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The Country of Sami, Min EallinThe Country of Sami, Min Eallin

Laponie, North of Sweden, near Kiruna

2007, by Britt Marie Labba, Niklas Labba

All the versions of this article:


Text and Photos : Sylvie Blangy and Jean-Louis Martin

Per Nils and Britt Marie Päiviö live in northern Sweden, in Lapland, the Sami territory. Their village, Övre Soppero, is the only place in Sweden where more than 90% of the population is involved with reindeer herding.

The lives of Per Nils and Britt Marie were once consumed in herding reindeer, however heavy freezing rainfalls at the beginning of the fall destroyed the lichen in the area which led to a decrease in the size of reindeer herds in the last decade. Per Nils and Britt Marie have therefore introduced tourism into their village for visitors to discover and appreciate their culture.

The couples first attempt of bringing visitors to their town consisted of reconstructing a Lappish hut, or köta, a round home made of birch wood, covered with peat moss or grass. The hut is equipped with a stove, beds, and a central table, accommodating a family of up to six. Around the hut there is over 100 kilometres of trail to wander by skis or by foot, traveling through forest, peat bogs, and tundra. The meals are made èwith locally produced food, therefore including reindeer meat that has _ been dried or smoked, accompanied with an arctic berry jelly and lapish bread. After reconstructing the köta, Britt-Marie and Per Nils then reconverted a historic farm into a lapish museum (clothing, utensils, tents, etc.). Per Nils loves to speak about the work of reindeer herder or organizing salmon fishing. Depending on the season, he will show guests how to capture reindeer by lasso, how to brand the young reindeer, how to cut up the meat, how to smoke the meat in the köta, and how to dry it in the attic.

Britt Marie teaches guests how to bake traditional bread, she shows local artisan creations, such as belts and belt buckles, made from the leather and antlers from reindeer. The couple has also started to have hikes along the reindeer’s migration path in the Sami land. The starting point is situated at the summer camp of Gaiccacaccá, where every year in mid-July the Sami people mark the young reindeer. The winter camp Järamä, situated 50 kilometres from Övre Soppero, is the time of the excursions. Gaiccacaccá is situated 900 metres in altitude, bordering the National Norwegian Park of Övre Dividal. This excursion travels along one of the vastest European region that consists of no roads, over 100 kilometres from the Finmark Norwegian arctic tundra to the birch boreal forest, to the heart of Swedish Laponia. The region is entirely recognized as the migration zone for the reindeer to travel around the pole in Fennoscandia. The wealth of biodiversity linked with the opening of natural areas known by reindeer, is one of the most exciting aspects of the discovery.

Our Sami hosts teach us how to read through the landscape the historic camps, while observing a few herds of reindeer, and with luck, to observe the reindeer’s immense cousin, the elk. At the heart of the territory we can observe the brown bear and the wolverine, these animals are savage and not easy to observe directly. We can then search the company of prestigious birds of the Great North like the whooping swan, the grouse and the snowy owl, as well as birds with a golden plumage like the golden eagle and the eurasian dotterel. At the beginning of the summer, numerous flowers appear and near the end of the season we can taste cloud, blue and huckleberries. We bake our bread over an open fire as done traditionally by the Sami while eating arctic Char from the lakes of the Norwegian altitude, including trout and salmon. The group may also, at the beginning of July, have the opportunity to assist in marking the reindeer guided and gathered at the coral.

Location:
Northern Sweden, 130 km North-East of Kiruna, the capital of Swedish Liponia near the Finnish border. We arrive by airplane or train to Kiruna from Stockholm.

Contact
Per Nils Päiviö et Britt Marie Labba
Min Eallin Box 115
S-980 14 Övre Soppero
Tel.: 46 (0) 981-300 58
Mobile : 070-3625566, 070-5977765
E-Mail : info@mineallin.com
Internet : www.mineallin.com/

To reserve an organized tour, please contact
Saïga en France
4 rue Fleuriau BP 1291 17086 La Rochelle cedex 2 –
Tel. : 33 5 46 41 34 42 Fax : 33 5 46 41 34 92-
E-mail : mainate@saiga-voyage-nature.fr
Website : www.saiga-voyage-nature.fr

PolarQuest in Sweden
P.O. Box 180
SE-401 23 Göteborg
Tél. :+46 31 333 17 30, Fax : +46 31 333 17 31
Courriel :info@polar-quest.com
Internet : www.polar-quest.com

Cultural Information
The future of traditional reindeer migrations depends on the renewal of the treaty between Norway and Sweden. Some revision of the convention depends equally on the future of the Sami people, of which the culture is linked to the herding of reindeer and of their traditional migration routes. In proposing this excursion, Per Nils and Britt Marie hope to attract international attention on the legitimate claims of the Sami. They are the pioneers of this diversification attempt. They have for the moment proven a great deal of ingeniousness and of prudence in opening their community and way of life to tourists. The programs they propose, in exclusivity with France, are certified “Tourism Quality”: recognition of their knowledge of the herding that has evolved with the reindeer over time, as well as limiting the impact on the natural resources and the landscape. The spoken languages are Sami, Swedish, and Finnish. This tourist activity dates back to 1995. Per Nils and Britt Marie are the only people in the village who provide this service. Local artisans sell their art. The commercial partner in this tour is with the Ice Hotel in Kiruna, and with the tour operators in France, Sweden, from Polarquest and Saïga. This tour is certified by Nature’s Best by Polarquest.

Recommended Tour:
Title: Sami Territory, Sami culture and the Reindeer migration routes, please consult the website: www.saiga-voyage-nature.fr
Duration: 12 days
Type of Activity: Hikes with a light backpack.
Departure Date: July 10th to the 21st of July, July 24th to the 4th of August, August 7th to the 18th of August.
Season: Summer
Price: 2,290 € per person, for a group of 8
Includes: A nature guide of Saïga, housing, breakfast for each morning visiting (traditional cuisine), all transportation during the 12 visit once arrived at Kiruna, all activities, visits and entrances fees, all taxes and services, medical/repatriation assurance (for visitors security).
Excludes: Cost of personal documents, sleeping gear, drinks, personal expenses.
Housing: In lavvu (traditional Laponian tent), wood cabin for winter surveillance, in a köta, or in a restored farm.
Size of the group: Maximum 12
Required conditions: Good experience in hiking.

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