National Geographic

← Back to ‘Our Souls Touch': The Swimming Reindeer of the Sámi.

Sámi reindeer herders

Jason Roberts

The herd needs to swim across Kågsundet fjord to reach the mainland. Before the swim begins, the herd is corralled in order to unite calves with their mothers.

The Sámi were traditionally nomadic or semi-nomadic; their ways of life closely tied to reindeer-herding, hunting, trapping and fishing. Like many indigenous peoples, reindeer-herding Sámi have recently lost large tracts of pastureland as a result of dams, mining, tourism and other ‘development’ schemes.

Today, only a minority still herd reindeer seasonally. ‘Many Sámi herders now use snow mobiles and boats to support their herding, says Sophie Grig, Senior Campaigner at Survival International. ‘Yet their lands and reindeer remain central to their identity.’