Elle-Helene’s joik

In a quiet moment when the herders weren’t corralling the reindeer during the filming of Human Planet, sound recordist Simon Forrester captured these amazing joiks with a young herder, Elle-Helene Siri and her mum May-Torrill, sat among the fjords.

20 year old Elle–Helene is a Sami reindeer herder and lives on Arnoy Island in Far Northern Norway, above the Arctic Circle. Her unique joik was given to her as a child and describes her nature and personality.

The Sami people of the Arctic circle are traditionally reindeer hunters and herders and one of the oldest indigenous people in Europe. Reindeer hunting has long disappeared, but in Northern Norway nearly 3,000 people still herd their own reindeer. Traditionally the Sami used the reindeer meat, skins, blood and milk to maintain a sustainable and mobile way of life. These days most reindeer herding is linked to the sustainable meat industry for a wider market. But the closeness of the Sami to their reindeer and the understanding of their behaviour remains.

Each reindeer has earmarks to identify them. Every Sami child is given his or her own marking when they get their first reindeer. By the time a Sami herder is in their teens they can identify their own reindeer among hundreds by these markings as well as through the colour of the head, feet and body and a description of the antlers. For much of the year, the herders live alongside their herds, following them as they migrate with the changing seasons, going wherever there is good natural pasture land for the animals to graze. These herders can travel over 400km (250 miles) in a single migration, taking them many weeks with thousands of reindeer in tow.

Many of the herders wear traditional Sami dress during the migration – brightly coloured clothes symbolising different aspects of the natural world: red for the sun, blue for the moon, and yellow and green which are seen as ‘natures colours’.

Photography © Abbie Trayler-Smith/BBC.

Release date: 15 Mar 2010

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