People of Lapland

People of Lapland

The Sami people

Reindeer herding



In December 2009 and January 2010 I found Lapland again. I used to travel there often in 1980s doing hiking, skiing, voluntary work in nature, etc. After about 20 years, I have found this place of great wilderness again. Besides the national parks and other nature locations in Lapland, I am especially interested in the lives of the local people: the reindeer herders and the Sámi people.


The Sámi are the only indigenous people of European Union. They encompass parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

Traditionally, the Sami have plied a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping, and sheep herding.

However, their best known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding – which about 10% of the Sami are connected with and 2,800 actively involved with full-time.

For traditional, environmental, cultural, and political reasons, reindeer herding is legally reserved only for Sami people in certain regions of the Nordic countries (not in Finland).


The reindeer husbandry area in Finland lies in the most northeastern part of the European Union and covers almost the entire area of the Province of Lapland and part of the Province of Oulu.

The reindeer husbandry area covers 114 000 km², which is 36 per cent of the entire surface area of Finland.

The work of reindeer husbandry largely follows the natural annual rhythm of the reindeer. The reindeer husbandry year and the reindeer herder’s calendar start on the first day of June. The most important tasks are gathering the reindeer, earmarking the calves, counting the animals, the round-ups, herding, slaughter, and the transportation of the animals.

In Sweden and Norway, one has to be a Sámi person in order to own reindeers.  In Finland that is not necessary.