Sami - One People in Four Countries

Some 370 million people identify themselves as belonging to an indigenous people, descended from a population inhabiting a particular area before current state boundaries were established. The Sami are one such indigenous people. Their history begins long before the states of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia existed. There are at least 20.000 Sami in Sweden.

The Sami long lived by haunting, gathering, fishing and reindeer herding. New sources of income are handicrafts, tourism, media, art and music. Today, there are Sami working in most vocational fields.

In the course of their history, the Sami have suffered discrimination. They have joined forces both within and across national boundaries to defend their rights.

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Nordiska museum, Stockholm
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Nordiska museum, Stockholm

About Sami Mythology

Age old Sami mythology was almost completely forgotten a few centuries ago during the religious invasion of 1600 – 1700s. The ancient religions and stories featured several Sami characters, who appeared numerous narratives right across the Sami area. Sami folklore was rich, full of legends and beliefs that were very important in understanding man’s communion with nature. All animate and inanimate things – domestic animals, water, rocks, and  natural phenomena – had their own supernatural guardians and gods, which affected the daily lives of ancient people.

Different Sami tribes has their own ideas of life after death, soul journeys and other dimensions of the universe. The belief in them was strong. Sorcerers and shamans represented the highest level of learning to the Sami. They were able to explain phenomena that ordinary people could not understand. People used seide stones as altars when making offerings to their various deities. They anointed them with fish oil and reindeer fat to bring them luck in hunting and fishing. But sometimes they got mad with their gods, if lean times for catching food continued for too long. Then the seide got the worst of people’s wrath. They were burnt to the point of breaking, smashed up and finally the pieces were thrown into a nearby lake or other water. But the belief in their gods was not shaken. They were known to be real. Sometimes they just tested the Sami people too much.

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Sami mythology - Shaman drum
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Sami mythology - Shaman drum
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Sami mythology - Shaman drum

Sameblod

Listen – Read about this coincidence, which cannot be a coincidence.

It is a beautiful morning. I find myself in a forest near Kiruna, in the Swedish Lapland with my friends and a local photographer. Her name is Annette and she is going to spend the day taking us around natural landscapes and teaching us how to take proper pictures of nature and wildlife. We are driving along a road and it is like we are on our own. We stop the car and take pictures in the middle of the street. A street extending far, where eye meets a blue, so blue sky. Both sides, two straight lines of tall, slim, lush green trees. Her name is Annette, she is smiling all the time. Annette is Sami.

While on the road, a friend from Greece who has seen on social media my pins, texts me that during the week a film about Sami people is on the Athenian cinemas. I ask Annette whether she knows the film. She did know it.

“Sameblod” is about a reindeer-breeding Sámi girl who is exposed to the racism of the 1930’s at her boarding school, starts dreaming of another life. But to achieve it, she has to become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture.”

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Sami Blood (Swedish: Sameblod) is a 2016 Swedish coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Amanda Kernell, as her feature film debut.
sameblod
Sami Blood (Swedish: Sameblod) is a 2016 Swedish coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Amanda Kernell, as her feature film debut.

Brief History of Sami

The first Sami people appeared around 10.000BC during the time when the Ice were melting, so we are nearly at the end of the ice age, back when the Baltic Sea was called Ancylus lake. Ancylus Lake is a name given by geologists to a large freshwater lake that existed in northern Europe approximately from 9500 to 8000 years before present, being in effect one of various predecessors to the modern Baltic Sea.

The Sami people during the 2nd World war, when Finland was fighting with the Soviet Union had to move towards the middle of Finland in order to save their lives. They never got back to their homes again. They passed by the lake Inari and inhabited the midlands of Finland. When the Sami move they always pack everything with them.

Lake Inari is the largest lake in Sápmi and the third-largest lake in Finland. It is located in the northern part of Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle.

The Sami languages form a branch of the Uralic language family. According to the traditional view, Sami is within the Uralic family most closely related to the Finnic languages. In terms of internal relationships, the Sami languages are divided into two groups: western and eastern.

Many of the actual languages have gone extinct. Every Sami tribe has own dress. The colours of the lines of their costume show the occupation, fishermen or reindeer herders, the number of the lines tells the actual village the family comes from. Its all depicted, it’s a matter of honour and respect.

If we were to find the most relative to the Sami culture, that would be the Basques of Spain and France.

The Basques have genetically proven to be the closest to their tribes. They attribute this genetical connection back at the Ice Age when the Sami people climbed up north, to save themselves.

 

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Sami Cultural Center of North America
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Sami camp at lake Luossajärvi, Lappland, Sweden
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Close to Nature

Annette was born in Stockholm. Her father’s parents didn’t want his child to work with reindeers so they sent him to study in Stockholm. At the times, Annette’s dad was working as a photographer at the Swedish TV. There were some people who started off as electricians at the TV and evolved to become photographers, art directors, etc.

When Annette was born, her father decided to go back to the Swedish Lapland, to his roots. He decided he was going back. He founded the Sami TV, a channel by and for Sami people and moved north along with a group of people. They were doing Sami programs, telling Sami stories on TV. Now there are more than 20-30 people working on such documentaries and news.

Annette is simple, sweet and original. Her voice is low and her words carefully placed. She wants to be in nature. I couldn’t stop listening to her speaking. I had nothing to say. Her wise words, that i am going to try to never forget, follow:

“When you live close to nature, you can’t be telling what you want to do. You have to listen. You have to wait! Nature is speaking, the reindeers are speaking.

If you can choose you have to choose to live. Take care of life and never say no. Do anything that you are not regretting.”

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A day with Annette in the Swedish Lapland
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A day with Annette in the Swedish Lapland
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A day with Annette in the Swedish Lapland
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A day with Annette in the Swedish Lapland