Herding reindeer is part of a traditional way of life for an indigenous Arctic people known as the Sami. Their ancestral land – stretching across parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – is where many still live by the rhythms of centuries-old traditions.
In Sweden in particular, a mental health crisis is taking root among the Sami. It’s a complicated equation, but climate change is playing a role. I traveled to Arctic Scandinavia on a fellowship with the GroundTruth Project to report on this changing environment and the mental health landscape.
In a Land of Thundering Reindeer, Suicide Stalks the Indigenous Sami
Hundreds of reindeer gallop around the corral, their hooves and knees popping with the sound of a fire crackling. It’s late, but here in the land of the midnight sun, the sky is silvery and bright. A mist rolls over the Arctic tundra, framing the herders and their animals in ghostly silhouettes.
This is a community wrapped tight in tradition: The indigenous peoples of northern Scandinavia — the Sami — have herded reindeer for generations. But it is also a community in crisis. Climate change has put enormous strain on these powerful animals — and on the men and women who care for them.
Protecting Indigenous Tradition in the Arctic
“This is a spring and summer treat,” says Arvid Gaup, the father of a reindeer herder in this remote town in northern Norway. He sets a haunch of freeze-dried reindeer, known as goikebiergu, on the table and begins carving off slivers of jerky. Read more at the GroundTruth Project.
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