The Sami People
The traditional Sami lands that we now call Sápmi – stretches across the northern part of Scandinavia and Russia’s Kola Peninsula. As Sami, we are recognized as an indigenous people, which gives us the right to preserve and develop our crafts, language, education, reindeer husbandry, traditions, and identity. There is no census for the Sami, but the population is estimated at around 100,000 people, spread over four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
The Sami were originally nomads, living in tents or huts made of turf during the colder seasons. Today we live in modern housing near the towns and use smaller cottages in the mountains and forests. Most Sami in Sweden live in the north. Only ten percent of the Swedish Sami earn a living from the reindeer industry nowadays. Many combine reindeer herding with tourism, fishing, crafts and other trades.
Much of today’s reindeer industry is meat production. In the past, during the migration of entire reindeer herds, the herders and their families would move by foot or on skis, following the reindeer, living as nomads. Today children must go to school, and many women work in town. Reindeer herders use snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles to drive the herds. In some cases, trucks are needed to transport the reindeer to new grazing grounds. Roads, railroads and industrial activities have cut off the old migration routes.
Reindeer are a big part of Sami culture, providing food and raw materials for everyday use. Traditionally, every part of the reindeer was kept and used – skin and horns for making shoes and knives, meat to cook or for further processing. Sami handicrafts (duodji) use natural materials and often have soft rounded shapes, pleasing to the touch but functional. Elaborate ornamentation is important for showing off the maker’s skills and to preserve family and cultural designs. A certificate of Sami handicraft quality guarantees authenticity for the buyer.
Pride in Sami heritage can be seen in the traditional dress, which has gone from being work clothing to a festive garment. The design of the national costume varies depending on the family's geographical origin. Yoik is traditional Sami singing and is one of the oldest forms of music in Europe. Sami music today is often a blend of yoik, rock and contemporary music.
Learn more about the Sami in Sweden here:
The official site of Sweden