 20th from Balnes in Balsfjord and some 15,000 reindeer from 20 reindeer herding districts will make the ferry ride by May 9th.  National Geographic featured a short article on this unusual form of transport in collaboration with the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry which you can read here.

Source: LMD


Reindeer Deaths on the Roads – Blame Salt? (Norway)

November 26, 2008 • Philip Burgess

At this time of year, large migrations of reindeer are underway in northern Norway. This means the crossing of roads, several of which are busy and driving conditions at this time of year are challenging. There have been several accounts of reindeer being hit by cars, which is nearly always fatal to reindeer.

Read more…


Sami traditions, Norwegian Law

November 11, 2008 • Philip Burgess

(Pic. Finnmark Dagblad) Today the Supreme court in Norway will hear the question as to how best to kill a reindeer, as reported in Finnmark Dagblad.

Read more…


Reindeer Mix Up

October 16, 2008 • Philip Burgess

(Pic – Johan Mathis Gaup) NRK has been full of a story this week that is just south of Kautokeino / Guovdageaidnu. This is the time of year that reindeer herds are migrated back to the interior and their winter pastures, as the temperature drops. Two large herds have become mixed together – in total about 23,000 animals that belong to the reindeer herding districts Orda and Lákkonjárga (30/31) in the  Guovdajohtolat (Middle Zone). The Reinpolitiet (established in 1950, a branch of the Norwegian Police that deals with reindeer husbandry) have been called in, though there is disagreement as to who called them, and they are now observing the situation. Concerns have been raised as to police presence, the impact on pastures of so many animals in one place and as to how this could have happened in the first place. 


“Viagra has Destroyed Everything”..(and other News from Finnmark)

October 7, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Reindeer Antlers : Sales Drooping

So said reindeer herder Johan Mikkel Haetta as he complained that the bottom has fallen out of the reindeer antler market. Used in the large market in the Far East for aphrodisiacs, reindeer antlers have been an important supplemental source of income for reindeer herders (especially in parts of Russia). The availability of synthetic aphrodisiacs such as Viagra has had a major negative impact on the market.

Read more…


Mining Talk Heats up in Finnmark

July 24, 2008 • Philip Burgess

Gold, copper and platinum fever continue to pass over Finnmark. Test cores in Kvalsund had chief geologist Kjell Nilsen enthusing

This is Norway’s largest copper find…We’re talking about billions. With today’s prices, we have found values of between eight and ten billion kroner (1.25 bn Euros)

Other materials in a 6 kilometre ridge include platinum, silver and gold. Nilsen told Finnnmark Dagblad said Nussir ASA intends to apply for permission to extract the minerals and if successful, production might start in year 2011, he adds. This is an area of reindeer husbandry and herders have already expressed their concerns about mining activity, as reported in the Reindeer Blog and in NRK, where herder Berit Kristine Hætta stated that reindeer need peace in this area after calving, a claim questioned by a Nussir spokesperson.

Meanwhile, in Karasjok, Store Norsk Gull are drilling 15 test holes (in their search for gold) in Ráitevárri and Rivkkaoggi (the heart of the winter pastures in this area) and reindeer herders are not happy about it, as reported in NRK yesterday.

In a letter to the Områdestyret for East Finnmark reindeer herders Lars Larsen Anti, Marit Kirsten Anti Gaup og Samuel John L. Anti wrote that the company has made no attempt to dialogue with them

This has not happened, and, therefore, we require full stop of the business until Store Norske Gold have met with us and clarified their activities in the area. We demand direct negotiations and clarification from the company.

The reindeer herders are considering engaging a lawyer if activities are not halted.


IGE Nordic Mining Plans in Ábborášša Reindeer District, Kautokeino

February 5, 2008 • Philip Burgess

IGE Nordic, the daughter company of mining giant International Gold Exploration unveiled their plans for the former gold mine of Biedjovággi, 40 km West of Kautokeino. IGE Nordic visited Kautokeino last week having meetings with the municipality and reindeer herders from the  Ábborášša reindeer herding district in whose area the mine is to be redeveloped. In an interview with NRK Sami Radio, Frederic Bratt, IGE Nordic Director said,

Biedjovággi is one of our three highest priority projects

They could be up and running within months.  50 work places were spoken of, lasting 20 years, with estimates of three tonnes of gold available for mining. IGE were recently listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange and are active in reopening the Stekenjokk mine in Sweden (a Zinc and Copper Ore mine that operated between 1976-1988), which would have negative consequences for Vilhelmina Södra and Frostviken Norra Saami communities, according to Rebecca Lawrence of the Saami Council.

Henrik A. Sara, leader of the Ábborášša  reindeer herding district said in the interview

We don’t want mining…we are aleady pressed for space in our district