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Smuk Family

- written by Vineeta Hoon

Case study 2: Varanger Samis: The Smuk Siida of Varjjatnjarga[1]

I first came into contact with the Smuk siida just before the autumn slaughter and round up in September, 1999. I had heard about them earlier when I made my first contact with reindeer herding Sami’s. Their fame has out-distanced them and they are well known throughout the Sami reindeer herding areas in Norway, Sweden and Finland. I heard about them every where I went. They would always talk about the Smuk like I should have known them even though I was from India. I would detect envy in the voice when they said “They are one family! and they have the largest summer pasture district in the whole of Norway”. They are very rich! They have a very big herd!. They use helicopters to herd reindeer!. They are not traditional! A researcher even told me that the Smuk do not do herding but practice ranching. However he had not been with them in Varanger and was not familiar with their ranching/herding operations. I did wonder then how people (especially researchers) spoke with such authority about something and someone they were not familiar with. Initially I thought that perhaps I should avoid this Siida for my field work. There was so much negativity about them. It is therefore ironical that I ended up making my home with members of the Smuk family. My suspicion that everyone was very envious of them and their good fortune was correct.

I made my base in Varanger and stayed with them for the entire duration of the autumn round up and slaughter and for two months in the autumn/winter, 1999 and two months in the spring/summer of the year 2000. While living with the Smuk I visited the four other Siidas for short stays mainly to find out what is traditional? and how do other reindeer herding Siidas in Finnmark herd their reindeer?

Smuk Family History and Reindeer Herding in Varanger

The Smuk are one of the oldest established families who have carried on reindeer herding in Varanger. Their first documented ancester is Anders Hansen (Hanu) a well documented Noaidii and reindeer herder of his time. His date of birth is unknown but he was probably born in 1730. There are several stories about his courage and prowess as a Noaiidi. [2]

--->> Figure 1 - The Smuk Family Tree

Another story mentions that some of his enemies in Russia sent a Stallo to punish him. Anders Hansen however forstalled the Stallo and killed him instead. He took the silver buttons from the Stallo’s coat and one of these buttons can be seen in Tromso Museum today.

Anders Hansen was named Smuk by a Danishman named Arnt Brodtkorp who had a trade business in Vardo in the 18th century. They used to trade with each other and Anders Hansen would exchange Furs, reindeer meat, reindeer tounges and other delicacies with him. Arnt Brodtkorp presumably enjoyed his dealings with Anders Hansen and found him handsome and therefore called him Smuk (Blix, 1971). In Danish smuk means handsome and charming. Since this time Smuk became a family name and all his descendents to this date bear the family name Smuk. (Figure 1)

The Smuk along with several other Sami families established reindeer herding in the Varjjatnjarga, where they would graze their herds in the summer time and in winter they crossed the Neiden River and grazed in the Vidda areas of Finland and Kola areas of Russia before 1852. The Vadso Mantal list of 1852 lists the following ancesters, reindeer owned[3], and route followed: (Aage Solbakk:1998 Pg 114-115) [4]

“Anders Hansen married to Marthe J Simma, owns 300 reindeer. Their winter pasture areas include Diergi- Neidenelva into Finland.

Per Andreassen Margit (1819-1859) owns 250 reindeer. Autumn and winter pasture areas include Diegi-Neiden and 10 km inside Finland.

Anders Peersen Margit – Fattig – poor man. (He is the father of Per Andreassen)

Joseph Josephsen Simma (1784-1856) owns 600 reindeer. Autumn and winter pasture areas include Diergi and Iijavari in Finland.[5]

Smuk Anders Olsen (1789-1865) owns 600 reindeer and Autumn and winter pasture areas include Searbbat east of Polmakvatn and 50 km into finland Iijavari.

Smuk Anders Andersen (1822-1893) owns 250 reindeer. He is married to Karen Josephsdatter Simma daughter of Joseph J Simma and has joined the father in laws sidda and uses the same autumn and winter pasture areas.

Stal Ole Iversen (1799-1877) with his son Iver Olsen Stal owns 500 reindeer. Their autumn and winter pasture areas include Kjofjord and 30 km into Finland.”

Another source mentions that Hans Andreas Johnson was probably the richest reindeer herder in Norway. He owned 8000 reindeer 1n 1820. He took his herd further east into the Kola along with 20 other reindeer herding Samis from Varanger since there was a shortage of winter pasture in Sor Varanger. They were accused of tresspassing and a formal protest was sent by the Russian foreign minister to the authorities in Norway ( A. B Wessel:1938:138)[6]. The Russian Finnish border closed in 1852 and the Smuk and other Varanger families had to stop going to Sevettiijavri and Iddjavri in Finland (Figure 2 map before & after 1852). They continued to use the Kola penninsula until the Russian revolution in 1916. After all these borders closed for the families of Varanger. They had to stop their reindeer from crossing over the Norwegian border. They tried to go down south as far as Pasvik. They had to stop their herds in Neiden since world war II. Further south were other Siidas who had established reindeer herding areas in Sor varanger did not welcome the Varanger Herds in winter.

