Sjávnja

After a while, your ear grows used to the silence. Snow covers your steps; your pulse and your breathing are all that can be heard. The echo of a lone raven far away is heard over the land. As it dies away, it grows even quieter.

A concert without end. Twittering, piping, trilling and singing all day, then even louder in the evening. And just as you are falling asleep that insistent mosquito flies into your ear.

Sjávnja Nature Reserve includes landscape types from high mountains in the west to Sweden’s largest wetlands in the east. In May, Sjávnja is invaded by multitudes of birds. During the light spring evenings, a choral symphony wafts over the land.

In this enormous nature reserve you can find otter, wolverine, lynx and bear. The moose is common. But the most common animal here is the reindeer. In spring and autumn, Baste čearru and Unna tjerusj Sámi communities move the herds between winter land to the east of Sjávnja and the mountains in the west.

In the 30s when foraging was poor, some reindeer herders stopped here. The herds were diminishing and the Sjávnja wetlands offered plenty of forage. There were fish, birds, and in spring plenty of eggs. Before the reindeer herders became fewer, they had of course been travelling back and forth across the wetlands for decades. They certainly knew where it was safe and where there were dwelling sites. So they stopped there and hunted marten, ptarmigan and grouse. There were two large bird species – the swan and Lesser White-Fronted Goose. Those birds came in formation in the spring, noisy and screeching on the wetlands. All the birds in the world were there. The swans could be heard round the clock as they scouted around. Sjávnjaáhpi is an endless marsh. Reindeer herders could move around there for a week in the mist, round and round, and when they were tired of that they raised a goahte tent.

Lars Pittsa, reindeer herder, Unna tjerusj Sámi community

Even though the eastern parts of Sjávnja are not specially inviting to the traveller, there have been year-round inhabitants here. In the 19th century some new smallholdings sprang up here in central Sjávnja. People fished, kept livestock and hunted. Up until 1940, marsh hay was made here in Sjávnja, but no permanent habitation exists today. The houses are still used, however, for recreation.

Sjávnja_Janjan Nilsson

Photo: Jan Nilsson