Who are the Sámi people?

The Sámi people are the only indigenous people of the European Union and are one of the oldest living cultures.

They have been surviving the harsh conditions of Sami Land (also known as Lapland) for thousands of years so it’s no surprise that they’re known for their close connection to the land.

Sami country (Sápmi) and where the Sámi people live now is in Northern parts of NorwayFinlandSweden and parts of Russia. The total population is estimated at 80,000 to 100,000 people.

During many of our Northern Lights holidays, we offer experiences to give you an authentic insight into this fascinating culture. From visiting the Sámi Siida museum in Inari, the capital of Sámi heritage and culture in Finland, to spending time with a traditional reindeer herder in Menesjärvi, there are plenty of ways for you to learn all about the Sámi life. You could even travel to the very top of Finland to Utsjoki – the only Finnish municipality where the indigenous Sámi people still represent the majority of the human population.

Learn more about the Sámi culture below.

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The Sámi culture

To help preserve their culture and language, there is an autonomous Sámi parliament in Inari, Finland.

There are a total of nine Sámi languages but three are spoken most widely; North Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami.

The language is an important part of their culture and is an intriguing insight into the Sámi way of life. For example, they have over 100 different words for snow!

Pastimes and livelihood

Unsurprisingly, traditional Sámi activities all incorporate the natural surroundings. Gathering, handicrafts, hunting and fishing and ice fishing are popular pastimes that you can experience during a visit here. However, the most prominent activity that is central to Sámi culture and livelihood is reindeer herding.

Excavations have revealed that reindeer herding has been present since the Stone Age. Reindeers are used for transport, milk, meat, their insulating skin and valuable antlers. You can see their significance at reindeer farms all over Sámi land and you can even experience a traditional sleigh ride to understand the importance of reindeer for transport over the snowy landscape.

Jewellery making is another integral part of the Sámi culture. One of the most significant pieces is known as ‘risku’ or ‘solju’ and it is the symbol of the sun. Traditionally it is worn to keep the scarf of a traditional Sámi dress in place, and it plays an important role in weddings.

Festivals are also significant in the culture with Easter being the most important time. It marks the end of the winter months and moving on to new pastures.

Sámi food

Sámi food makes use of the local ingredients available in the area. Reindeer, fish, berries, game and wild bird are widely used in dishes.

Gathering and berry picking is also a large part of the culture. ‘Right of Access’ or ‘Everyman’s Rights’ applies here which means you can pick berries and mushrooms from the land, wild or not. However, people are usually respectful of the fact that they are most likely on someone else’s land, and so won’t take too much.

Where is best to discover the Sámi culture?

Many of our Northern Lights holidays feature experiences and insights into the Sámi culture – from reindeer activities to visiting the Finnish capital of the Sámi people, Inari. Here, you can visit the Siida museum for an in-depth look into the culture, with changing exhibitions throughout the year.

Here at the Aurora Zone, we believe in authentic holidays that best represent the incredible regions you visit. That’s why we work with local partners and communities to provide you with experiences and activities that are true to the area. To learn more about our holidays, call one of our Aurora Travel Experts today on 01670 785 012.

Image credits: Matt Robinson, Tea Karvinen and Visit Finland, Antti Pietikainen