The Last of the Reindeer Herders: View Online 30Oct09

The Last of the Reindeer Herders aired on Witness, Al Jazeera on 29 & 30th Oct 2009. Duration 21mins. View online below:



15 Responses to “The Last of the Reindeer Herders: View Online”

  1. Tan Says:

    Hi, Olly
    Thank you for posting the films. I don’t know why it anger me to see this. Maybe, it because of how certain group of people think it’s ok. for some other minority to give up they identity and their ways of life for the common good of majority and called it “Human Revolution.” What happen to so called culture value, and traditional that we should try to preserve as we learned in school? I guess when you lost your identity you lost hope at the same time, that would explain high suicide rate. I hope they win their case next time around. Thank you Olly for doing the film in those cold weather, I want you to know it worth it :) It definitely educated me of what happens in the world and that history stills repeat itself because we refuses to learn from it. Take care of yourself, I hope you don’t mind if I will write more later. Thanks again, Tan

  2. Tan Says:

    Hi, Olly
    Back with lot of questions to ask you. I wasn’t sure if you know about the reindeer herder in Mongolia are in the same situation with the Sami or not. I think I saw the film once about it and it seems to have almost the same problem as the Sami, that the government want them to settle down. So, I check it out and found out that the one in Mongolia called ” Tsachin or Dukha” is in real danger of loosing their culture with only less than 100 reindeers left and these reindeer are dying because of disease. I know that the Tsachin used reindeer as they staple diet but I don’t know if the Sami eat reindeer meat and drink it milk too or not, and if they does, did you try some of the meat & milk? I still mad about the word “Human Evolution” ( sorry, about the miss spell before) and the part that they don’t need 250,000 reindeers to keep their culture alive. So, what’s they mean as I understood, if it only 100 reindeers left then it is ok to try to safe the specie and the Sami culture, would it will be too late by than? Olly, when will they get the chance to take their case to European Court? I know this may sound stupid but if the other country sign up for the sanction in the U.N could that sanction somehow cover the Sami people too, even though Sweden refuse to sign up. I saw in the film that the land owner complained about the reindeer can use their antlers to damage the tree and kill it. If if was so true like he claims to be, than he should have no tree left to own on his land, since the reindeers probably had been rub their antlers on every trees we saw in the films, and by this time with 250,000 reindeers there should be no tree left in the forest and no more reindeer to herd. One last question, did you have a chance to go with the Sami and camp out like they says in the film, and if you did, how they do it? Thanks you and stay safe, Tan.

  3. Lissa Says:

    Hi Olly,
    Great film despite that your voice had been dubbed over. I agree that most importantly the film raises international awareness of the Sami herders’ unfortunate situation. So give yourself a pat on the back for your major contribution to a worthy cause.
    Before I proceed, I emphasize that I intend not to make any judgments on: the Swedish government & its high court, the Sami herders, and the private landowners. As an outsider, I have no right to do so — I simply want to share my observations and ask questions.
    It’s understandable that the landowners brought the case to the court. They deserve just compensation for the disturbance of having a stampede of reindeer trespassing on their privately-owned lands that caused property damages.
    Stating the obvious, the dispute lies solely between the herders and the Swedish government. For what it’s worth, the Samis have my support. But, no matter from which end one looks at the situation – it’s all a big mess! In reality, it would be hard for the government to fully give back the ancestral lands when they’ve already assigned them for other uses namely: dams, forestry, mining, and new settlements. If ever the government decides to give back the land that includes the dams etc, then they would have conflicts with other parties. Do the Samis want back the totality of their ancestral land (within the Swedish borders) or just part of it, enough to allow them to keep their tradition? When they mentioned autonomy, did they really mean wanting to have total independence from the Swedish government?
    I truly feel sorry for the Sami herders. At the moment the government left them with not much alternative and to make things worse… a $250,000 court settlement without gov’t support. But how does the gov’t expect the Samis’ to pay the massive amount, when they don’t have enough land to herd the reindeer – which is their primary source of income? When in fact, the root of their problem was caused by the Swedish state when they colonized the Samis’ ancestral land.
    Having the Samis’ case heard at the European Court, proves the failure of the Swedish gov’t to manage one of their own domestic affairs. I think the solution wouldn’t be reached without compromises from both sides. I wish the Samis best of luck! Please let us know of any updates. Thanks for sharing their story with us.
    Final question, who or what inspired you to become a journalist? Excuse the length of this blog. Hope I didn’t bore you much. I too am glad you’re back.
    Hope all is well,

  4. Renata Says:

    Nice having you back! I was getting a little bored trying to find new things to watch and read there are just so much crap out there. I travel with you when watching and reading your posts. I wanted to be a jornalist then a international lawyer. I am not there yet, my father is a jornalyst so I think is such a great job to have. Not much family time but a great thing to be :) Anyway I am just happy to have you back and if you ever need a room in Cuiaba just let me know :)

  5. Tolani Lawrence-Lightfoot Says:

    Ahhhhh Reindeer.

