Saturday, March 21, 2015


[This story is an improved version from mini cassette recordings of Mekkar’s actual voice in 1990 while hiking and walking as a University student; Then, it was converted to a Windows Media Audio File and transcribed in 2011. Mekkar’s spoken English skills are nowhere near as polished as Saavo’s are. Continued from ON THE TREK & SURROUNDINGS - PART 2 (B) in February, 2015.]

The geography has changed back to more familiar settings because the trek is almost over. It is getting closer and closer to home. Mekkar, Ansetti, Juhani, and the rest of the group are returning. Every one of them can sense that another long trek is almost over …

Some of the older ones, like Ansetti, have recognized the difference between the treks of today and yesteryear which, for the nomads, never ended. The more experienced trekkers recognize the always changing circumstances. They see routes and lands to move herds are increasingly disappearing. Government agencies are continually adding regulations and companies never stop pursuing additional land purchases to exploit remaining natural resources. It seems as though only the inhabitants see the permanent damage to the natural ecosystem. Development projects and construction of large scale undertakings such as hydro dams, etc. gobble up more territory while taking away from animal husbandry activity. Crooked officials use eminent domain and outright, direct government takeover to reclaim the land. Each instance further restricts open grazing and birthing areas that have been used for centuries in these regions. Added to this, encroachment upon ancient native areas, due to enforced new settlement takeover policies, diminish animal movement patterns. Technology has brought great changes to reindeer gathering and management of stock. Reindeer herding is less labor intensive now as a result of modern day equipment being employed in the process. Snowmobiles, trucks, boats, and helicopters are presently adopted to carry out these tasks in opposition to earlier times.

Seasonal Patterns for the herd to follow, while trekking, have been occurring for a long time. In the past, specific reindeer herding villages had their own preset chosen migration routes chosen by the local community. Due to the current ever-changing political atmosphere, natives are in an uproar because they endure the loss of more land for herd movement. Many old pathways are now fenced off for various reasons. 

In Mekkar’s culture, old native thought practices reign supreme. Everything belongs to the family and the village group as a whole. It is selfish to consider it any other way. Previously, permanent and separate homes or dwellings were constructed without an individualistic viewpoint in mind. Items are not only yours alone but to be shared and enjoyed by all in the tribe. Mutual benefit of the whole group is key. The concept of single person ownership was foreign to the natives here. Sometimes those same materials, which included all supplies and goods, could be needed to ensure the tribe’s very survival. If that was ever the case, then so be it. That type of approach, especially on a trek, is executed with maximum efficiency to insure the success of the journey for all involved. It is a long forgotten, nomadic, and tribal approach to ensure continual existence. These thought processes have also been applied and adapted to the modern way of living to a certain degree and with a native flavor. In many cases, far northern latitude small communities experienced forced changes beyond their control.

People are seen as visitors or travelers on this earth; technically you as an individual don’t own anything. Not even yourself! Well, maybe just yourself. In some aspects, yes and some ways, no. Everything is only a rental and that perspective benefits the collective unit or group. Extremely selfish people have few, if any, friends in this environment because they refuse to cooperate with anyone else. Those type of people end up having a much lesser chance for survival. In the Arctic people and animals are very connected with a need for each other whether a person admits it or not. Herd mentality is perceived as the best option and has functioned successfully in inhospitable climates for centuries. Uncompromising, solitary folks left to their own devices usually have negative outcomes such as an early death.

This is a concept Mekkar would acquire a better grasp of and expand his learning capability as he grew up. In the cases regarding any type of monument, they are considered to be a tangible gift which belongs to everyone. One’s selfish personal desires are disparaged and the objective radiance is meant to serve all who come into contact with the structure. The notion is for greater good encouragement to keep the villagers fighting for survival, one of those of which was Mekkar. A person is looked upon as a grain of sand on the beach and one small piece of the whole, like a puzzle. The native outlook is unchanged for the most part on matters such as these. This is true even as their native world and circumstances get swallowed up by the modern society all around them. Today, Mekkar has recognized a mingling of both belief systems. Yet, each particular piece cannot be discounted and always must fulfill a function or purpose.

