A Lávvu Dialogue Workshop in Hetta

Picture: Jari Rantapelkonen

Lávvu Dialogue workshop was a two-day workshop organised in Hetta by the Sámi Education Institute. It was related to the activities and goals of the Dialogues and Encounters in the Arctic project and brought together experts and traditional knowledge holders of Sámi livelihoods and culture. In the workshop, topics such as the future of the traditional livelihoods, environmental observations and the relation between the traditional livelihoods and new innovations were discussed. The participants were experts and partners of the project from Finland, Norway and Sweden. Due to the prevailing pandemic, it has previously not been possible to organize the Lávvu dialogues that have been included in the original plan of the project.

Fell Lapland Visitor Centre Skierri

• The workshop began with a meeting with the participants in the Fell Lapland Visitor Centre Skierri, where the Vuovjjuš – Kulkijat exhibition was introduced by the screenwriter Nils-Henrik Valkeapää. The exhibition depicts Sámi culture, history and fell nature. The exhibition has been compiled in collaboration with Johtti Sápmelaččat Association and individuals who have provided pictures, information and memoirs related to reindeer husbandry and Sámi culture.

Picture: Mari Viinikainen

The Lávvu Village

• On the first day, the workshop addressed the future of Sámi reindeer husbandry and compared traditional and new lávvu designs.

• Lávvu Village was built on the shore of Lake Ounasjärvi at Tervaniemi, which is owned by Johtti Sápmelaččat Association. The environment provided a unique setting for a participatory workshop, where participants were able to set up traditional and commercially produced lávvus, build a tent lavvu and observe the building of two bealjegoahtis.

• During the workshop, it was possible to have a sauna in a mobile sauna. Näkkälän Eräpalvelut was responsible for the catering of the Lávvu village.

Picture: Jari Rantapelkonen

The First Lávvu dialogue

• The Lávvu dialogue focused on the structural change of the reindeer industry, the future of reindeer husbandry and the challenges the livelihood is facing. The discussions focused on the need for additional feeding, the size of the reindeer herds and the challenges and changes associated with slaughter.

• Changing snow conditions and changes in the environment have created new challenges for reindeer husbandry and increased the need for additional feeding. This creates a need to develop the tools used in reindeer husbandry (sleighs, snowmobiles etc.). How will such changes affect reindeer husbandry and Sámi culture in the long run?

• The use of technical equipment in off-road travel and traditions has changed the grazing culture, but it also affects the construction and use of traditional knowledge related to reindeer husbandry and the construction and transfer of traditional knowledge related to environmental observation.

• The use of snowmobiles and ATVs has reduced the use of temporary reindeer houses: nowadays there is no need to spend the night in the fell because of long distances.

Picture: Mari Viinikainen

Arctic innovation

• The participants in the workshop were able to watch Arto Saijets setting up a bealjegoahti that he learnt to build during the project.

• The second bealjegoahti in the Lávvu Village was made in collaboration with students of Industrial Design at the Sámi Education Center and the University of Lapland. During the workshop, Juho Saavalainen presented 3D modelling of the bealjegoahti, the jig and the wooden parts of the frame. The bealjegoahti was made during the project as one of its sub-objectives.

• 3D modelling offers an opportunity to capture traditional data and allows for a new way of storing the dimensions and shapes of certain necessities. This information can be used later for example in research and teaching.

• The Lávvu dialogue momentarily turned hybrid when Teams was used to get in touch with Krister Stoor and Lena-Maria Nilsson, our partners at the University of Umeå, who were unable to attend the workshop because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Pekka Aikio’s speech

• Pekka Aikio spoke about the reindeer as an Arctic animal, describing it’s adaptation to the Arctic region thanks to a two-channel digestive system.

• Aikio described the relationship between reindeer and humans and how both have benefited from each other in the Arctic zone. He also took up challenges related to reindeer husbandry in Finland.

• Regarding the different livelihoods and land use patterns of the Sámi and Finns, Finns have thought that the Sámi neither use the land nor inhabit it. The northern nomadic way of life has not been understood.

• According to Aikio, reindeer husbandry has generally been linked with the Sámi, but the state has deliberately seen it differently and tried to make it more comparable to agriculture.

• Furthermore, reindeer husbandry is being forced into the agricultural context in Finland, which shows as a desire to see reindeer as production animals. This puts pressure on reindeer husbandry and grazing, and affects slaughter practices.

