Second Longest Freeze in Lapland for 50 Years

published february 28. 2011 by YLE – original article here
A frozen tree branch.
Image: YLE Anna Sirén

The current stretch of frigid weather is the second longest Lapland has seen in half a century. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, several parts of Lapland have remained in the grip of sub-zero temperatures for nearly four months.

For Saariselkä in Inari and for Lokka in Sodankylä, Sunday marked the 115th consecutive day of freezing weather. In Rovaniemi, that number stood at 114 days.

Another month of sub-zero temperatures would make it a record-long cold spell in Saariselkä and Lokka, while Rovaniemi still has 21 days to go until the record is broken. The longest freeze in the last 50 years fell on the winter 1965-66, when the frigid weather held for 146 consecutive days in Naruska and Lokka.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute says that the record is unlikely to break this winter, since already on Monday mercury is edging up to above zero in many parts of Lapland.

Meteorologist Asko Hutila from the Finnish Meteorological Institute says that, despite the cold winter, the climate is warming up in the long term.

“Although we are talking about the climate warming up, that does not exclude the possibility that winters will be very cold. Finland generally has very variable weather, very cold winters being one example. Climate warming is a global change, which will only be visible in the long run.”

According to Hutila, cold winters like this one will become increasingly rare in the future.

“For example, in a hundred years, cold spells this long might be hard to come by.”



Finland to help reindeer herders

SIKU News, November 5th 2010
Original article here
Some measures will target Saami herders.

Changes in Finland are expected in the system of public supports for reindeer herding to help the younger generation take over operations from their parents.

The government is proposing a package of measures that will also help more young people start their own businesses.

In addition to support already made available to reindeer herders, young people will be able to apply for money to expand their herds and to purchase equipment, such as snowmobiles.

Supports will be more regionally focused, as well, with measures targeted at helping Saami.

Further south, special funds will be made available for fencing off cultivated fields and fencing in some grazing lands.

The terms and conditions to qualify to receive public supports for setting up a reindeer herding operation will remain the same.

Those include making it a full-time job, based on one’s own farm. However, the proposed package will raise the present funding of around two million euros a year by several hundred thousand euros.

Finland’s Reindeer Sperm in High Demand


Mongolia hopes Finnish reindeer will help infuse its population of the animal. Image: YLE Lappi / Tapio Nykänen


Mongolia’s President has requested a delivery of Finnish reindeer sperm to help revive the country’s dwindling reindeer population, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The matter came up during a visit by Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi to Mongolia.

Collecting the sperm could prove difficult, according to Mauri Nieminen, a research manager at the Reindeer Research Station of the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute.

Nieminen is skeptical of Mongolia’s actual need for the sperm, as the country has received new reindeer flocks from Russia. Information on inbreeding is also conflicting, he says.

A few decades ago, Finland transported 170 reindeers to Hokkaido, Japan. Nieminen also believes that it would in this case make more sense to ship the animals. He will soon head to Mongolia to investigate the reindeer situation there.


Original article here

Seitas, sacred places of the indigenous Sámi people, have become subjects of renewed interest

The "Päällyskivi" seita rises on the shores of Inari Lake. It has been determined to be a sacred place through the arrangement of the stones on top.

Archaeologists excavate bones of sacrificial animals from the vicinity of sites; the Ukonkivi seita has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By Jussi Konttinen in Inari, Finnish Lapland

The low rays of the sun caress the rough surface of a strange stone arrangement on the shore of Inari Lake in Sápmi, or Finnish Lapland.
In the shallow water sits a boulder, on top of which rests the Päällyskivi (“Top Stone”), the shape of which resembles the head of an elk. The top stone is supported by three smaller stones.
“Everything suggests that this is a seita”, says Inari Sámi seita expert Ilmari Mattus, while observing the construction.
“An old tale that even embraces Christianity supports the notion. According to the tale Päivän Olavi (Olavi of the Day), a famous seita destroyer, would have snatched the rock here.”

Seitas, or the old sacred places of the Sámi people, have become the subject of renewed interest. The name varies, depending on the local Sámi dialect, and the places are also known as sieidis or Storjunkare.
The Academy of Finland is funding a four-year research project, in connection with which six seitas have already been examined. The archaeologists from the University of Oulu have performed small-scale excavations in the vicinity of the seitas.

