Text: Linn Blekkerud
The Sami are the indigenous people of the north. Even though the Sami are now part of modern society, they maintain ancient traditions such as joik, handicrafts and reindeer husbandry. If you visit Tromsø, you can have a close-up experience of their colourful culture and history.
The Sami people have always adapted their traditional way to the nature around them. For centuries, the Sami have lived by hunting, fishing, farming and reindeer husbandry. We are often asked if it’s possible to visit Sami settlements, but such settlements no longer exist in Norway. The Sami are part of our modern society, live in towns and villages and are involved in all occupations.
However, the Sami traditions remain strong, as they have for hundreds of years. Sami people involved in reindeer husbandry are semi-nomadic and move with their reindeer herd to summer grazing areas. Consequently, most of the activities around Tromsø are offered outside the summer season from October to March.
The reindeer, the culture carrier of the Sami
Reindeer husbandry is an important part of Sami identity. The reindeer is used as a draught animal and for food production. In days gone by, people also milked reindeer. The hide is used to make beautiful products like clothes, shoes and sitting pads.
Feeding reindeer, close-up contact with the animals and reindeer sledding are popular activities that guests can take part in, often combined with a cultural session around fire in a lavvu (Sami herdsmen’s tent). Perhaps the Northern Lights, which according to Sami tradition have supernatural powers, will dance across the sky outside. During such experiences, the Sami often serve bidos (reindeer soup) accompanied by joik, their traditional song.
The most important part of the Sami experiences is the storytelling. It’s easy to be fascinated by the Sami’s proud history and mythology, as well as contemporary cultural expressions like modern rap and clothing design.
Sápmi is the Northern Sami name for the area traditionally inhabited by the Sami people. It’s known as Sámeednam or Sábme in Lule Sami and Saemie in South Sami.
Sápmi has no formal boundaries but generally includes Northern Norway, Trøndelag and some areas just south of Trøndelag (particularly Trollheimen and Femundsmarka). The Kola Peninsula in Russia, Lapland in Finland and Norrland in Sweden are also considered part of Sápmi. The Sami are a minority in these areas.