This article is an exploration and description of the inter-subjective character of human and non-human relationships. Recent research into animism shows that at present there is emerging a new ontology that breaks down barriers between human beings and animals, culture and nature. This new animism predominantly discusses how human persons relate to the world. The culture of many indigenous groups is animistic meaning that nature is alive and there is a social space for humans and non-humans to interrelate to each other. In this article, an attempt is made to describe in detail how Sami reindeer herders perceive their environment and how the interplay and dialogue with nature is integrated in the overall activities of Sami within this relationship.
A living being co-exists within certain environmental conditions and is dependent on all other beings with which she/he is in relationship. In this sense one can speak about ‘inter-subjectivity’ meaning direct subject-to-subject sharing of presence. It will be shown that the relationship between humans and non-humans is highly context-bound. Furthermore, the relationship between humans and non-humans within the Sami cultural circles is based on the mutual caretaking, respect and conditioning within different groups. For instance, the reindeer give themselves to humans and humans give shelter to them. According to the Sami world view, there are many different kinds of persons, such as humans, animals and spirits. To be a person in an animistic sense is a very flexible way of existence and one has to learn to know what the different personhoods are about. In this context, it is important to understand the role and function of the landscape and certain places and features within the landscape in specific areas. This is because within these places, communication, and what will be referred to as mythic discourse, takes place between humans and non-humans, and this dialogue is known to be of benefit to human beings in their daily lives and activities.