The Sámi peoples of Scandinavia were nomadic. Their lives and livelihoods became closely tied to reindeer migrations. Like many people with such a strong connection to the land, the Sámi have lost large tracts of traditional lands to development … dams, mining and tourism in particular. However, a minority still herd reindeer seasonally and for those who do, time is still measured by the migrations of their reindeer.
A few years ago, a moorland farmer told me about where he’d like to be buried, in the graveyard up the top of Brentor, looking out across Dartmoor. Brentor, on the western flank of Dartmoor is a 350 million year old volcano. It has a core of basaltic lava, earthworks dating back to the iron age and a small 12th Century church at the top with a graveyard. Who wouldn’t wish to end their days in such a place, up with the swallows and swifts and a panoramic view of the moor?
According to local records , a fair used to be held in Brentor at Michaelmas. Now called Goosey Fair, it moved to Tavistock in the C16th and but from the top of Brent Tor, you can still see the old roads coming in from north and south, from Bodmin to the west and from Dartmoor to the east. What a sight it would have been on the morning of fair day ... flocks of geese driven by wiry drovers arriving from farms across the south west and cattle from the moor and wool carts from Okehampton and carts laden with vegetables from Cornwall and the travellers and their entourage and all the families from all around..
Our earliest cultures regard the land as sacred. Our religions see divine presence in the natural world. Humans learned to survive from the land, the Aboriginal dreaming is a vivid remembering of intricate patterns of learning, we knew how to survive long before we started to write things down, we shared and traded long before the first coins were cast.
There are farmers still who know the bloodline of their cows and sheep going back generations. The farmers learned from working the land, they learned to put back what you take out, they learned which animals and crops were best suited to a certain place, they passed on their knowledge from one generation to the next, but they rarely put the depth of their understanding down in writing.
So what has that got to do with survival now? In this world it's just a merry dance in the name of the economy and probably on behalf of someone else’s profit margins. Isn't it? But everywhere across the world, local knowledge is holding out and if it was stitched together, what a picture we would see.
Rachel Francis is signed to ARKBOUND publishers.