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Reindeer Husbandry in Finland
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Reindeer Areas and Management
Number of Reindeer
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Challenges to Reindeer Husbandry
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Traditional Knowledge - Language

The Sámi language is very rich in the terminology for reindeer, reindeer husbandry and landscape generally. The terminology is an important part of Sámi traditional knowledge and it is transmitted from one generation to another, mostly orally. This very exact knowledge on nature shows the old and tight connection to it and how important reindeer husbandry is for the Sámi. Reindeer husbandry is a kind of basis for Sámi culture, not only for subsistence, but especially for lifestyle. The climate conditions in reindeer herding area can be extreme and cold. To be able to manage and survive in these conditions it has been and still is important for the herders to have knowledge of landscape, such as of grazing or snow conditions. The Sámi language and its dialects have hundreds if not thousands of exact terms and descriptive epithets for snow, ice and similar natural phenomena. Israel Ruong (1903-1986) who was a professor in Sámi language, classifies snow terms as follows: a) amounts of snow, b) the composition of snow c) the bearing capacity of snow, d) the surface, level and slide quality of snow, e) expressions for being covered with snow, f) unmarked snow and tracks in the snow, g) hoarfrost and other coverings of ice and snow on plants ad trees, h) the melting and disappearance of snow, i) ice, j) the appearance of (patches of) unfrozen land, k) places where the snow remains in the summer, l) different kinds of winter pasture, incl. expressions for the surface quality of the snow. For a reindeer herder it is also necessary to know exactly what kind of reindeer is in question or is being discussed. Reindeer terminology is very precise and professional and it can be described according to colour, age and sex, antlers, appearance, nature and some other special characters.

(The Encycloapedia of Saami Culture)

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