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The Sami of Northern Europe.

Updated on November 21, 2013

If you were to mention indigenous or aboriginal peoples, the first people's you would think of are either Inuit's, Australian Aborigines or the Native American tribe's. One of the other people who are often overlooked include the Sami of Europe. The Sami are a people of Europe, who have kept their culture for over a thousand year's.The Sami people's are not known as a war like tribe and have existed in the same fashion as hunter gatherer's for much of recorded history. They were known to the Roman's as a tribe that resided to the far North of the continent of Europe, their ancestral lands encompass parts of Arctic Russia, Sweden, Finland and Norway.

The current area of Sami habitation
The current area of Sami habitation | Source

The Sami population in Europe

Estimated Population

Sami Identity

Like other minority tribal groups in various countries across the world, the Sami have fought to cling on to their tradition and heritage within Europe. In some case's they have been forced to settle into the dominant culture, but on the whole have managed to maintain their cultural identity. It is possible that this is down to their own determination and survival instincts, that the tribe's did not disappear off the Historical map. Due to the harsh environment they usually inhabit and the fact the Sami where nomadic, other European people's may have preferred to leave the Sami to their own existence for much of Europe's history.

The Sami speak a language which can be broken down into Three main divisions and they are served by numerous regional different dialect's. The Three type's of Sami language are Southern, Eastern and Central. It's closest European tongue is the Finnish language, it is possible they evolved separately due to the Sami's mobility around the continent.

A male Reindeer.
A male Reindeer. | Source

Inuit's and Sami

Although their style of living is similar the Sami and Inuit people's are very genetically different. The Sami share much of their genetic identity with the Northern European's with a hint of Asian influence. The Inuit people's have the same Genetic roots as the Native American tribes. They would have crossed the Bearing Strait's land bridge or walked over the thick Sea ice over 40,000 years ago.

Having walked into modern day Alaska they would have headed East across the America's and settled in Northern Canada and parts of Greenland. The Sami as a people would have followed their prey such as the Reindeer and occupy the land made new by retreating glacier's to the North of Europe.

The Reindeer have provided the Sami people with much of their survival tools and the materials to build shelter from the elements. The Reindeer provide Food, Drink and Clothing for all of the tribe, the creature's are respected and are not killed only to be wasted. The use's the Sami have for the animal are vast, from the sinew used as string to the animal's fat and waste used as fuel.

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Cultural oppression

Like all indigenous tribe's they have had to suffer under the rules and policies of other more dominant European people's. For example as recent as the last century the government of Norway wanted the Sami people to conform to the Norwegian culture and efforts where made to suppress the Sami language and culture in these lands. In the 1850's the Sami took a lot of discrimination when the Norwegian's were griped in a trend of Nationalistic feelings mixed with a form of racism masked as Social Darwinism. Norway was not alone in trying to administer such policies on the Sami tribe, similar measures had been used across Europe where any wandering tribe was present. The taxation of the Sami tribe was a great source of revenue for the Northern Scandinavian nation's as they migrated with their Reindeer herds over national boundaries.

Since the end of the Second World War the United Nation's has been able to assert the fundamental rights of all Indigenous tribes throughout the world. The Sami have been able to register their voice in all democratic countries that they move through. The Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish government have now created Sami Parliament's to help give the Sami people a level of self-determination. In accordance with UN directive's all children born of Sami parentage have the fundamental right to learn their native language, this will protect the Sami's rich heritage.

The Sami like other native tribes, have lesson's they can teach the rest of the world. The Sami are able to live in harmony with their environment and are aware of the effects of their action's on the eco-system and food chain. If a society ending event happened, the skill's the Sami possess would allow them to survive the turmoil in their remote location's.

The Sami can adapt to changing climate condition's like their ancestor's did at the end of the last Ice Age.It can only be a positive thing, that their proud tradition's and knowledge can continue to be shared throughout the modern age in tandem with all our societies technological advance's. If any aboriginal knowledge was to die out, then our world will be a poorer place for the further severing of connection's to our natural world.


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    • seraphic profile image

      Seraph 2 years ago from Canada

      Hello! I enjoyed your article very much. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed it so much you inspired me to write about my people, the Sami. I recently discovered that my DNA and a recent ancestor was Sami. I tagged your article in my article, I hope you do not mind; it would be kind if you would do the same. Thank-you for writing.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 4 years ago from England

      Thank you for the comment, it is far too easy to lump the people of different groups as "One Identity". Before researching the article I wrongly assumed that the Inuit people and the Sami were the same. I was very wrong on that. I would love to know more on the struggles these people's have had to over come in the last century, I would guess their lifestyle would have once been similar to the nomadic people's through Mongolia and parts of Russia to your North.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      I had heard about Sami people through their association with herding reindeer, but nothing more. This hub turned out to be very informative. I thank you for not only providing knowledge about Sami people, but also doing it in the context of Inuit people.

      There are tribes in the region I hail from whose lives were drastically altered by creating of boundaries. Among those are Kuchi people of Afghanistan and Gujjars of Pakistan. Soviet-Afghan war of 1980s and recent upheaval in Afghanistan altered their way of living that depended on transhumance, that is, nomadic herding across many regions.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 4 years ago from England

      Totally agree, it is thought provoking that they have existed in a similar fashion to all our ancestors and at times could have disappeared due to invisible borders. Thanks for reading

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      I knew a little about the Sami, but I really enjoyed reading your article. It must be difficult to live as a people inside the confines of (artificial) national boundaries. Voted up, etc.