The Sami people, also spelled Sámi or Saami, are the indigenous people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway.
The Sámi are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized under the international conventions of Indigenous peoples, and hence the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. Sami ancestral lands span an area of approximately 388,350 km2 (150,000 sq. mi.), which is approximately the size of Sweden, in the Nordic countries. Their traditional languages are the Sami languages classified as a branch of the Uralic language family.
Traditionally, the Sami have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding. Their best-known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding, with which about 10% of the Sami are connected and 2,800 actively involved on a full-time basis. For traditional, environmental, cultural and political reasons, reindeer herding is legally reserved only for Sami people in certain regions of the Nordic countries.
Regions with the most significant populations are:
Since prehistoric times, long before the concept of national borders existed, the Sami people of Arctic Europe lived and worked in an area that stretches over the regions now known as Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola Peninsula. They have inhabited the northern arctic and sub-arctic regions of Fenno-Scandinavia and Russia for at least 5000 years. The Sami are counted among the Arctic peoples and are members of circumpolar groups such as the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat.
Duodji, the Sami handicraft, originates from the time when the Samis were self-supporting nomads, believing therefore that an object should first and foremost serve a purpose rather than being primarily decorative. Men mostly use wood, bone, and antlers to make items such as antler-handled scrimshawed Sami knives, drums, and guksi (burl cups). Women used leather and roots to make items such as gákti (clothing), and birch- and spruce-root woven baskets.
The indigenous Sami population is a mostly urbanized demographic, but a substantial number live in villages in the high arctic. The Sami still have cultural consequences of language and culture loss related to Sami generations taken to missionary and/or state-run boarding schools and the legacy of laws that were created to deny the Sami rights (e.g., to their beliefs, language, land and to the practice of traditional livelihoods). The Sami are experiencing cultural and environmental threats, including oil exploration, mining, dam building, logging, climate change, military bombing ranges, tourism and commercial development.
The Sami Parliament of Norway (Norwegian: Sametinget, Northern Sami: Sámediggi, Lule Sami: Sámedigge, Southern Sami: Saemiedigkie) is the representative body for people of Sami heritage in Norway. It acts as an institution of cultural autonomy for the indigenous Sami people.
The Parliament was opened on 9 October 1989. The seat is in Kárášjohka (Karasjok). It currently has 39 representatives, who are elected every four years by direct vote from 7 constituencies. The last election was in 2013. Unlike in Finland, the 7 constituencies cover all of Norway. The current president is Aili Keskitalo who represents the Norwegian Sami Association.
Text modified by: ThorNews
Photo on top by: Lise Åserud
Interesting that Russia seems to have the least number of Sami people. Is it that they are just not “counted” or perhaps included in Census data?