Now, since his native people are more settled than they were one hundred years ago, treks can be better contrived due to technological advances in equipment. Trek planning and timetables, in modern times, are less rigid. Nevertheless, some actions must still be carried out on a regular basis during various calendar seasons and animal requirements. Specific flexibility is modified according to the herders and their overall collective mood. In this culture, many tools, accessories, and useful family possessions belong to the whole group. That is, any resource that can be relied upon to meet needs and aid the entire clan. Mekkar sees this as the very antithesis of extreme individualism in various parts the modern world. His upbringing is what is considered as yours is also in many aspects everyone’s around you and should be relished in a widespread manner. This applies even to inconsequential personal awards, trophies, and other related items. The truth is, no one ever gets to a high level in any endeavor without help from others along the way. Natives, all around the world, grasp this concept as it has been part of their way of life for a long time. Unfortunately, greedy influences from modern societies have infected change in native cultures more rapidly than anyone cares to admit.

Going on, the trekkers travelled for a few more days and nights and the mood of the group improved along with the weather. There seemed to be less distractions and everything appeared to have become easier during this part of the journey. A few in the party thought it might be a situation of the calm, before a storm. Still, the leader Ansetti had a tough battle to root out any complacency within the party in the homestretch. He knew that any sudden lapse in the attention to detail could result in another attack by wolves or other predators. Experienced outdoor people are well aware how a wolf pack can steal potential food from much larger animals such as bears. They are not afraid to rob from you too! An attack can happen at anytime, especially in the nighttime, even in familiar surroundings.

A number of Arctic animals have adapted eyesight that is superior to big city dwellers, fortunately a balanced number of natives have been blessed with a similar sense. Plus, many animals, in such a harsh environment, are usually visually keen in the dark of night. Populations in snowbelt regions can see how the white snow can illuminate the earth’s surface with more light than dark metropolis roads lit by street lamps. That, along with colorful clothing, attempts to make up for some of the darkness and fight off climatic induced depression. This is especially true, when the twenty four hour darkness season arrives.

Anyway, as they reached closer on the path toward home, the leading ones in the tribe told more and more stories about the old ways. Past legends were spoken of during those stops along the trek. There have been films made and books written in other languages about some of the tales and heroes, Mekkar heard in the tent. He listened, absorbed, and learned a lot on this journey. But, he was still young, too young to really understand the whole experience and how it affected him. That would happen in time. As they got nearer and nearer to their destination a few more days had passed. Always at the evening’s group gathering was the night coffee. The leaders consumed copious amounts of it. However, Mekkar greatly disliked that drink. It seemed to the boy that definitely the evenings were getting longer as they moved closer to his village. Aslak mentioned to Mekkar, what he was feeling was the anticipation of longing to be back home.

Mekkar’s village is divided by a natural water barrier which also functions as a borderline running down the middle of the river. The water flow does become more restricted and narrow when the river winds around, bends, and curves at various points. Some in the village were convinced the map-makers were drunk as they surveyed the area for the national government. It was probably the reason for some of the odd geographical choices that were selected.

There was a celebration when the trekkers arrived in the village. All manner of festivities were involved with singing, dancing, some play fighting with the buddies, spitting of blood, flirting with the girls, and more. Many of these things are a picture relating to symbolism, a symbol of actual experiences that one encounters and actual desired results of making it back safely. The trek chief Ansetti, well, was not so happy because there was lost reindeer and he felt responsible. Some of the trekkers felt that they did better than they should have in that instance due to its suddenness and large number of assailants. However, that was of no consolation to Ansetti. Overall, that was the only major attack on this trip. Young Mekkar was pleased and he felt proud. He was the youngest person in the herding group on this trek. Yet, there was no reason for him to brag to his friends about being chosen for this completed trip. Another youngster, male or female, from the village would be chosen to participate in the next travelling party with the reindeer. Of course, after the young member of the tribe was somewhat trained and “prepared” first. The boy made it through and there was also a sense of relief on the part of his parents. Mekkar made it back from his long reindeer trek without his parents accompanying him on the journey. There was also a surprise in store for him as his own family was now settled in their new, larger permanent home. Mekkar felt that he had come back to an existence more planted after this trip. This meant no more wandering for awhile. Now was the time for Mekkar to carry on with his free will and be less limited by his surroundings and as many predators. The boy would later see that his assumption was mistaken.