Reindeer Herding Cooperatives

The Reindeer husbandry area is divided into 54 different cooperatives. Reindeer herding cooperatives vary in the size of their total area and number of reindeer. Every cooperative is responsible for the reindeer herding in its area. Cooperative is a community formed by the reindeer herders and every herder can belong to one cooperative.

Reindeer Husbandry Act (848/1990 in Finnish) regulates the operations and organisation of the cooperatives. A cooperative is headed by a Chief of District chosen by a general meeting of the cooperative. In addition, the general meeting chooses a Vice-chief of District and a four-member board.

The Chiefs of Districts are always available for people visiting or living in the reindeer husbandry area having questions related to reindeer herding.

Contacts for Chiefs of Districts

Reindeer Herding Cooperatives in the Mapbox map (open to a new browser tab). The official descriptions of the cooperatives’ borders can be found from the Regional State Administrative Agency of Northern Finland (AVI in Finnish) website.

Reindeer herding cooperatives in Finland. Image: Reindeer Herders' Association.

The Formulation of Reindeer Herding Cooperatives

The organisation of reindeer herding started in the 18th century in Finland. The need grew from the development of the profession, from other internal needs of reindeer herding, and from the relations between herders and farmers. Herders and the reindeer they owned were required to be marked into lists. These lists were given to the community meeting. The word paliskunta (reindeer herding cooperative) was first used in Kuusamo in 1828-69 (Kortesalmi 2008).

The word paliskunta and the original work palkinen come from the Sámi word palgat, in Finnish palkia. It means the restless movement of a reindeer. The reindeer move in the same areas from year to year, so the name refers both to the cooperative area and to the pasture area that is part of their natural grazing cycle (Helle 1982).

The formulation of the cooperatives was influenced by the first argument reindeer herding and forestry had.

The government encouraged herders to create reindeer herding cooperatives in the late 1800s. This was due to the constant growth of forestry and farming. Herding also became more professional, involving money. The Finnish senate ordered the reindeer herding cooperatives to be founded in 1898. The relation between reindeer herding and state land was defined by the senate in 1916.

The predecessor of the Reindeer Herders’ Association was Suomen Poronjalostusyhdistys which was founded in 1926. The founders were Matti Oskari Lahtela, Kaarlo J. Holster, Heino Alapulli and Kaarlo Hiltula.  The key task of the early association was to enhance the cooperation between the local associations. The first Reindeer Husbandry Act came in force in 1932. This was mainly due to the persistence of the director Alaruikka.  The Act was reviewed in 1948 and 1968. The current Reindeer Husbandry Act is from 1990. The Reindeer Herders’ Association was founded in 1948 and at the same time, the separate associations in different municipalities were terminated.