UPDATED, ADDITIONAL 3rd PARAGRAPH 20:25 10 July 2020 | Reindeer migrate mostly freely through the year. As they don’t have passports nor need to, for a long time Swedish and Norwegian reindeer caretakers were allowed to follow the herds. But it now leads to conflict, and the Norwegians are not happy with what the strongest critics call a Swedish occupation.

It all comes down to an old treaty. In 1751 Norway and Sweden signed an agreement, changed in 1650 and then again 1972 with Swedish reindeer caretakers no longer allowed to set up their own infrastructure inside Norway when following the herds. But in 2005 the deal ended. The Norwegians say the latest deal still stands until a new agreement can be worked out. The Swedes say the old one of 1751 is again in effect, and have started to build permanent structures again in Norway, to collect the reindeer cattle for owner marking and have moved along with 16,000 “Swedish” reindeer into the Northern Norwegian territory of Indre Troms.

The historical background is the split of the union between Norway and Sweden centuries ago. The Sami – the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia – are traditionally the ones that take care of the Sami herds and they have been supressed by both the Norwegian and Swedish governments ever since. Some say the current Norwegian drive against the reindeer caretakers is just another attempt by conservatives to keep the Sami – who do not have their own state – away and deny them their way of living.

But a gentlemen’s between all parties says that the Norwegians use the areas in the winter, while the Swedish use them in the Summer. But as the Norwegians notice, the Swedes don’t pull back on their side of the border. So 15 years into the limbo status, the question is now high up on the agenda again. The herded reindeer live free but are cattle like cows, and the business is tough, economic gains – not territorial – are the driving force behind the current conflict. | © 2020 Marcel Burger / nordicreporter.com (text and photo)

Title photo: Reindeer cattle wandering freely near the Norwegian border in Sweden