Living with reindeer
My name is Jenni Kaaretkoski and I'm a reindeer herder and a mother of two children. I live in the reindeer herding district of Sattasniemi in Sodankylä. I'm an eighth-generation reindeer herder, one of the original herders in this area. My family lives in a small village called Kersilö in the municipality of Sodankylä. Already as a young girl I knew that I wanted to become a reindeer herder - the kind of a reindeer herding woman that would even beat the men! Living with reindeer is unique, and in these swamplands and deep forests no single day is alike. Emotions run high at times, and nothing is ever certain. There are no nine-to-five schedules in this work, what matters most is that the work gets done.
The roots of my family lie deep in the riverbanks of Kersilö, close to the Pomokaira wilderness. Our family history can be traced back to the early 17th century, but just like my father always says - our origin lies in the pinewood logs. Reindeer herding has been an integral part of our family life as long as reindeer herding has been practiced in this area, for over 300 years. Reindeer herding has its roots in deer hunting culture.
The forest Sami culture still lives strong in my family. Reindeer herding, handicrafts, and gathering culture have been passed down from generation to generation, providing us with the skills required to live in this land. Our life is still based on gathering culture - hunting, fishing, gathering berries, and harvesting hay. Winters are long and cold, with lots of snow, so self-sustainability is extremely important for us. The year of the reindeer starts in the beginning of June when reindeer calves are born. This marks the start of the new reindeer herding year which is regulated by natural conditions.
The name "JK TOKKA" comes from our family members names. "JK" (my brothers, my father, and I all have a first name starting with letter J and K is the first letter of our last name) and "tokka" means a large herd of reindeer
Near Christmas time, when the reindeer roundups are over, we gather our reindeer close to where we live so that we can feed them during the winter time when the snow is thick.
Our reindeer graze freely in the forests and swamplands where they can dig out food and live a healthy, natural life.
Reindeer herder's life is full of great moments. When sitting at an open fire next to a swamp, surrounded by reindeer, I've started to think that I would like to share these beautiful moments with other people - midwinter frost, beautiful colours of polar nights, northern lights, and shimmering spring snow. The reindeer are curious about human visitors and they often come and lie down close to the fire and people.
Would you like to join us?