Reindeer Herding


Lapland is that area of land stretching across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and part of the Soviet Union. Lapps are citizens of the country in which they live most of the time, but they are a different race of people than the Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, or Russians.

Children in Lapland enjoy pretending they are playing reindeer herding with their friends. They run and jump about with old reindeer antlers in their hands. One child is the herder and throws his lasso, trying to catch a reindeer.

When a baby boy is born, he is given one or two reindeer as a gift; when he cuts his first tooth he receives another; and again on each birthday he may receive other reindeer. So by the time a boy is grown, he may have many reindeer.

All the reindeer in one village are kept with a large herd. Each reindeer has an initial in its ear so that people can tell to whom it belongs. Reindeer look alike to most people, but owners can tell exactly which ones are theirs by looking at them.

When a family goes to inspect the herd, there are many things to do in preparation for the trip. Food to last them for several days must be packed; also a tent, fur robes, and blankets. Everything is then loaded onto pulkas (small wooden sleighs). The children dress for the journey in warm brightly colored coats made from long-haired reindeer fur and leggings made from short-haired reindeer fur. Their coats and woolen hats are trimmed with brightly colored braid that the girls help their mothers weave. Their feet are covered with skallers (moccasins) that are filled with dried marsh grass to keep their feet warm.

The children take turns riding in the pulka, holding the reins so the reindeer will not run away. Some children take their skis to ski along behind the pulka by holding onto a rope. They travel for several days over the wide barren plains toward the taiga (forest). They finally reach the great herd of reindeer that graze on mosses and lichens on the plains.

Reindeer are valuable to Laplanders. They use the hides to make blankets, tents, moccasins, clothes, and harnesses. Thread and rope are made from the sinews and tendons. Bones and antlers are carved into knives and tools. Reindeer stew is a favorite food to eat with reindeer milk and cheese.

[illustration] Illustrated by Richard Hull