  6. admin Says:

    Hi Tan and Lissa – thanks for all the thoughts and questions – don’t have all the answers but I’ll tell you what I know ;-) and share my thoughts for what they’re worth…

    Mongolia: thanks for the heads up on the reindeer herding tribes in Mongolia – I had heard about their plight and at one time was even looking into the possibilities of herding a large number from the Yamal peninsular with the Nenets to Mongolia to help repopulate their herds. Not sure if this would work or they’re from different stock but maybe its time to revisit that idea.

    Sami: uses of reindeer: reindeer have been and remain a cornerstone of Sami cultural identity – so much of their traditional way of life is tied up with their reindeer – that one elder Sami we interviewed explained simply that if you break the Sami’s link to their Reindeer, you destroy their identity. However, times have changed over the years, few Sami still continue their traditional way of life and those that do use reindeer mainly as livestock – I.e to butcher them for their meat and skins, antlers etc. But they are far from than just farmers. And its this final Reindeer connection to the remaining herding Sami that they argue, if destroyed, would destroy more than just their livelihoods but an entire way of life and cultural identity.

    Reindeer Meat – did I try some? Yup – its delicious. I highly recommend it and if you can source it from a Sami you’re helping them.

    European Court Hearing: I’m not sure of the exact date but I’ll post it on my blog as soon as I find out.

    The Landowners: they feel very strongly that the reindeer are damaging their trees – and in some cases they are although it does not represent complete devastation of their forests. But some land owners rely on forestry as an important income source so are understandably ticked off if their livelihood is threathened. This particular issue seems to come down to a question of land rights, and rights to graze – and where can you find solution between sedentary landowners and herders who require semi-nomadic grazing. Both parties want the Swedish government to interpret the law.

    Ancestral Land? Do they want it all back? Well I dont want to speak to them – but some of them probably do, some of them would accept some of it back – but again it comes down to a question of definition of land rights – a problem which both the Sami and the landowners, by in large, seem to acknowledge. How do you define ancestral land claims? If you go back far enough, then most of northern europe was probably once Sami territory but history has changed the course of ownership – often brutally and often with indigenous populations losing out.

    Camping out with the Sami? Sadly not this time but I hope to at some point.

    Autonomy? Again it depends who you speak with about this – some of the more radical parts of the community want complete autonomy and their own nation state but from the people I spoke with, they seemed to want a far greater right and ability to self-determination.

    Further Information: I highly recommend checking out this site if you want to learn more… – also Survival International ( – International organisation supporting tribal peoples worldwide and more info on the ILO Convention 169 (

  7. Reena Says:

    Hi Olly,

    I am enjoying the Machiguenga DVD it is great. It does not sound weird that you did not see the final cut I can understand why.
    I do not watch TV that much anymore and when a good shows comes about you just want more. This is first and last blog I will ever write on.
    I loved the extra clip of the Bee test (it was so funny) and the Llama cracked me up.
    I think there could have been at least 10 episodes from a fans point of view. I felt that there should have been more about how you guys put your life on the line.
    One thing I really want to know is why were you choosen to kill the Gunnie Pig?
    There are other questions but I do not want to bother you, I know you are busy.
    I know I am going off on a tangent but I was in London in June my first time and it was great! I fell in love with the city and that is hard for a New Yorker to admit.
    I went to RGS and saw their exhibit on exploration and I was a bit surprised because the Beagle Campaign was just shot down and here the RGS were showing how great exploration can be.

    Wishing you love, happiness, love & wealth

  8. Anna Says:

    Hi Olly,

    Glad to have you back with us. The situation with the Sami sounds like its going to be extremely difficult to resolve. What do you think will happen? I really can’t see a solution that will satisfy all. What do you think about it?
    Hope you get to go somewhere warmer now ;-)
    All Best
    Anna x

  9. Tolani Lawrence-Lightfoot Says:

    I know that this is a bit off topic for this post but I am very curious about how art played a role in all three of the tribes you lived amongst.

  10. Melissa Says:

    Hi, Olly! Where ever you are on this wonderful planet, I hope you have a happy holiday and a healthy, prosperous new year.

  11. Tan Says:

    Hi, Olly
    Just want to wish you a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” Best wish to all the peoples who is on Olly blog, Tan.

  12. Tina Says:

    Olly, When you be able to discuss your new show on the Discovery Channel? From what I read it begins 2010. Will it be shown in the US?

    Any other show with Mark?

  13. Martin Says:

    Olly all I can say is I CANT WAIT TO SEE YOU ON TV AGAIN!!

  14. Tina Says:

    Olly’s new show:

    Solving History with Olly steeds is scheduled for the Discovery Channel, Jan 13, 2010

    I don’t know if this will air in the US but hope so.

    Good Luck

  15. Terry T Says:


    nice to see ur work after the Tribes shows. Keep it up!!

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