A couple of weeks ago Sáminuorra participated at Jokkmokk Winter Conference. I had the chance to give a youth message during the opening of the conference. Here is for you who were not there, or who want to see it again! 🙂 //Helena
My name is Helena Omma and I am the only daughter of Heigasa Pedar Biete Jussa and Bihca Andarisa Kerstin. I belong to Unna Cerus a neighboring cearru, or reindeer herding district, to one of the cearu’s that has its residence right here in Johkamohkki, namely Sirges. I grew up on the northern side of the great Stuor Julev, the river that flows by Johkamohkki. I am also the leader of Sáminuorra, a Sami youth organization. We use to conclude our organization’s task like this: Our main goal in Sáminuorra is to stand up for the rights and interests of Sami youth and also strengthen their identities by creating a feeling of belonging.
I learnt a new word this last Christmas. Hákta. Is there anyone here who knows what hákta is? It is a kind of something you have all around yourselves right now. If you would walk out the door you’ll see and feel it. I can tell you this much; it is snow. But can you tell me the difference between hákta and another kind of snow; ceavvi? Can you please tell me what hákta means for the reindeer and their grazing and for the humans trying to make their way through it? Can you tell me why it is hákta this year and not ceavvi? Not?
I couldn’t either, until this Christmas. I learnt it from my father. Now I know that hákta is good for the reindeer. It is cold, light snow that is easy to dig through. It is a bit worse for the reindeer herder, hákta means that the snowmobile or skis will sink through the snow, down to the bottom, or the ground. It makes it heavy to ski, it is almost like walking since you don’t float upon the snow surface with you skis. Ceavvi on the other hand means that it is easy to ski but bad grazing conditions for the reindeer. When the snow surface is so hard that it bears a reindeer it is ceavvi, and the reindeer have difficulties digging through that kind of snow, and find its way down to the lichen.
I am so thankful to my father, for teaching me this. And I am so grateful that he has the knowledge, about how to cope in this area. My father is older than the industrial revolution within reindeer husbandry. He has been skiing longer distances than Marcus Hellner has, every winter. He has probably walked around the world a few times in his lifetime. He knows the name of every hill on the north side of Stuor Julev. He sees the difference between a muzetcuoivvat rotnu and a muzet áldu. He knows that usually a cold Halloween means a thawing period in Christmas. If he is able to choose, he slaughters the reindeer when the moon is growing, because that means that he is able to get more blood out of the animal.
He, just like other reindeer herders of his generation would make it, if we took all the modern equipment from them and put them out on a mountain with nothing than a pair of skis and a knife. Would you make it? I wouldn’t. I would need a phone as well, to call my father and ask for advice. Who would you call for advice?
We are all links in a greater system. The knowledge that we have today is important to future development. But as important it is with science and technology to bring us forward we must remember that kind of knowledge that has developed during centuries, about the local areas, weather, climate, animals…
I want to make us all, aware of that we now are in a municipality in the core of traditional livelihoods. In the municipality of Johkamohkki there are 5 cearu, reindeer herding districts. There is a rich fishing culture on both sides of Juleveatnu. There are two Sami dialects, Julev and North Sami, where you can find much information about living conditions in these areas. I have the deepest respect to those people, living within these traditional livelihoods and the knowledge they have about how to do it.
When it comes to indigenous peoples’ knowledge about the nature Linda Tuhiwai Smith, maori woman and scientist, says that:
“I believe that our survival as peoples has come from our knowledge of our contexts, our environment, not from some active benefits of our Earth Mother. We had to know to survive. We had to work out ways of knowing, we had to predict, to learn and reflect, we had to preserve and protect, we had to defend and attack, we had to be mobile, we had to have social systems which enabled us to do these things. We still have to do these things.”
Since the main issue for Jokkmokk Winter conference this year is Pathways to Sustainable Northern Communities we are lucky to be in the middle of one. I think that in the future we should take advantage of this. By combining science with the knowledge of people living within traditional livelihoods I think we are able to make our way forward. This year, I cannot find a single reindeer herder or a fisherman in the programme, that is a bit regrettable, since to be able to continue their traditional lifestyles we need to know what they consider important. What I mean is that we cannot discuss how to achieve sustainable northern communities without actually involving the already existing sustainable northern communities. Or maybe we can, but why invent the wheel twice? Instead we should be learning from those who know. It is not a coincidence that the traditional lifestyles of the north are what they are. The livelihoods of these areas reflect the living conditions here.
I’ll give you something to think about. What should we, living in the northern communities and countries eat in the future, if we don’t have German beef or Japanese fish? And yet another question to think about, what should we live of when there’s no more iron in these mountains here? Should we empty these mountains, forests and rivers and pull the carpets for the other livelihoods, that are struggling to exist beside these big industries? Understanding the future and future challenges is in fact understanding the past.
That is why I hope that next year, in this great initiative, that Jokkmokk winterconference is, also see representatives for the actual traditional livelihoods that are represented in this area.
But for now, I want to say that I am really happy that we, Sami youth are able to participate. In Sáminuorra we appreciate the cooperation we have had with the organizers of this conference and we hope it will continue and get even better. I want to wish you all, luck with this conference.