Sami – the indigenous people of Lapland

Sami is the name given to an indigenous people of northern Europe, whose traditional homeland is the area known as Sapmi. In modern times, Sapmi extends across the northern part of Sweden (Lapland), Finland, Norway and the Kola Peninsula in Russia as well as south into Jämtland and Dalarna in the north-west part of Sweden near the Norwegian border.

The Sami (which is also sometimes spelt Saami or Sámi) have in the past also been known as Lapps, though this term is now widely considered to be derogatory.

With a total population of around 50-75,000, of whom around 15-20,000 live in Sweden, the Sami are one of the largest indigenous ethnic groups in Europe. In Sweden, the Sami homeland area covers more than 150,000 square kilometres, around 35% of the country’s total area. In addition to Swedish (for Sami living in Sweden), many modern Sami also know and use the traditional Sami languages. There are a number of variations and dialects between groups and regions.

While the Sami have traditionally made their living in a variety of ways, from fishing to sheep herding, it is reindeer herding that is most closely associated with the Sami people and which forms the heart of their culture. The Sami are the only people legally permitted to be reindeer herders in Sweden, and reindeer herding still remains a central part of economic and cultural life for many Sami. Though times have changed and more traditional means of transportation have given way to snowscooters and other motorised transport as the most efficient means to move around the vast distances of their homeland, the Sami nevertheless retain a strong and vibrant culture with a strong focus on tradition. Today, around 10% of all Sami are actively involved in reindeer herding.

Reindeer herding is a semi-nomadic way of life, and the traditional Sami structure is therefore the tipi, or “kåta”. Tipis are versatile structures ideal for socialising, cooking and sleeping. Often the base is carpeted with fir branches and reindeer skins to make a comfortable and welcoming.

Reindeer-related products, along with music and handicrafts are the main exports of Sami society. Handicrafts include knives and other implements made from reindeer horn. Traditional Sami music is known as the “joik”, traditionally sung a cappella but, in more recent times, also accompanied by musical instruments and even fused with modern musical influences.

Nature Travels offers a number of summer activities and winter holidays in Sweden with a focus on Sami culture and led by local Sami guides, giving you the chance to experience and learn about this fascinating culture first hand from local people still strongly connected with the traditions of the Sami.

In summertime, we offer two options for horse riding in Sweden led by a Sami family and located in the far north using Icelandic horses:

  • Skeble Mountain Tour (4 days)
  • Vindel Mountains Expedition (7 days)

In winter, we offer both extended reindeer sledding tours and multi-activity winter experiences combining outdoor and cultural activities, both of which are led by local Sami guides:

Sami is a rich and living culture rooted in a deep connection with the Sami homeland and its flora and fauna. For more information on the Sami people, please see http://www.eng.samer.se/

Best regards

The Nature Travels Ltd

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