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Like other mobile pastoralists, Sámi reindeer herders possess the knowledge, skills and practical organization of an animal husbandry that manages lifestyle and production under harsh and unpredictable natural conditions.
In response to a request from the Sámi Reindeer Herder Association in Norway, we conducted a study of working and living conditions that might affect the health of the reindeer-herding population. Attempts were made to dampen the historical reluctance of the Sámis toward research by using ethical guidelines for research among indigenous people, along with the principles of participatory research. Integration of the reindeer-herding perspective and body of knowledge into the research process became a significant contribution to the researchers’ lack of knowledge about the challenges, needs and problems in Sámi reindeer husbandry.
The results show that reindeer husbandry offers the community members engaging and satisfying work in a learning environment. At the same time, the exposure to bodily stresses and problem-creating external demands are high, and there are limited opportunities to recover from illness and exhaustion. There is reason to believe that those stressors threaten the reindeer herders’ limits of resilience, their health and sustainable living.
Society’s requirements for reindeer herding life and production system to adapt to regulations suitable to the majority resident population, may represent a persistent stressor to the culturally divergent coping strategies which enable mobile pastoralism.
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