Loves the Freedom

Mats Pavall gave up his job as an archaeologist and concentrated all his efforts on reindeer herding. He hasn’t regretted it for a minute.

2013-09-0312:44 cecilie

“This is the world’s best job, even though it can obviously be hard work and exhausting at times,” says the 27 year old from Fauske.

He grew up in a reindeer herding family, but to be on the safe side, he began to study archaeology.

“Reindeer herding is a relatively uncertain profession and I felt that it was best to have another leg to stand on,” says Pavall.

But gradually a craving for the outdoor life and freedom became too much.

“I just wasn’t made for work in an office, I soon get restless,” says Pavall.

He has now embarked upon his third year as a reindeer owner – a profession with both joys and sorrows. There is no doubt that the reindeer herding trade is under pressure.

“There are fewer and fewer areas where we can let the reindeer graze.,” says Pavall.

Furthermore, he must engage in a hard fight against predators. Last year he lost 100 animals to the lynx, wolverine and golden eagle.

“It sounds almost unbelievable, but golden eagles swoop down and smash their claws straight through the reindeer’s frontal skull bone. They die instantly,” Pavall tells us.

This means that he must keep a careful vigil over his flock. It can be a tough job during the winter. In the period from October to January, there were only seven days when Pavall was not out seeing to his flock.

However, the positive aspects far outweigh the negative.

“I am my own boss and nobody decides over me. And I am out in incredibly beautiful countryside, that in itself is a major bonus. The close relationship we have with friends and family while working with the reindeer  is also important. We are completely dependent on faithful helpers and close knit bonds are formed when you work together in such a way,” says Pavall

He belongs to a part of Sámi culture referred to as Pite-Sámi and Lule-Sámi. Sámi culture in Salten goes way back in time, and many believe that the Viking chieftain Raud the Strong of Saltstraumen collaborated with the Sámi when he ruled there.


In the 60s and 70s, Salten was an area where considerable effort was put into Norwegianizing the Sámi inhabitants, and many felt it difficult to belong to this ethnic group. Today, the situation is quite different and the Sámi enjoy considerable respect in step with  the fact that more and more people are becoming aware of the values that the Sámi stand for when it comes to nature management and sustainable development.

Today, Mats Pavall herds tame reindeer. This is necessary because they often have to move their flocks through built up areas.

Even though the future is not without dark clouds on the horizon, Mats Pavall looks forward to each new day when he is able to work with his reindeer.

“It is also a matter of taking care of long-standing traditions and a family trade. Therefore, it also warms your heart when you come across old sites where they used to milk the reindeer and you see the unique flora there. Suddenly you find orchids that don’t normally grow in the area. A beautiful sign showing that people, animals and nature belong together.”