Changing Work Patterns of the Skolt Sámi

Panu Itkonen


This article explores changing work patterns in the Skolt Sámi reindeer herding community of Sevettijärvi, northern Finland. As a result of the Second World War, Finland lost the original home territory of the Skolt Sámi to the Soviet Union. The Skolt Sámi of the old Suenjel village moved to the Sevettijärvi area in Finland. In this article I present major changes in three areas of this group’s work patterns: 1) combinations of livelihood; 2) forms of cooperation and reciprocity; 3) social constructions of work situations. The main causes of cultural change in the reindeer herding community have been the mechanisation of reindeer herding and the centralisation of reindeer ownership. In anthropological studies, traditional forms of behaviour have at times been seen as obstacles to economic development. My argument is different: traditional forms of culture – in this case forms of reciprocity – can increase possibilities for economic development. The research data shows that the centralisation of reindeer ownership has decreased the possibilities for economic development in additional forms of livelihood among Skolt Sámi reindeer herders. The number of herders has decreased and the entrepreneurial collaboration is arranged so that there is less and less traditional reciprocity between separate households.


Skolt Sámi; Sámi; reindeer herding; reciprocity; work; state

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ISSN (print) 1736-6518. ISSN (online) 2228-0987. JEF is a joint publication of the University of Tartu, the Estonian National Museum and the Estonian Literary Museum.