Fortunes have kept changing between the different siidas in Varjatnjarga and there were periods when one dominated and others when another flourished. Reindeer herding was the survival of the fitest in several ways.

· One had to be both mentally and physically strong and capable of herding.

· One needed to devise different ways to outsmart the neigbouring siida and find alternative grazing grounds for the reindeer if the current site got overcrowded.

· One needed to work as a team and co-operate eith each other.

· Plan strategies to increase the herd size. In several situations the herders would expand the size of their herds by marrying single women who owned large herds and needed help in maintaining them. Marriages took place amongst reindeer Samis in Norway, Finland and Russia. This also ensured that cordial social relations remained and at a pinch the herd could be taken to these places for winter grazing.

The Smuk have followed or benefited from all these strategies. Figure 2 shows the Smuk family tree. Their ancesters include several families names such as Simma, Stal and Margit who were established reindeer herders from Varjjatnjarga. They have very strong roots in Varanger. These roots are embedded from both the Grandfather and Grandmothers Family line. To understand the roots of the Smuk family living in Varanger today one must take into account all these other families especially the Siimma and Margit Family.

The main strategy followed was to marry into strong reindeer herding families. Josesph J Simma was keen to get his daughters married to men who were proficient in reindeer herding. His daughter Margrethe married Anders Hansen a reindeer herding Sami from Russia. His other daughter Karen married Anders A Smuk (1826-1891). Their children (Anders Andersen Smuk and Marith Andersdatter) in turn married each other. They had several children and the youngest son Anders Andersen Smuk nicknamed Maros Ande is the common grandfather for the current generation of reindeer herders in Varjattnjarga.

Maros Ande[7](1881-1959) is the star of the family. He is the Star since he was decorated with a silver medal by the King of Norway in 1957 in recognition for his survival skills on the Tundra and excellence in reindeer herding.

The Varanger Samis including the Smuk were badly affected by the World War. In this period their summer grazing district Varrjatnjarga was occupied by the Russians and Germans. They had to more or less stop reindeer herding. The Varanger herds were reduced to 1800 approximately and were maintained south of the Varanger Fjord.

Maros Ande lost his entire herd in this period and became a poor man. He worked as a helper to Aslak Persen Margit. His main work was to look after the interests of Aslak Persen Margit’s disabled daughter named Margit A Margit. In time he married this daughter. Together they had 8 children but only one daughter and three sons survived. All three sons (Joseph[8], Aslak Bejamin and Petter Oluf) continued with the reindeer herding tradition. Maros Ande married for the second time with his wifes cousin Risten Bigga Margit and had a son and daughter. (The son Oddvar Smuk is currently a driftsenhet holder in this Siida). Maros Ande’s, astuteness and skills in reindeer herding would not let him remain poor for long. After the war was over Maros Ande’s family seem to have come out as the sole surviving reindeer herding Siida in Varanger.

His four sons continued with the tradition of reindeer herding. They had been well trained by their father and co-operated together and complemented each other very well. Each son was gifted with different skills which were needed for a successful reindeer herding operation. Recognising and respecting these skills in each other and allowing each one to use them ensured that the whole family was involved in reindeer herding and no one felt left out and not needed. Management and co-operation was the key to success. One had the gift of diplomacy while the other was a gifted and practical herder. The diplomat ensured consenus in decision making in the team and ensured that everyone worked together as a team. The other spent his effort in devising strategies to improve efficiency in reindeer herding and keep up with the changing situation and moder times. Because of their good teamspirit, co-operation and group cohesiveness the family fortune and base in reindeer herding remained strong.

Aslak Benjamin Smuk married Ragna B. Iversen, who was not from a reindeer herding family. Together they had eight children four daughters and four sons. The children lost their mother when they were very young. Their father never married again and It was upto the older daughters to raise the younger siblings. His eldest daughter Margit married into a reindeer herding family and moved across the border to Finland. His second daughter Ingrid married a non reindeer herding sami and is currently the Mayor of Tana. The third daughter Astrid married a Norwegian and moved South to Oslo. It is his four sons and youngest daughter Anne Kristine who currently hold driftsenhet to carry on with reindeer herding in Varanger.

The youngest son Petter Oluf Anderson Smuk (1921-1992) married Anne Marie Guttorm, who came from an established reindeer herders family. Together they had 8 children, 5 sons and three daughters. All these children currently hold driftsenhet to carry on with reindeer herding in Varanger. However none of them have married into other established reindeer herding families. Technological growth and reindeer herding

After the world war the number of reindeer increased rapidly and the period between the 1950´s and 1980’ s saw a great increase in the herd size. The big herd and large district area to be covered meant that the work became more intensive. This led to the need for mechanisation of the herding operations. The Smuk have always been innovative and willing to try out new technology to manage the herd more efficiently. Table 1, shows the growth of technology use in the smuk siida for reindeer herding purposes.

