FROM PAST TO PRESENT
Kujala Reindeer Farm since 1860
The profession of a reindeer herder often goes from father to son, from one generation to another. That is the case in our family, too. Kujala Reindeer Farm has found its location halfway from Kuusamo to Ruka in 1860 when Juho Petteri Karjalainen, later Kujala (1829-1913) settled down at the present location, in Kujala. The name Kujala derives from the name of the location. Kujala family has lived in Nissivaara since the early 18th century.
The oldest son of Juho Petteri, Konrad Kujala (1868-1938) remained to run the farm when his younger brothers and some of his sisters left for America. The name Kujala still exixts in the US.
The oldest son of Konrad, Juho Pekka Kujala (1899-1970) known as ”Kuja Jussi” worked as the head of the local reindeer herders in several periods of time, recognised all the earmarks of the locals and knew whom they belonged to, and also those that were not those of not locals’.
In those days, the work was done on skis. It often took well over a week to cover the whole region on skis. The herders would stay at others’ homes in their journeys. They would feed on dried reindeer meet, bread and butter, which has not changed all that much over the years. The equipment that was needed was hauled by reindeer, from one village to another. Horses were to come and replace reindeer much later.
Reindeer have been taken full use of, both making food and clothing. Tradtionally, the whole family took part in the work. The reindeer formed the base for living but it was also a pet. The herders were sometimes so keen on some of the reindeer that they were given names. The affection went as far as letting those reindeers in their houses. And protesting the man of the house was not an acceptable thing to do. The children, of course, had their own marks that were cut in the ears of their own reindeers. Thus the word ’earmark’. Juho would go to auctions to buy a number of calves for his children’s herds.
The farm has remained firmly on its location, despite the fact that the Germans burnt the main house during the second World War. New buildings have been built as generations have changed. The large fields have been ploughed with shovels after the wars. Help was often received from travellers who would stay at the farm on their journeys. In modern times, the same type of help is possible to receive in the form of farmhand job at the reindeer farm.
The youngest son of Juho and Aino, Olavi Konrad Kujala (1947-1999) stayed to run the farm while the others opted elsewhere. In the 1980s, Olavi was known the head of the local reindeer herders and a talented reindeer racer who, just like his father before him, knew all the earmarks in the region. An eager racer at reindeer races would more likely than not sweep the trophies not matter what race was in question. Olavi also was keen on teaching others the secrets of reindeer herding.
Alonside reindeers there was also a cowshed where both meet and dairy cattle were kept. It was then when machinery was taken to help in daily chores. Reindeers were transported by vans, the same way as it is done even today. Reindeers were rounded up in corrals for the coldest winter months in the early 1980s.
The oldest son of Olavi and Arja, Juha Olavi Kujala (born 1971) who now runs the farm first became interested in herding reindeers in his early youth, just like his father had done a generation before. Learning by doing like his father did has been the way to master the skill of reindeer herding. To continue the tradition, Juha’s two sons both have their own earmarks and their own reindeers just in case they happen to pick up the family tradition in this occupation at the family farm.
Juha works as the head of the local reindeer herders and a full-time reindeer herder and now in reindeer tourism. Juha is a courageous fellow and moving into reindeer tourism at the end of 2016 was a natural choice for Juha and something he felt he had to accomplish. Prior to this move he had a long work history at Rukakeskus with years of experience within the tourism industry. Juha's wife Jenni is a creative force in the farm developing cultural travel and amazing reindeer art. Juha calls her the heart of the farm. The traditional reindeer farm has nowdays a unique take on modern and sustainable tourism.