The studies have already produced some results.
“Based on radiocarbon dating, the oldest findings have been dated back to the 12th century”, says archaeologist Tiina Äikäs.
Next to most of the examined sacred places the bones of animals, such as reindeer, goats, sheep, or various types of bird and fish species have been located.
Animal offerings were presented to seitas in hopes for better luck with fishing or hunting. Sometimes such proceedings included brushing the stone with blood or fat.
This summer season the excavations will continue in Termisvaara in the far northern municipality of Enontekiö. Divers will start exploring the seitas surrounded by water.
Most known seitas are unusually shaped stones. At one time Christian priests destroyed seitas, but the indigenous Sámi people themselves are also known to have taken them apart, if they have not been propitious.

Behind Inari Lake’s Päällyskivi seita rises the Ukonsaari Island, or Äijih in Sámi, the holiest of the holy places for the Inari Sámi people, The name refers to the highest-ranked of the gods.
A previously unknown seita was discovered on Ukonsaari when the Oulu archaeologists combed through it in 2007.
“It is a stone with a face resembling that of an angry animal. From a nearby hole more than 400 bones were discovered, many of which had been burned. The oldest of them according to dating was the humerus of a swan”, explains Ilmari Mattus.
Another known Äijih is located on Inari Lake closer to the village of Inari itself. It is a peculiarly shaped high island, where there is a sacrificial cave.
Even though the island was already examined in the 19th century, there, too, new discoveries have been made in connection with the recent year’s excavations.
The island has been put forward as a possible UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But how do the present Sámi people view their seitas?
Are the old sacrificial sites perchance still in use today?
“Nobody would admit that they worship nature gods. But I do believe such practices still exist”, says Ilmari Mattus.

In Finland, around 50 seitas have been registered as historic relics, but in reality there are many more.
Some of the sacred places are known only to locals, who do not wish to tell their precise whereabouts.
“A few wooden seitas, so-called keropää seitas, also still exist. I cannot reveal where they are, for I have been told about them in confidence”, says archaeologist Eija Ojanlatva.
“This is a typical problem a researcher can run into. An archaeologist should strictly speaking inform the National Board of Antiquities of his or her findings.”

This Sámi seita at Nitsijärvi Lake has recently been brushed with fish oil. Photo: HARRI NURMINEN

In the ongoing projects only seitas that are publicly known have been studied. The bones that have been collected for closer analysis will be returned later.
In the future the seita studies may be broadened in such a way that sacrificial places are sought based on hints from place-names.
Some of the Sámi people take a reserved stand on the studies.

“One should ask what the benefit of this study is. The Sámi community should first hold an internal dialogue on the subject. When information is entered into a registry by the National Board of Antiquities this speaks volumes of how the situation is not under the control of the Sámi people”, says former chairman of the Sami Council Pauliina Feodoroff.
Feodoroff’s personal opinion is that the sacred portion of what is considered “cultural heritage” should be off-limits to outsiders.

Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 13.6.2010
Original article here

Wild reindeer under threat

(YLE, 13 June 2010) — Finland’s rare wild forest reindeer may be facing total extinction, says the Finnish Hunters’ Association. The group is calling for Finland and the EU to jointly protect the wild reindeer by further regulating the population of large predators. The sharp drop in the number of wild Finnish forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) is attributed to the growing numbers of wolves, lynx and bears that prey upon them. The Hunters’ Association is calling for more permits to hunt these predators in parts of the country where they threaten wild reindeer. In Kainuu, in the northwest, the wild forest reindeer population has decline by half over the past decade. Counts now give an estimate of only about 800 of the animals left there. In addition to the wild forest reindeer in Kainuu, there are about 1000 in the old-growth forest areas of west-central Finland. The wild Finnish forest reindeer are the last population of their species in the world.

Original article here

Hornorkesteret knows this subspecies of the reindeer family, and we have visited captive specimens at Nordens Ark nature park in Southern Sweden. Living mostly in forests, they are smaller than regular reindeer and their antler crown is narrower so they can move quicker among the trees.