• This has also contributed to viewing the reindeer as a varmint and a threat to agriculture.

• Aikio also discussed the Lappikodisilli agreement, that enables to follow the traditional pasture cycle in Sweden: in the summer time it is possible to move the reindeer to certain ares in Norway, but in Finland this is not possible.

Picture: Mari Viinikainen

Henrik Sevä’s speech

• Henrik Sevä's speech dealt with cooperation between the Inuvik area and Sámi reindeer husbandry and the history of the cooperation. In the early 20th century, reindeer were relocated to northern Alaska from the Municipality of Karasjok and Finland, as the area was threatened by famine. A large business formed around reindeer husbandry, reaching it’s peak in the 1930s, when there were as many as 600,000 reindeer in Alaska.

• At the same time in Canada, in the McKenzie River delta, the caribou population in the Northwest Territories collapsed and the local population was threatened by famine. To ensure food security, the governments of Canada and the United States and Inuit leaders launched a programme designed to ensure food security to the local population. The great reindeer movement began, during which the Inuit and Sámi herded together from Alaska to the Northwest Territory. However, the herding did not go easily: the schedules were delayed and reindeer died and developed foot-and-mouth disease.

• Sevä visited the McKenzie River delta area for the first time in 1999 to help and guide local people in reindeer herding and to ensure that the herding practices were working. The number of reindeer herds had collapsed, as a road that was built in the area had increased hunting of and disturbance to reindeer in the area.

• The transition from a traditional hunting-based livelihood to nomadic reindeer husbandry was slow: reindeer were shot, as the hunting culture was still vibrant, weakening the structure of the herds. In addition to the different cultures of livelihood, the problem was escalated by a lack of knowledge about reindeer herding, as herders did not know which individual reindeer should be kept alive to ensure the continuity of the herd.

• The different traditional livelihoods and work cultures and the prevalence of hunting culture also contributed to the fact that there was no market for reindeer meat, and reindeer were often kept because of their blood antlers and bones, which had higher business value.

• The absence of grazing culture and the hunting-based livelihoods have contributed to the reindeer becoming wild in Canada.

• On the other hand, there have also been differences between grazing areas. In Canada, the winter and the summer pastures are in a natural state, making them excellent terrain for reindeer, but this also affects the number of predators. Wolves, bears, foxes, eagles and ravens are the biggest threats to reindeer herds, especially calves.

• It has been noted that in Canada, reindeer calve a month earlier than usual, although according to Aikio's measurement data, for instance rutting seasons vary from year to year. Attempts have been made to find out the causes of early calving, but so far there has been no success.

Picture: Jari Rantapelkonen

Lasse Björn’s speech

• Lasse Björn’s speech, a specialist in the Saami Council, opened up the development process of an environmental observation tool with the Saami Council and the International Center for Reindeer Husbandry (Kautokeino). The aim is to create an environmental observation tool based on the idea of the LEO observation tool, which supports Sámi traditional livelihoods and is better suited to the use of Sámi communities.

• In developing the application, important questions and major challenges have arisen regarding trust and the use and ownership of information:

  • How to build a database, document the findings, make people use the application and ensure that the shared information is not open to everyone?

  • How to convince people that sensitive information will not be misused?

• Issues related to the ownership of information are also under discussion: Is the information owned by researchers, the Sámi community or the provider of the information?

• How accurately should the observations and data be presented and the findings reported?

• Björn stated that the LEO observation tool is currently not useful to the Sámi community, as it is structurally created to meet the needs of a different environment and society, namely, North America.

• The Finnish Environment Institute’s Lake Wiki that operates on the principle of citizenship observation (including snow and water observations) is fundamentally different from the LEO observation tool. LEO is more of a tool for local communities and Indigenous peoples, where storytelling plays a major role. An individual observation may be associated with a story related to traditional livelihoods, a family or land. The role of local knowledge is emphasized.

LEO website:

The last Lávvu dialogue

• Environmental change: the grazing grounds of animals are reforming along with climate change, and the habitats of parasites are expanding at the same time. Diseases such as chronic wasting disease also spread among reindeer.

Thank you to all our workshop participants!

Picture: Jari Rantapelkonen

Notes summarised by Mari Viinikainen, University of Lapland, and Mika Aromäki, SAKK.

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