They were one of the first Reindeer herding Siidas to experiment with using a snow scooter in 1962. They purchased a skidoo imported from Canda in Tana. The scooter was very cumbersome, heavy and difficult to use. It took a few years before they could adapt their reindeer herding skills to using the skidoo. The learning was by trial and error. Petter Oluf (1921-1992) was the first person to drive the Skidoo and experiment with it[9].

While the winter herding was mechanised, it was hard work to herd reindeer in the summer time. It took several days sometimes to locate and gather the reindeer. Per Anders, Petter Oluf’s son introduced the two wheel motor cycle into the district around 1967. [10]

Table 1: Technological growth in the Smuk Siida

Technology used


Prior to 1960

Traditional technology, Skiis, dog, camping in lavoo and walking . They used horses and heargii in winter to transport Carcasses and supplies.

The Men lived away from the families for long periods of time. Several calves were never ear marked. Women supplied the clothing and diet needs. Reindeer were herded for meat, skin and draught use.


Snow Scooter

Made winter herding easier and less time consuming,


2 wheel cross country motor Cycle

increased efficiency in summer herding. longer distances could be travelled in shorter time periods to look for reindeer in this vast district.


Hired small aeroplane to look for the herd.

They could fly low and cover the whole district in one or two days to sight and herd the reindeer.


4 wheel motor cycle

Increased safety in herding in the summer time.



They could fly low and cover the whole district in one or two days to sight and herd the reindeer. The reduced time for gathering the reindeer ensured that they could slaughter the animals in the prime condition.


Every herder owns a car a truck, snow scooters, motorcylcle and mobile phone. The younger ones also use the GPS and computer.

Reindeer herding has become more efficient in time and labour use but also very expensive. The GPS is useful in finding locations even in bad weather. The mobile phone help them stay in contact.

They continued to look for practical technology which could increase the efficiency in reindeer herdng and make it less time consuming and labour intesive. They hired a small plane in the early 1970’s and experimented with using it. They found that it could fly very low and they could easily spot the reindeer in Varjjatnjarga. It now only took one or two days to sight and herd the reindeer and assemble them together for the autumn slaughter.

They heard that it was practical to use a helicopter to herd reindeer from the Swedish reindeer herding Samis. They purchased one for their own use in 1986 and ever since have been using a helicopter to herd the reindeer into the fence in the autumn. They have tried using it in spring but have found that the most practical time to use a helicopter is in Autumn over Varrjatnjarga. [11] The added advantage of using a helicopter or small plane for herding is that because of the shorter time period spent in gathering and seperating the reindeer. The animals selected for slaughter are in their prime condition and weight.

The herders now also use the hand held GPS (Global Positioning System). This instrument is very helpful in guiding the herder to a marked location even in bad weather. Both the GPS and the mobile phones have helped increase the personal safety of the herder. Now in distress they can call for help. They still have to be self reliant and have survival skills in the artic-tundra because technology has a way of letting one down just when it is needed the most!.

Reindeer herding in Norway if this Siida can be used as and example is defintely into the 21st century especially in the use of modern technology.

Gender and Social relations within the reindeer herding Unit

Table 1 gives a list of the driftsenhet holders and their relationship with each other. This siida consists of sixteen driftsnet (reindeer herding Licence) holder families and 9000 reindeer, herded over a summer summer pasture area of 3837 sq km and a smaller winter pasture area.Fourteen of these licenses belong to members of the Smuk extended family. ( Figure 1).

Hans Nils Meirud is a cousin from the Margit side of the family. Hans Persen used to work for the grandfather and built up his own herd. He has now retired out of the reindeer herding business and given in his driftsenhet to the office of the Reindeer Husbandry Administration.

Table 2: reindeer owners in the Smuk Siida

Licence holder



Yrs of Schooling



Solbakk Marit Smuk

Aage Solbakk*

Mikku Smuk Solbakk

Majja Smuk Solbakk*









20 yr

15 yr IT

12 yr


Historian/ consultant







Smuk Nils ole

Inge Lise Aslaksen

Niilas Aslaksen

Gun tove Smuk*









9 years

12 years



reindeer herding




Lismjoka, Tana

Lismajoka, Tana

Lismajoka, Tana


Balto Ole Martin



9 yr

Reindeer Herder


Smuk John Magnus


Jovna Vars







9 yr

12 yr

9 th grade

reindeer Herder




Smuk Leif einar

Anne Britt

Leif Petter













9 yr

12 yr

7th grade

1 grade

1 grade

Reindeer herder

Nurse aide

student/herder-helper student



Smuk geir Atle

Lars Omer

Mads Jonas*







9 yr

7th grade

4th grade

Reindeer herder

student/herder-helper Student




Smuk Inger Anita

Frank Inge Silverstern



Anna Maria













Publisert : 19.09.2005
Publisert av : Webmaster