Travel Guide

Sami People

Sami are the indigenous people to the region known as Lapland. Sami people originate from, and still live in areas of northern Norway, Sweden Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

They are descendants of nomadic people from the region, there is evidence that the Sami were probably dispersed over Scandinavia before moving north as the Finns entered Finland at around 100 AD, with the same happening in Sweden and Norway pushing the Sami people further north into the region we now know as Lapland.

About the Sami people

Earlier Sami history is vague; however, some believe they originated from Siberia, whereas others have concluded they were descended from people in Central Europe. There are thought to be around 40,000 Sami in Norway, 20,000 in Sweden, 6,000 in Finland, and 2,000 in Russia. There are thought to be three Sami languages which are both very different and not interchangeable between regions, however are often considered as dialects of a single language.

Traditionally, and until very recently, Reindeer herding was central to the Sami way of life with reindeer sledding and reindeer Sami activities in Lapland still available for visitors to enjoy. Traditional nomadic reindeer herding families would travel, in groups of five to six families, around the Arctic region with large reindeer herds to find the best grazing land staying in Sami tepee like tents called Lavvu, or turf and wooden. As well as eating reindeer as a staple of their diet, Sami people would also hunt and fish as they travelled the region.

Modern Sami Life

Modern Sami life is very different however there are many who keep Reindeer and traditional Sami values and traditions alive. Although many Sami have now found other vocations, there are a significant number of Sami who still remain herders, however they now travel alone with their families residing in permanent housing. Although each animal is still individually owned, reindeer are now herded as a community, where all of the animals are gathered in spring and sorted.

There are many cultural activities in Kiruna, Abisko, Narvik, Lulea – across the region – designed to give guests a better insight into modern and traditional life of the indigenous Sami people.

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