National Geographic : 1939 Nov
THE NOMADS OF ARCTIC LAPLAND Mysterious Little People of a Land of the Midnight Sun Live Off the Country Above the Arctic Circle BY CLYDE FISHER AMONG the far mountains and rivers of northern Scandinavia, above the Arctic Circle, wanders a mys terious race of people known as the Lapps. Where they came from or who their an cestors were, are matters of debate. Small in stature but of surprising courage and endurance, most of these sturdy little people are ever on the move. Through whirling snows of the Arctic, up steep moun tain passes, through icy rivers, year after year they follow the migrations of their rein deer, upon which they depend for their livelihood. REINDEER RULE IN LAPLAND Here we find the usual order of things reversed, man's life being ruled by an ani mal's needs. The reindeer is the basis of Lappish life. Since verdure in even the best pasturage fields is scanty, the reindeer do not stay long in one place; therefore, few Lapps have a fixed abode and they build no towns. To see how these people, living as their ancestors have lived from time im memorial, meet the problems of life in the inhospitable Arctic is a fascinating adven ture. All the Lapps may be divided into three groups: the poorer sedentary Lapps, who make a living chiefly by fishing; the moun tain Lapps, who carry on reindeer culture; and the forest Lapps, who live in the forest district and have settled down to a large extent with their reindeer herds (page 656). There are numerous tribes, which can be distinguished by the shape and color of their caps. Within the same tribe the men's caps are usually different from the women's. On a late spring day Carveth Wells and I found ourselves on a long, narrow lake well above the Arctic Circle. A pile of miscellaneous baggage lay in the bottom of the little old Finnish boat-cameras and films, food, and gifts for the Lapps. We had come to Arctic Lapland on a pho tographic expedition for the American Mu seum of Natural History, to make still and motion pictures of the everyday life of the Lapps, so different from our own; to carry back to our civilization a glimpse of the courage and grit of a people carrying on in the face of tremendous odds (Plates I-VIII). With us as guide and interpreter we were fortunate in having Dr. Erik Bergstrom,* inspector of the nomad schools of Swedish Lapland, who passed eight months of every year in this Arctic country. His integrity of character and sympathetic interest in the Lapps had won for him the confidence of these mysterious people. Across the spring heath, bright with the shining yellow of butterballs and the waxy white of dwarf dogwood, rose low, snow covered mountains, pink in the morning sun. It was a brilliant and unforgettable scene. Close at hand was a sight that interested me even more. On the shore of Lake Kartjejaure squatted a small, conical, blackish Lapp tent, or kdta (pronounced "kawta"; cf. cottage, cote)-the first Lapp dwelling we had seen, and the only habita tion for miles (map, page 645). Blue smoke curled invitingly from the wide smoke hole. DON'T KNOCK, THE DOGS WILL AN NOUNCE YOU! "I should like to call on this family and make some pictures," I told Dr. Berg strom. "Certainly, if you wish," he replied. "You won't even need to knock, for the dogs will announce you. In fact, it is not customary in Lapland to knock at the door." Suddenly I felt diffident at the thought of intruding upon these strange people, un invited and unannounced. To be sure, I had come more than 5,000 miles over land and sea to become acquainted with them and to study their customs, but how did I know that I would be welcome? How ought I to behave when once inside the kata? As if he guessed my thoughts, Dr. Berg strom went on: "You will find the Lapps * Doctor Bergstrom gave his life in the service of the Lapps. Some time after this account was writ ten he was caught overnight in a blizzard while on a journey to the schools. He died of an illness caused by the exposure.