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The Sámi People of Northern Norway

There is nothing more Nordic than the Sami people. They are calm people who haven’t waged any wars, which has led to them not being given the same attention in history as the Vikings.

The Sami people have a rich history and are well-known for proudly inviting people to learn more about and celebrate their culture. In this article, we explore the essentials of the incredible Sami people of Norway.

Sami People in Norway

Who are the Sami People?

The Scandinavian countries are all very well-known for being the home of the Vikings. Before Vikings even sat foot in the North, People from the northeastern part of Eurasia settled in these areas.

Since the Sami are considered the first settlers of the North, they can be seen as native Norwegians, Swedes, and even Finns! This also means that there are some differences between the Sami people and the rest of the Scandinavian people. Even if it is mostly limited to culture and tradition, there are some physical attributes that set them apart.

The Physical Traits of Sami

If you have ever met any indigenous Norwegians, you probably noticed that most Sami people's eyes are as blue as glacier ice. Sami people in Norway share the typical fair skin and light hair that large parts of Scandinavia are known for. These Sami people features are, however, more common among the Norway indigenous people than in the rest of the Scandinavian people.

On top of that, the beautiful clothing that the Sami people feature is revered for its bright colors and intricate patterns. The Sami clothes and handmade crafts are often of incredibly high quality, as is evident from the high demand in the Nordic countries.

Sami in Norway

🌎 Where do the Sami People Live?

Today, several areas all over the northern part of Scandinavia are specifically designated for keeping the rich Sami people’s culture. Unfortunately, this means that you won’t be able to see a Sami village anywhere around Oslo in Norway since it is far south. If you would like to see the culture in person, Norway is the place to visit since they have the largest population of Sami in the Nordics.

There are an estimated 40,000 Sami people in Norway, making up roughly half of the global Sami population. Most of them stay in Finnmark County, but some have traditional Sami villages further south. This means that you’ll have to take a Norway road trip to be able to meet the Sami if you land in Oslo.

📚 The History of the Sami People

Roughly 12 000 years ago, the larger part of Northern Europe was covered in a thick layer of ice, and the environment was not hospitable at all. As the ice started to recede, different hunter-gatherer groups quickly followed.

After the Ice Age

Different groups started colonizing the northern coastline of the Arctic Ocean. This was during the Stone Age and the settlers were known as the Komsa-Culture.

The first established Sami appearance in the Nordic region dates to almost 8,000 BC. From this time onward, the Sami people slowly learned how to live alongside the reindeer and eventually domesticated them. This close relationship led to the reindeer becoming important for the Sami culture.

History of Sami People

Viking Era

Despite some early thoughts, there were no Sami Vikings. The Samis kept to the North whilst the Vikings were busy, causing chaos in mainland Europe and Britain. Given the Sami people’s often nomadic lifestyle, interactions were often naturally avoided.

The Sami people and the Vikings only interacted through trade and taxation, in which the Vikings would demand taxes from the Sami people. We know this since there haven’t been any finds of battles between Samis and Vikings. There are, however, written accounts of trade with “the people in the north” as well as several written accounts of taxation of the Sami people.

Modern Times

Unfortunately, the Sami people have not been treated well in modern times, but the Nordic governments have heard them for the last couple of decades. This has led to them getting special rights to practice their culture in line with their traditions. There is still friction between modern society and the Sami culture. However, as cultural understanding develops, relations from both sides improve.

Today, most Sami people will proudly keep to the core of their long traditions without being prejudiced towards any modern technology.

Things about Sami People

The Sami Religion

The Sami culture is thousands of years old, and their religion is a mix of polytheism, shamanism, and animism. It is very different from any monotheistic religion that most of us are used to in Western society.

Christian missionaries tried to convert the Sami people as early as the 1300s. As time went by, the will to convert the Sami people to Christianity escalated to arresting many of them for witchcraft. It wasn’t until the end of the 1700s that the Sami religion became legal, and the Christian will to convert continued with less violent methods. During this time, it wasn’t easy being a Sami person who lives near Norwegians, but through incredible resilience, the religion has survived.

Experience the Sami People’s Culture

Simply knowing about the Sami people in Norway is not enough. Since they are very hospitable and happy to share their culture with visitors, we recommend you take the opportunity to experience it in person.

⛺ Sleep in a Traditional Sami Lavvo (tent)

One of the best ways to get close to the Sami culture is to sleep in a traditional Lavvo, a large and sturdy tent. Even though this might seem like the Sami equivalent to glamping, you can find anything from fully furnished Lavvos to simple sleeping arrangements with minimal storage. The lack of light pollution around these camps is perfect for catching the Northern Lights in Norway, too!

Sami Lavvo

🎊 Sami Festivals

Actively participating in celebrating the Sami people’s traditions is another great way to get closer to their culture. Below are some festivals that are held annually in Norway, just waiting for you to attend.

At any of these festivals, you will be sure to experience one of the most important and characteristic Sami traditions: the Joik! It’s traditional Sami folk music and one of Europe’s oldest singing traditions in Europe.

🚍 Start Your Adventure

The Sami people are an amazing group of people who deserve some dedicated time on your Norway visit. To reach them, you will have to travel through Norway, so make sure to rent a motorhome in Norway to begin your cultural journey of exploration.

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