What the Sami people can teach us about adapting to climate change

As global warming and habitat degradation accelerates, people indigenous to the Arctic circle say they have much to teach the world about how to adapt, survive, and thrive
Simon Tisdall in Rovaniemi, northern Finland, Wednesday 10 March 2010

The church huts of Utsjoki, FinlandAn old Sami ‘nili’ – a food storage hut raised above ground out of the reach of animals. Photograph: Kaisa Siren/Rex FeaturesElina Helander-Renvall comes from Utsjoki, a place so obscure that even many Finns have little idea where it is. Utsjoki, or Ochejohka, Uccjuuha, and Uccjokk, depending on which local language you are speaking, is Finland‘s northern-most municipality. Straddling the border with Norway, it shivers, unregarded, deep inside the Arctic circle, a few icy miles from the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Utsjoki, population 1,034, is home to Finland’s largest concentration of Sami speakers, the indigenous people once loosely known as Lapps who have eked out an itinerant existence herding reindeer across the frozen wastes of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and western Russia since the last Ice Age. Nearly 50% of Utsjoki’s population are Sami. In Finnish terms, it’s the closest this eternal minority has got to being the majority.

Born and raised on the margin though she was, Helander-Renvall’s message these days is strictly mainstream. As accelerating climate change and other man-made environmental degradations create growing alarm across the planet, the Sami people have much to teach the world about how to adapt, survive, and thrive, she says.

“There is a lot to learn from the Sami, they have the traditional ecological knowledge, they really know about nature,” said Helander-Renvall, head of the Arctic Indigenous Peoples Office at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi. “They have the most precise knowledge about the weather conditions, about the plants, the diet, the resources. The Sami people have an ethical relationship with nature; a respect for nature that also has a spiritual side.”

The Arctic region is uniquely vulnerable to global warming, but if it is to weather the storm, it would do well to adopt Sami methods of land and resource management, communal co-operation and communication, local knowledge and best practice, she said.

In order to keep a reindeer herd out of trouble, for example, a knowledge of different types of snow could be decisive, Helander-Renvall said. Muohta (ordinary snow) or oppas (untouched snow) might be safe. But the presence of sievla (wet snow), skarta (thin, ice-like snow layers) or ceavvi (a hard layer that the reindeer cannot penetrate in search of lichen) could dictate a life-saving change of route or decision to move camp.

Local knowledge will also be vital to the large-scale industrial development on the fast-expanding oil and gas fields of western Russia’s Yamal peninsula, and for the burdgeoning commercial and tourism industries in the Scandinavian north. Knowing where it is safe to build, how to site the foundations for a new road, airstrip or pipeline, what terrain to avoid, and how to do so responsibly while protecting biological diversity will all be increasingly important. “We need to preserve and transfer indigenous knowledge to future generations,” Helander-Renvall said.

Professor Monica Tennberg of the Arctic Research Centre in Rovaniemi said the Sami had shown notable ability to adapt to changing climate conditions. “We’ve seen how the community adapts, for example finding new ways to deal with floods. We’ve seen better co-operation, better municipal leadership, better communications, better early warning systems,” she said. Adverse effects of climate change on pasture and traditional herding trails had been met with new rotation and migration patterns and also by a tighter communal discipline.

The Arctic as a whole faces enormous challenges. Broadly speaking the region is warming at double the rate of the rest of the world, said Paula Kankaanpaa, director of the Research Centre, with local “hotspots” that fare even worse.

Symptoms include reduced sea ice; the opening of blue-water sea passages both east and west in summer, north of Canada and Russia; increased levels of carbon-carrying organic waste in the Arctic Ocean caused by melting tundra; coastal erosion due to increased wave activity; loss of habitat for large mammals such as seals and polar bears and growing disruption of indigenous human communities.

Governments still resist the idea that Arctic indigenous peoples have something unique to contribute. Canada announced this month that it will convene a foreign ministers’ meeting of the five Arctic Ocean states (Canada, Russia, the US, Norway and Denmark/Greenland) in March “to encourage new thinking on responsible development” and “reinforce ongoing collaboration in the region”.

To their dismay, Arctic indigenous people’s organisations, including the Sami, Inuit and Inuvialuit, were not invited.

Original article here