Skolt Sami Nation
Province of Lapland, Finland
Project Title: Skolt Sámi Survival In the Middle of Rapid Changes
Participating Indigenous Peoples/Nation: Skolt Sámi Nation, Village of Sevettijärvi, Province of Lapland, Finland.
Proponent Organisation: The Snowchange Cooperative
Cooperating Organizations: The Snowchange Cooperative in cooperation with the Sami Nu’ett Skolt Sámi Central Organisation and other local Skolt Sámi Organisations
Overall Project Objective
To provide adaptation and survival mechanisms for the Sevettijärvi Skolt Sámi community in the middle of rapid weather, climate, social and cultural change by employing documentation of oral histories, land use and occupancy mapping, alternative reindeer herding solutions as well as pilot tools such as possible establishment of reindeer nomadic schools and solar electrification of the wilderness cabins and indigenous use areas of the Skolt Sámi.
Brief Description of Project:
Adaptation and survival mechanisms for the Sevettijärvi Skolt Sámi community in the middle of rapid weather, climate, social and cultural change by employing documentation of oral histories, land use and occupancy mapping, alternative reindeer herding solutions as well as pilot tools such as possible establishment of reindeer nomadic schools and solar electrification of the wilderness cabins and indigenous use areas of the Skolt Sámi.
Local ecosystem, resource management and livelihoods practices:
Sevettijärvi is a Sámi reindeer herding village. The nomadic cycles of herding are no longer practiced, but herding survives, and is a source of culture, identity, language and economy. The practice links each family to the surrounding ecosystem, as the winter, spring, summer and autumn activities and pastures of the reindeer are located in the surrounding wilderness areas of Vätsäri. An equally important link between Skolts and the surrounding waters is subsistence fishing. Each family harvests pike, whitefish, trout, arctic char and Atlantic salmon. The Näätämö River is considered to be one of the last surviving healthy spawning rivers of the Atlantic salmon in the Fennoscandian North. Subsistence fishing also takes place in the lakes surrounding the village all year long, and during winter nets are used under the ice. The surviving reindeer herding and subsistence fishing which take place on the land are the most significant aboriginal livelihood practices which survive. Anthropologists and other academic specialists have a strong consensus that the Skolt Sámi herding and fishing are to be considered most traditional of all the Sámi groups in the European North. This guarantees survival of unique knowledge of the land, weather and traditions.
Climatic conditions/trends in the assessment site
Sevettijärvi is located appr. 68 degrees North. It is in the subarctic taiga forest zone with fjell areas that could be classified as proper tundra ecosystems. Winters are harsh with polar darkness from end of November to mid-January and summers short with 24 hour daylight. Average temperatures in January can be -25 – 30 degrees below C and in the summer in July temperatures are often 15-20 degrees plus C. The impact of the Gulf Stream is significant and causes milder winter conditions for the Fennoscandian North compared to other Arctic sites of similar latitude (Siberia, Alaska). However, the site is still considered to be subarctic in character.
Potential climate change impacts on the ecosystem and communities:
As reported in Chapter 3 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, the Sámi have observed severe changes in their home areas. Sámi experiences include impacts to reindeer herding from ice rain that freezes the ground in autumn preventing reindeer from accessing the lichen on their own. This has, in addition to direct reindeer death, other linked impacts to society – unsafe economic and social conditions, increased costs of feeding and fuel in reindeer herding, unpredictability of snow and weather conditions. Winters are warmer in Sevettijärvi, and snowfall has shifted to spring. There are changes to mosquito populations, as the dry summers have caused collapse in the populations. Insects do no act as helpers in the summer collection of reindeers. In addition to impacts of livelihoods there are several site-specific weather and ecological impacts from the new, unstable conditions, such as lack of proper freezing of water ways melting earlier in the spring and so forth. The observed changes are in line with what the climatological studies indicate as changes in the Arctic region. The recent winters of 2007 to 2009 indicate spiraling and increasing impacts to the reindeer herding and instability of winter weather conditions. Many herders say that the traditional calendar is off-balance and the markers cannot be read so easily.