Report from Lena Susanne Gaup, Master Programme in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø
Financial support to the project:
“Sami Reindeer Husbandry on Greenland. The Transmission of Traditional Knowledge from Sami Reindeer Herders to Greenlandic Apprentices”
The Centre for Sami Studies kindly supported my main fieldwork for my master thesis from August to September 2004 in Greenland, with the travel grant funding for Sami students. During these two months I conducted fieldwork in the Nuuk area in Greenland and also in Southern part of Greenland. Additionally I also received 5500 NOK from the strategy funds 2006, for conducting a second fieldwork in Greenland March 2006.
The background of this project is the history of the Sami reindeer husbandry on Greenland. The reindeer husbandry was introduced to Greenland in 1952, when 300 reindeer was transported from Finnmark to the Nuuk area on Greenland. Sami reindeer herders were employed by the Danish Government to herd the reindeer and to train Greenlandic Inuit to work as reindeer herders. This state project was eventually going to become privatized, and Greenlandic Inuit take over the industry. Currently there are only 2 persons working with reindeer husbandry on Greenland. My objective is to write about the history of the Sami reindeer husbandry on Greenland, and investigate why the industry ended.
My research questions are: How did Sámi reindeer husbandry function in the Greenlandic context, in terms of both the cross-cultural and natural environments? How was the transmission of traditional knowledge from Sámi reindeer herders to Greenlandic apprentices carried out, and was this transmission successful? Why did the reindeer husbandry not follow the Greenlandic authorities’ intentions and become an important industry for Greenland?
There is not much written academically about this subject before, and this was also my motivation for choosing this topic. This is also why it was necessary to conduct an extensive research and fieldwork about this subject for my master thesis.
I conducted my fieldwork and data collection in two parts, both in Sápmi and on Greenland. In Greenland I did literature studies at the National library of Greenland, as well as archive studies at the national Greenlandic archive. A very important aspect of my fieldwork was qualitative interviews with persons engaged in the Sami reindeer husbandry in Greenland, both Sami herders and teachers and Greenlandic Inuit. I did observation of the reindeer husbandry area in the Nuuk fjord, and also participant observation at the only current reindeer herd left in Greenland, in the Southern part of Qaqortoq and Narsaq area.
Due to the extreme weather conditions and huge amounts of ice in the fjord that sometimes occur on Greenland, I was prevented during my first fieldwork trip to sail into the Nuuk fjord and conduct some very important interviews with Greenlandic apprentices, as well as visiting the abandoned Reindeer station at Itinnera. This is why I decided to apply for stategy funds 2006, for returning to Greenland and conduct a second fieldwork and data collection on Greenland in March 2006.
The funding I have used to cover the extremely high travel expenses to Greenland, as well as other expenses during my fieldwork trips.
This remaining data collection at my second trip to Greenland was crucial for the research of my master thesis, and I am very grateful for the support from the Centre of Sami Studies for granting my strategy funds in 2006. Without this support, I would not have been able to go back to Greenland and complete my research.
I am also very grateful and want to use this opportunity to thank the Centre for Sami Studies for the travel grant funding for Sami students from 2004, for my first and main fieldwork trip to Greenland. This was what in the first place enabled me to work with this project and do this research within this topic I very much wanted to write my master thesis about. Hopefully my master thesis will also make a contribution to the Sami and indigenous research.