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Changing with the Land
Skolt Sami | Finland
© Gleb Raygorodetsky
© Gleb Raygorodetsky

Changing with the Land

Skolt Sami | Finland

Tomorrow is a new day – other animals… Tomorrow, it too will have another language. New migration routes for tomorrow’s reindeer. The stones will have different traditions. An alien time within time…
Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, Sámi poet, Finland

Skolt’s Predicament

As the unfamiliar winds of climate change blow across the Arctic, the Skolt Sami reindeer herders and fishermen of Finland, already pushed to the brink of extinction during WWII, seek ways to adapt to new challenges. How well the Skolt Sami manage to maintain a close relationship with the land and water, forest and tundra, as the climate changes, will determine whether their way of life can endure. For the Skolts, it means changing with the land by not just keeping healthy reindeer herds, but also finding ways to help Atlantic salmon spawn in the Näätämö River for years to come.

Skolt’s Climate Change Adaptation Response

Co-management and Knowledge co-creation are the key ideas framing Skolt’s responses to climate change.

Co-management is an approach to governing and managing the land and its resources that includes local people and the government as equal partners. The Skolts demand recognition of their inherent rights to steward their traditional territory. They are developing a co-management regime for their traditional salmon fishery on the Näätämö River, as their climate change adaptation strategy. Acknowledging that they can do little about the fate of the salmon as it leaves the Näätämö River watershed to spend part of its lifecycle in the Barents Sea, the Skolt Sami are determined to do everything possible for salmon as it returns to the Näätämö River. To increase the salmon’s chances of survival, the Skolts are restoring old spawning sites and conducting controlled catches of predator fish, such as pike and burbot. The Skolts are certain that having a say in how the river’s salmon stocks are managed is essential if their traditional fishery is to flourish and prevail in the face of climate change.

Knowledge co-creation is about bringing together the best available knowledge—traditional knowledge rooted in millennia of meticulous observations of the environment, and scientific methodologies that capture larger-scale interactions. Such synergy helps the Skolts remain resilient in the face of environmental and climatic changes. Traditional knowledge enables the Skolt Sami to directly monitor and respond to the changes on their land with greater expediency and efficiency than current government programs allow. Through respectful collaboration with researchers, the Skolts also seek scientific support for their work on environmental variables outside of their traditional expertise, such as the changes in the salmon’s lifecycle in the open sea.


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