Field Trip Findings - Kautokeino & Alta January 2014 The first day was a travel day. we flew to Alta and took the bus from Alta to Kautokeino.
Even though it was mostly dark we could observe the landscape quite well during the two hours bus ride to Kautokeino. The landscape was quite impressive: huge relatively flat areas with only a few hills in between (besides the few mountains close to Alta). Only one main road crossing through the land and there were almost no villages, side roads and other human made structures. A huge preserved natural environment for the reindeers to use was the primarily thing in the area.
We went to the Sami University College for a series of interesting lectures. The building is located on a hill overseeing the city. The outside doesn´t look typical Sami but the inside has many Sami details. The lectures were about Sami knowledge and names for terrain and features; City planning; Reindeer herding in Yamal (case study) and snow knowledge. The Kautokeino region is one of the largest reindeer herding regions in the world. The area is covered in snow for over 7 months per year and snow has therefore large impact on the herds. Changing snow conditions can cause danger and strong challenges and makes a clear understanding about these different conditions crucial. Especially now that climate change is causing conditions to be increasingly unpredictable.
Day 2 Kautokeino
On day three we went through the landscape on snow scooters in search of the reindeers and to see the landscape. With around 93.000 reindeers in the area no one could predict that we would not find them but unfortunately we didn´t find any.
Day 3 Snow scooter
We did however got a good impression about the immense space that the reindeer have as their winter pasture area. Distances are big both for reindeer and for the herders. We also saw their infrastructure, for reindeer in the form of fences to separate the herds and for the herders nd other people snow scooters tracks in the form of marked paths. ´Normal people‘ are bound to use these paths however Sami reindeer herders are free to use their scooters wherever they want. In the morning we went to Alta by bus to pick up the guides for our trip to the Alta Dam. On our way we saw many important points in the history of the dam, like point zero. Here was large demonstration of Sami and others against the construction of the Alta dam. They blocked the road at this point and had their final demostration. Eventually with a large police force the protests were beaten down and the dam was build and opened in 1987. All the protests did turn out to be effective since the original plan of the dam was changed saving the Sami village of Máze and causing less damage to the salmon and reindeer pastures. Also arguable is that as compensation for the dam the Sami were giving a parliament in Kasajok and the University College in Kautokeino.
The last day in Alta we went to the Alta Museum (rock carving museum). Here we were told a lot about ancient rock carvings that can be seen just outside Alta but which are now covered in snow. These carvings are unique, well conserved and between 7000 and 2000 years old. Besides the carvings we were told and shown a lot about the history of North Norway, its settlements and people. The picture on the right shows the churches in 1589, which explains that all settlements back then were located along the coast. Different groups have habituated the north: Sami, Norwegians, Swedish and Finnish. The Sami wanted their own land, however this was never given to them. The do however have some sort of self-governance now with the Sami parliament.
Ronald van Schaik - 17 January 2014 - Tromsø