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Finnmark 2007 Diary » Blog Archive » The winter corral

The winter corral


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Yesterday, we were in the hills outside Kautokeino with Ellen-Anne’s extended family at a winter corral, where the herders, under Per Ailo Logje’s leadership were marking the last calves who’d been missed out at the December round-up.Š We came down from the high Tundra on the snow scooters, past the Norwegian army bunkers and listening posts, and into the Taiga to see a clearing in the forest way at our feet. “This place has been used by the families at least since 200 years,” Per Ailo told me. It was a festive occasion. Young family members had travelled the 10-15 kilometers on skis to participate. Uncles, brothers, cousins, who had nothing to do with the herding were all there to celebrate, and we were honoured to have been allowed to come. “Do you know why it’s hidden in the woods?” Ellen-Anne asked me. I shook my head. “So not everybody knows what we’re up to,” she grinned. The granddads and grandmas were also there, one on crutches even, with their pet (as opposed to working) family dogs, to enjoy the gathering in brilliant sunshine, the excitement and fun. The atmosphere was electric, the young sizing up each other to check on the other’s lassoeing talents, the older already stalking those reindeer they meant to pull down for the traditional ear marking. Each family has a special mark, and each individual in the family has his or her own variation, and the reindeer, having no sensitivity in their outer ears, feel nothing when the cut comes. They were galloping around us now, tongues out ,antlers shaking, and bucking, humping, braying, grunting as they passed us in a flying mist of snow and fur. The sound and proximity of their movement, their broad camel-like hooves crunching through the snow, their breath streaming into sparkling clouds of steam, the sweet, pungent furry smell of the beasts, filled us all with a sense of magic, a brief intense perception of the joyfulness of life…Š

Elizasbeth Ursi Gaup, an academic at the Sámi University College told me that they’d all been brought up since birth to know that “First there was God to think about, and then the reindeer, and then they themselves, the Sámi, some way after!” We stood at the edge of the whirlwind of reindeer to talk. She told me that her field was environmental studies, and that her main focus was to prepare her students to be capable of outdoor life. I thought of our inner cities, and of how little knowledge our children have of the world beyond buildings, and of how little they actually care because that place, that environment, has no reality for them. “Sometimes those who come from the South are so stiff, so uncomfortable to be in the wilderness, to sit on the ground, to stretch out on the earth, that it seems to me they have forgotten which planet they were born on.” I asked her if she believed that understanding our natural environment can help us solve the questions of our own reality. “All I know,” she said, “is that children in cities are divorced from reality, and that they need to learn again, and that being out here, and feeling well, and learning to use their eyes and ears again will make them healthy!”

Ellen-Anne called me back to try to lasso my own calf. “A nice fat one please!” she asked with a hint of mockery. “But you haven¹t managed to lasso even one of your own calves,” I said to protect myself. “Never mind,” she shrugged, so I tried. “And you even managed a fat one!” she cried after my second attempt.

Scenes from the Round-up:

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2 Responses to “The winter corral”

  1. Elise Says:

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    Hello dear friends, we follow your path with great interest and envy.

    In case you will now get bombarded with more or less thought through questions this is why:

    I teach at Europaskolan Strängnäs (at least right now) and the students age 16-19 are finding out what you do. There will be questions possibly. Many of them choose the samiculture and climatechange, one girl is finding out about Mari Boyne. She liked the lyrics so much, but there might be questions about the dogs, your equipment and if you aren’t hiding a scooter somewhere afterall…

    My son Fabian’s teacher, Bengt Johansson, (MAriefredsskolan 7D, history, geography, english and swedish) is very interested in finding out more about you. I hope he will contact you while you are still out there (in my case American literature had to wait)

    TAke care and I wish you a great last part of the trip.

  2. Prish Hawkes Says:

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    I have been following your journey with such admiration. I haven’t left messeges as I don’t have anything terribly intelligent to say! I have passed the website address to Dan (our son) and to Justine (our granddaughter) who is extemely interested in climate change, and she is doing this in her science exam module. With very best wishes for the rest of your trip. Take care to you all.

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