The Sami

Europe's last indigenous people

The Sámi people, consisting of around 100,000 individuals in the northern regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia, are recognized as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and strong cultural identity. Since the 1960s, the Sámi have successfully asserted their rights and became the only indigenous people in Europe to be officially recognized, following a history of being stigmatized for their differences.

Children are involved in work and responsibilities from a young age, particularly in the care of reindeer and navigating the wilderness. Reindeer husbandry forms a significant livelihood for approximately 15% of the Sámi population, with women often pursuing additional occupations while men oversee the herds. The bond with reindeer shapes daily life and dictates the rhythm of families.

The semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Sámi is characterized by a blend of tradition and modern technology. Snowmobiles and GPS tracking aid in herding movements, while drones are utilized for surveillance. Alongside reindeer husbandry, the Sámi dedicate themselves to crafts such as crafting traditional footwear and attire.

The history of the Sámi dates back to the Stone Age, with the domestication of reindeer around 1800 BCE marking a pivotal development in their culture. Over the centuries, they have faced various forms of oppression and assimilation attempts, from colonial exploitation to the prohibition of their culture during the Nazi regime. Today, they once again face scrutiny from the state, particularly concerning reindeer husbandry and land use.

The Sámi struggle against industrial pressures encroaching on their grazing lands, while lacking land ownership rights themselves. The question of the appropriate number of reindeer and their welfare remains a contentious issue that will continue to shape the future of the Sámi community.

Louisa, Finnmark, 2019
Silvya, Finmark, 2019
Kristen, Finnmark, 2019
Reindeer paddock, Finnmark, 2019
Per Oskar, Finnmark, 2019
Risten, Finnmark, 2019
Sami Costume, Finnmark, 2019
Anne Louise Gaup, Finnmark, 2019