B1. From Hunter to Farmer

From Hunter to Farmer

Chief Ottar relates in 890 that tame reindeer used as decoys when hunting wild reindeer were important for the Sami. During the Viking period (800- 1050 AD) and Middle Ages (1050-1550 AD) reindeer taming was developed to include large herds. At the same time, live stock and fishing were developed as primary resources, and this was followed by cultivation of the soil.

Øyvind Skaldespiller describes a famine in Hålogaland in the 10th c.:

It’s snowing

As Finns we have enclosed Animals with the budding birch In the middle of summer

The poem tells us that the Sami kept small livestock at this period.

A soil sample from one of the old Sami farms, now called Kjøpsvik Rectory, tells us that they kept sheep and goats from the 10th c. onwards. Tests show also that there was extensive farming at Kjøpsvik around 1350, with cultivation of both grass and barley. This is the same period as the Black Death left a number of Norse farms desolate.

In a manuscript from 1671, Samuel Rheen writes of the coastal Sami:

These laps live together with the Norwegians, and don’t use reindeer, except for a few. Their food consists mainly of oxen, cows, goats and sheep and a little cultivated ground. So the one that sow most will reap the best rewards