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Sami Culture

Sápmi - the land of the Sami people - stretches over four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. It is supposedly 50.000 sami people in this area, and about half of them live in Norway.

The Samis are an indigenous people who have inhabited Arctic Fenno-Scandia since time immemorial. Until the 16th century the Samis were more or less nomadic hunter-gatherers who survived by hunting, fishing and trapping reindeer in the vast, fertile lands across the Northern Shield, regardless of national boundaries. In the 16th century, a nomadic lifestyle based on the reindeer’s instinctive annual cycle was introduced – the Samis kept herds of reindeer and migrated with them as they searched for areas to graze. This meant that it was no longer possible for everyone to hunt reindeer and so many Samis had to diversify into other areas such as fishing and farming. A very simplistic summary of the Sami divides the people into two main groups, one of which is the reindeer Sami, the other being the coastal Sami who generally lived on a combination of farming and fishing.

After the designation of national borders, the Sami people had to put up with being treated as a minority group within a country and the policy of Norwegianisation created major identity problems for the Sami population. The last 20 years has been a period of revitalisation and the Sami have gained renewed pride in their own culture and identity. Since 1989, the Norwegian Samis have had their own elected representative body, the Sami parliament.

The Sami population currently numbers approximately 100,000 individuals divided between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. There are thought to be approximately 50,000-70,000 Norwegian Samis.
The Sami population have national citizenship of the country in which they were born and grew up, but also celebrate their own national day on 6 February.

The Sami language belongs to the Finno-Ugric language group, but because the Sami lived in a wide area, there are significant differences in dialect between the various groups.