Runne-Beana: Dog Herds Ethnographer

  • Myrdene Anderson Department of Anthropology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
Keywords: Fieldwork reflections, Saami, Reindeer-herding dogs, Reindeer management


Saami society in Lapland (now often called Saapmi), particularly the seasonally-nomadic reindeer-breeding sector, is predicated upon mobility and autonomy of its actors. Runne-Beana, a talented reindeer-herding dog, exhibited both mobility and autonomy when allocating to himself a peripatetic ethnographer, on the first day of five years of doctoral dissertation fieldwork in arctic Norway in 1972. That family’s and the wider community’s reactions to Runne-Beana’s behavior, and mine, highlight the tensions when mobility and autonomy compound with ideologies of ownership and control. At the same time, his companionship profoundly shaped all field relationships, engendering an understanding of dog culture as it is manifest in the herder/herding dog/reindeer triad and in the interpenetration of assumptions concerning child/dog enculturation.

Author Biography

Myrdene Anderson, Department of Anthropology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
Myrdene Anderson, anthropologist, linguist, and semiotician and Associate Professor in Purdue's Department of Anthropology, conducts longitudinal ethnogkraphic studies with Saami reindeer herders, community gardeners in the USA, and the Artificial Life movement.


Agar, M. 1996. The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography, 2nd edition. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

Anderson, M. 1978. Saami Ethnoecology: Resource Management in Norwegian Lapland. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

Anderson, M. 1986. From Predator to Pet: Social Relationships of the Saami Reindeer-Herding Dog. Central Issues in Anthropology 6:3–11.

Anderson, M. 2000. Saami Children and Traditional Knowledge. In Ecological Knowledge in the North: Studies in Ethnobiology, edited by I. Svanberg and H. Tunon, pp. 55–65. Swedish Biodiversity Centre, Uppsala, Sweden.

Anderson, M. 2015. Musing on Nomadism: Being and Becoming at Home on the Reindeer Range. In Stories of Home: Place, Identity, Exile, edited by D. Chawla and S. Holman Jones, pp. 17–30. Lexington Books, New York, NY.

Anderson, M. 2016. Food Trends through Two Generations amongst Saami in Arctic Fennoscandia. In Gender and Food: From Production to Consumption and After, Advances in Gender Research 22, edited by V. Demos and M. Texler Segal, pp. 3–23. Emerald, New York, NY.

Beach, H. 1981. Reindeer Herd Management in Transition: The Case of Tuorpon Saameby in Northern Sweden. Uppsala University Press, Uppsala, Sweden.

Ellen, R. F. 1987. Ethnographic Research: A Guide to General Conduct, 2nd edition. Academic Press, New York, NY.

Paine, R. 1994. Herds of the Tundra: A Portrait of Saami Reindeer Pastoralism. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.

Pehrson, R. N. 1957. The Bilateral Network of Social Relations in Konkama Lapp District. International Journal of American Linguistics (II) 23.1.

Wengle, J. L. 1988. Ethnographers in the Field: The Psychology of Research. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL.

How to Cite
Anderson, M. (2016). Runne-Beana: Dog Herds Ethnographer. Ethnobiology Letters, 7(2), 32–40.
Research Communications