The Sami

220px-LocationSapmiNorway Sami Lapp family c 1890

The Sami (Sámi, Saami) are an indigenous people who inhabit an Arctic region extending across the far northern regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland to the Kola Peninsula of Russia and down the border area between Sweden and Norway.  They are recognized as the only indigenous people of Scandinavia, and the northernmost indigenous people in Europe.  Their language, Sami, is a branch from the Uralic language family. The Sami are also known as Lap, Lapp or Laplanders and similar variations across many languages, but many Sami regard these as pejorative terms.

The "Sea" Sami fish along the coasts, trap animals for fur and tend sheep.  However, the best known livelihood is reindeer hunting, a semi-nomadic lifestyle of the "Mountain" Sami.  The Sami have occupied their lands in the Artic for at least 5,000 years.

Sami working knife:  Puukko-1, Puukko-2

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The Sami have for a very long time been under strong cultural pressure to assimilate as Norwegians, Swedes or Finns.  Their language was forbidden in schools and in Sweden they were treated as an inferior race. The Nazi's conducted a scorched earth policy during their occupation of Norway in 1944-45, destroying all Sami houses and other visible traces of their culture.  Today, the indigenous Sami are mostly urbanized but a substantial population still live in villages in the high Arctic.  They suffer cultural loss from language differences, discrimination and business policies that exploit their traditional lands to this day. Sadly, harassment of children in schools due to their ethnic background is sometimes a part of day to day life for Sami children in Swedish schools.

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.

Lantern Slide, Sami Reindeer Herders, Lappland, Norway, Late 19th Century