The Unique Sami People of Finnish Lapland
One of the most fascinating aspects of embarking on Lapland tours is the opportunity to experience the unique Sami culture of Finnish Lapland’s indigenous people.
Who are the Sami?
The Sami are Lappish people who are indigenous to the far north of Europe, including the Arctic regions of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. They are recognised and protected as Scandinavia’s only true indigenous people.
There is evidence of settlements existing in traditional Sami lands in Lapland more than twelve thousand years ago.
Sami Culture and Traditions
Sami culture is fascinating and unlike any other on Earth. Lapland’s people of Sami heritage have rich cultural traditions, and they are very closely connected with their lands and natural environment.
Finland’s Sami population numbers just nine thousand people, and their endangered culture and language are preserved by the parliament of Inari, in Lapland, which is the Sami capital.
Reindeer herding is intrinsic to Sami culture. Both in the wild and in farms, reindeer calves are born in May, which is the start of the Sami year. Fishing and hunting are also important Sami traditions, and people pick wild berries and mushrooms during the summer months. Sami food is locally sourced and fresh, with reindeer, salmon, game, wild birds, potatoes and berries featuring heavily in local diet.
The Sami speak a language that is a member of the Uralic languages (alongside Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian, and Norwegian). There are nine Sami languages that are closely related; Sami people can understand their nearest neighbours’ languages but not those from farther afield. The Finnish Sami people have their own unique dialects.
Sami have a strong belief in Shamanism and the supernatural. The Northern Lights feature heavily in Sami stories, beliefs, and tales.
Experience a Lapland Tour
There are seasonal attractions for experiencing Sami culture:
- Celebrate the end of the Polar Night in late January/early February by attending Skabmagovat. This is the Indigenous Peoples’ Film and TV Production Festival, and is held in Inari
- Sami National Day is celebrated on February 6th.
- Participate in ice fishing competitions and reindeer races in Inari in March and April.
- In April, the world’s northernmost ski marathon is held on the ancient mail delivery route between Hetta in Finland and Kautokeino in Norway.
- In July, participate in or watch the Teno River Salmon Fishing Championship in Utsjoki
- In August, you can see the Music Festival of Indigenous Peoples, the Triphon Procession through four villages of the Skolt-Sami, who are Russian Orthodox, and the Ijahis idja (the Nightless Night).
- Hike through traditional Sami lands to sacred fells and holy stones.
- Visit Siida to see the Museum of Finnish Sami, or the Fell-Sami Visitor Centre in Hetta for information on hiking trails, including to the last authentic Sami village, Raittijarvi. This village is only accessible on foot.
The Sami region of Northern Lapland is an amazing place to take a holiday that is unlike any other. Not only can you experience the truly magnificent landscape of the Finnish Arctic, but you can discover these beautiful Lapland people and their culture that seems untouched by the passing of time.
Contact Nordic Cruises today to learn more about Lapland tours and holidays to Lapland – it’s a wonderful place to visit any time of year.