Reindeer-herding peoples inhabit a number of areas in the Northern Hemisphere, including Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Mongolia, China, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Scotland. Most of these peoples are indigenous and have long traditions as reindeer herders. The Association of World Reindeer Herders was founded recognizing the similarities in reindeer husbandry both as industry and as a cultural, environmental, and economical phenomenon.
The idea to form an association with this purpose surfaced in September 1993 during the Reindeer Peoples' Festival in Troms0, Norway, where reindeer peoples from all over the world convened for the first time. The festival participants appointed a working committee in order to establish a new organization. In 1997, representatives from Norway, Sweden, Finland and China met with representatives of 15 reindeer husbandry regions of the Russian Federation, in the town of Nadym in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, and agreed to establish the Association of World Reindeer Herders.
The Association is a nongovernmental organization representing about 95% of world reindeer peoples. The organization admits as members persons engaged in reindeer husbandry, their families, reindeer husbandry companies, units and organizations, such as national reindeer husbandry organizations. The collective nature of reindeer husbandry in many places complicates assessment of the total number of association members. However, the organization estimates its membership to be 45,000 and 60,000.
The purpose of the Association is to promote professional and commercial contact among reindeer peoples and to facilitate exchange of information about the reindeer industry. The organization collects information about reindeer husbandry in the different regions of the world, such as social and technical infrastructure (ranging from education and health to fences, slaughter, production lines, and transport), the production and the potential of the industry. Moreover, the organization provides a forum for the exchange of cultural information, such as local husbandry-related traditions, knowledge, language, and handicrafts. The Association of World Reindeer Herders also recognizes that reindeer herders across the world suffer from similar difficulties: loss of reindeer due to predators, loss of pastures, restrictions imposed by national borders upon transhumance, and contamination of the environment. The Association aims to offer through its network a unity that will strengthen the position of reindeer husbandry.
The Association publishes an international newsletter, The Reindeer Herder, in Norwegian, English, Russian, and Finnish, which deals with issues of husbandry, herding, and management of reindeer. The main office is located in Troms0, Norway. The organization also has a representative in Moscow. Johan Mathis Turi, a reindeer herder from Kautokeino, Norway, serves as the current president. Since 2000, the Association has had observer status at the Arctic Council.
See also Arctic Council; Caribou; Reindeer; Reindeer Pastoralism
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Ingold, Tim, Hunters, Pastoralists and Ranchers: Reindeer Economics and Their Transformation, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980 Krupnik, Igor, Arctic Adaptions: Native Whalers and Reindeer Herders of Northern Eurasia, translated and edited by Marcia Levenson, Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1993 Paine, Robert, Herds of the Tundra: A Portrait of Saami Reindeer Pastoralism, Smithsonian Series in Ethnographic Inquiry, Washington, District of Columbia: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994
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