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Reindeer Husbandry in Finland
Borders and Rights
Reindeer Areas and Management
Number of Reindeer
Economic Issues
Challenges to Reindeer Husbandry
Traditional Knowledge
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The Reindeer Herding Area

The total area of reindeer husbandry in Finland is approximately 33 % of the surface of the country or about 122 936 km2. According to the Finnish Reindeer Husbandry Act the reindeer herding area consists of all of Finnish Lapland excluding Kemi and Tornio cities and Keminmaa municipality, but also Hyrynsalmi, Kuivaniemi, Kuusamo, Pudasjärvi, Suomussalmi, Taivalkoski and Yli-Ii municipalities in the county of Oulu and the areas in Puolanka, Utajärvi and Ylikiiminki municipalities located north of Kiminge River and Puolanka-Hyrynsalmi road.

In the 1960’s the reindeer herding area was divided into three reindeer herding areas; the Sámi Reindeer Herding Area, The Special Reindeer Herding Area and the Reindeer Herding Area. The difference between them is that reindeer herding in the Sámi reindeer herding area should be prioritized and given special attention in issues related to encroachment. Reindeer herding in the special reindeer herding area should also be directed some attention in such issues.

The borders between the districts are decided by the provincial government. A district belongs to the municipality in which most part of the district's area is.

(Renskötsellag 14.9.1990/848)

Management of Reindeer Husbandry

The management of reindeer husbandry is divided into different levels. On the national level reindeer husbandry issues belong to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland (Maa- ja metsätalousministeriö).

All districts are members of the Association of the reindeer herding districts (Paliskuntain yhdistys- Bálgosiid Ovttastupmi) – which is the central body and acts as a link between the different districts. The activity in the Association is funded by state and membership is free. The annual general meeting, also called the Reindeer Parliament (Poroparlamentti - Boazoparlameanta), is the highest decision making body of the Association. It consists of the District Leaders. Each District Leader votes from the total number of reindeer in his or her district. The Association has a board which consists of 14 members and each board member has one vote. The duties of the Association are to administer reindeer husbandry in Finland, to promote reindeer husbandry and related research, and to manage relations between reindeer husbandry and the rest of society. It also approves new reindeer earmarks and maintains an earmark registry. The Association has an office which is located in Rovaniemi in northern Finland. It organises for example the annual Reindeer Parliament in early June and also publishes a journal for reindeer herders called Poromies.

On the local level the reindeer herding districts manage reindeer herding activities within the district and ensure that they are carried out and prevent the reindeer belonging to reindeer herders causing injury to other people and their livelihoods.


Reindeer herding Districts and Members

In Finland, reindeer husbandry is practiced through a system of reindeer herding districts (paliskunta – bálgosat). There are 56 districts in the reindeer husbandry area, 41 of which are in the Province of Lapland and the remaining 15 are in the Province of Oulu. 13 of the districts are so called Sámi districts. The districts have strictly defined boundaries and they vary in size and number of reindeer. They are profit-making reindeer husbandry units whose members are reindeer owners. The districts responsibility is to protect the reindeers, to sustain and promote reindeer husbandry and to prevent reindeer from causing damage and from trespassing on other districts areas.

The total number of members in all districts together is about 5 000 people, about 1 000 of whom are Sámi. A reindeer owner can only belong to one district and the person has got the same amount of votes in the annual meeting, the Reindeer parliament, as he or she has reindeer. In a Sámi district a person can have a maximum of 500 votes (and 500 reindeer). A reindeer herding district has its own board (stivra) and a District Leader (boazoisit), a Vice-Chief of District (várre boazoisit) and a Treasurer (ruhtadoalli). The District Leader, who is the manager of the district, is the official representative of the district. He or she is responsible for the practical activities in the district and ensures that the tasks allocated to it are carried out. The Chief of District is legally accountable for his or her actions and occupies this office for terms of three years at a time.

The board manages the district’s activities and handles the preparations for decision-making in district meetings as well as oversees their execution. It meets twice a year and more often if it is necessary. District meetings (bálggosčoahkkimat) are held twice a year, in spring when the reindeer husbandry year draws to a close and in autumn before the start of the reindeer round-ups. The meetings handle such matters as the numbers of reindeer in the district and the work that will need to be done.

Today the number of fulltime herders, who together with their families still obtain their main livelihood from reindeer herding, is about 800 in Finland, 600 of them are Sámis. The number of reindeer owners in Finland is about 6 700.

(Renskötsellag 14.9.1990/848)

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