The Sami People — Keepers of the Reindeer

Reindeer herding is not a job for many Sami — an indigenous people of fewer than 140,000 who inhabit mostly the northern reaches of Sweden, Norway, and Finland — it's a way of life. The Sami of Norway have fought many battles with the government to preserve their culture and way of life. Today, the Sami of Norway number about 55,000, with 10% directly involved in reindeer herding. The reindeer population in Norway is estimated at 220,000, and herders earn a living by selling reindeer for meat, as well as for their hides. The battle between the Sami and the government is over laws limiting the size of reindeer herds. Many Sami reindeer herders see the quotas imposed by the government as an effort to limit their livelihood so it can use the land for industrial projects. The regulations limiting herd sizes were passed in 2007, forcing Sami to eliminate 30% of their reindeer at the time. Limits have been devastating, leaving many people only able to make $4,500 to $6,000 a year. The law also states that any herders who are no longer profitable can lose their license. Today, the battle continues, with no real resolution in sight.