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Reindeer Herders in Finland: Pulled to Community-based Entrepreneurship & Pushed to Individualistic Firms'

Leo Dana and Jan Age Riseth ()

ERSA conference papers from European Regional Science Association

Abstract: Content analysis of interviews conducted with reindeer herders - referred to as reindeer husbandry entrepreneurs, by the Reindeer Herders' Association - from two ethnic communities in Finland reveals that participants who identified themselves as ethnic Finns viewed their self-employment as an individualistic form of entrepreneurship and they focused their discussion on matters related to financial capital and profit. In contrast, Sámi respondents claimed that the causal variable behind their herding was maintenance of a cultural tradition and not necessarily limited to the maximisation of financial profits. Sámi respondents spoke much about their cooperative siida and the social capital it involved; and about reindeer herding skills that are acquired on the job, i.e., human capital; and also about aptitudes, beliefs, customs, habits, interests, lifestyle and round-up traditions, reflecting the fact that considerable cultural capital is passed from adults to children in the course of primary socialisation. A consequence of family participation in various aspects of community-based reindeer herding is that Sámi children learn the occupation from a young age. Technological change has transformed the sector such that the snowmobile and the helicopter facilitate herding; however, the community-based essence of Sámi reindeer herding remains. A frequent finding was that Sámi respondents - especially women - were often "pushed" into non-traditional forms of individualistic entrepreneurship, in order to supplement their otherwise inadequate income derived from community-based reindeer herding. Lower meat prices prompted greater involvement in individualistic entrepreneurship outside the reindeer sector.

Date: 2011-09
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