Thursday, December 28, 2006
Petrus Laestadius tells in his journals about the harsh years in 1828 to 1832 when all bad fortune gathered over Lapland. Most of all, there was hard crust on the snow (called tjocke, tjuocke, or, in Swedish, flen, by Laestadius), preventing reindeer from grazing. “It can be supposed that the Mountain-lapps' reindeer herds in Arjeplog, in this one year (1828), were diminished by at least one third. Rich Lapps became poor, and those who earlier had small reindeer-herds became unable to sustain as Nomads, so that many left for Norway and settled there.”
In the coming years, there were many wolves, preying on the reindeer and scattering them, and much lemmings consuming the alpine forage. There were also forest fires, and summer frost.
In 1832 there was another winter of tjuocke. “Of the Lapps, who actually are my people, the best part, the Forest‑lapps, have been almost totally ruined: their want is incomparable to that of any others. The reindeer-herds of the Mountain-lapps are at least halved: so hard times must have been rarely occurring.”
Tjuocke is actually a problem also in the present winter 2006/2007. In our county 50 000 reindeer may need to be transported by truck to the coast. Even if the effects will be less dramatic nowadays – no people will starve to death – the costs for supplemental feeding will be serious enough.
In the excellent book “Snö” by Yngve Ryd where the Lule Sámi vocabulary on snow is explored, the tjuohke phenomenon is analysed also. It is a crust of ice that entirely locks the lichen forage so grazing is impossible. It forms already in the autumn and does not melt until spring. It is the worst possible winter condition for the reindeer.