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Sámi Culture

The Sámi (also Sami or Saami) are the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. The size of the Sámi population has been estimated at somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000; a cautious estimate would be about 70,000. In Norway there are believed to be between 40,000 and 45,000 Sámi, largely concentrated in Finnmark, where there are some 25,000. Sweden has about 17,000 Sámi, Finland around 5,700 and Russia approximately 2,000.

A Sami is a person who:

  • has Sámi as his/her first language, or whose father, mother or one of whose grandparents has Sámi as their first language, or
  • considers himself/herself a Sámi and lives in entire accordance with the rules of the Sámi society, and who is recognized by the representative Sámi body as a Sámi, or
  • has a father or mother who satisfies the above-mentioned conditions for being a Sámi.

Official Norwegian policy until the 1950s was to try to make the Sámi Norwegian. This was attempted by forcing Sámi children to attend boarding schools where the Sámi would learn Norwegian language and history. Sámi language was suppressed. The Norwegenization effort was only half-way successful. From the 1960s to the present, the policy has been to encourage Sámi language and culture. The problem is that many Sámi accepted the idea that it was better to be Norwegian.

View our books about Sámi culture.