WINDHOEK - What an extraordinary week it has been. Lady May, came out the last woman standing. This was indeed a great performance Lady May, and once again you proved that all of us have double personalities. We are all proud and it is indeed not always about the money, but the life changing experiences you were fortunate enough to have gone through.
This week we travel to Scandinavia, Finland to be exact. “Finnish Lapland emerged in 1809 when Sweden lost its eastern part of Lapland to Russia after the Finnish War.” The indigenous people of Lapland were the Sami, and they were at the time referred to as the Lapps. It is important to note at this point that during the nineteenth century, “The Laplanders or Laps constituted the only remaining branch of the ancient inhabitants of Finland.
The traditional principles of Sami entrepreneurship included the absence of land ownership and the absence of labour markets.
The economic system was merely based on mutual exchange of services within the clan. In business dealings the Sami would usually demand specie, refusing the paper currency of the country whenever offered.
This implies that the Sami did not value monetary rewards as important, but the reindeer was their traditional livelihood, which gave them a sense of identity and meaning. When young children were sent off to school, each one of them had a reindeer at home that they could talk about to fellow learners in school. The education system was strongly based around their own cultural values.
There is no doubt that in the Sami culture, there are few things as important as the reindeer. They have been the source of food, clothing, shelter and an inspiration from ancestral times. It is further clear that the reindeer and the Sami have sustained one another. One cannot dispute the fact that a lot has changed over the years and the Sami have been forced to adapt Western incursion, absorption, assimilation and appropriation.
Readers if we clearly want to understand the role of the reindeer in the present day Sami and Finnish societies, especially in the complex environment of policies and legislation one has to understand the historical processes. At this point I must alert you that, a number of non-indigenous scholars write about indigenous people and how they can be empowered and developed.
However, they fail to take into account issues of poverty, historical segregation and racism at times when developing entrepreneurial models for the indigenous. Insofar as Africa is concerned, it is high time that we start developing our own African models of entrepreneurship, because as long as only one side of the story is told, we will never become “true” entrepreneurs in our own right.
Coming back to the Sami of Finland, there are three periods relating to reindeer herding. The first stage is the hunter-gatherer period of Sami history. During this period the Sami subsisted entirely on wild foods: wild game including wild reindeer, bear, moose, elk, fish, and berries and nuts that could be gathered from the natural environment. The second period was the period of reindeer pastoralism or also referred to intensive reindeer herding. During this period the Sami people move up into the mountains during summer and the rut, and to the coast when the chill of winter comes.
The third period was that was that of large-scale reindeer herding also known as extensive reindeer hunting period. The only legal requirement to become a reindeer herder in Finland is to live within the herding district and be either a citizen of the European Union or a member of the local reindeer herding association. Several reindeer hunters have brought to the attention of the international community, at some point maintaining that ones cultural identity is a human right that cannot be sacrificed on the altar of fiscal practicality.
Through their perseverance and resourcefulness the Sami are leading the way and hashing out the role indigenous cultures worldwide will play in the Information Age, now and for years to come. Next week, we learn from my entrepreneurship class students at UNAM as to how they would love to turn the university into an entrepreneurial centre.