A YEAR IN LAPLAND by Hugh Beach

A YEAR IN LAPLAND

Guest of the Reindeer Herders
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 In a lighthearted homage to a threatened way of life, an American anthropologist recalls his first year among the Saami reindeer herders of Lapland. Beach (Cultural Anthropology/Uppsala University, Sweden) was 15 when his Swedish grandmother first took him to a Saami summer calf-marking, in which reindeer herders notch the ears of their herds' newest additions before releasing them for grazing. The incident marked Beach as well: After studying anthropology at Harvard, he raced back to Sweden in 1973 to sign up as a reindeer hand with the Tuorpon herders of Jokkmokk, north of the Arctic Circle. Teased, humored, and painstakingly educated by his polite and often mischievous hosts, the author joined a herder family at their summer settlement, where he listened to tales of evil trolls and ghost reindeer herds; partook in fortune-telling sessions; and learned to fish Saami-style and to share his cognac afterward. Moving on to Staloluokta, Beach was lent an empty goattieh (a dome- shaped, turf-covered dwelling) and allowed to help with the gathering and marking of the reindeer. In August, he journeyed to Parka to help separate the herds before mating season. But the most difficult and dramatic season was winter, when the herders ventured on skis through blinding blizzards, first to hunt moose, then to guide their herds back toward summer grazing. Beach gratefully suffered frostbite, snow blindness, and freezing nights for the chance to live the Saami life. Having returned often since, he has witnessed the bureaucratic restrictions, misguided conservation efforts, and wind-borne radiation from Chernobyl that continue to affect the herders, but he remains convinced that the Saami sense of identity continues intact, and he reminds readers that to remain static is also to die. An enthusiastic report by a man in love with his subject, best read on a cold winter's night. (Twelve color, 43 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: May 27th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56098-230-6
Page count: 280pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993




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