The Enchanting Sami People

Sami People Deer

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A couple of hundred miles above the Arctic Circle in the chilly northern European regions live the Sami people, who are among the world’s oldest living cultures.

Most Sami are reindeer herders and are renown for being hospitable and friendly to outsiders. This is why more and more people going on Northern Lights tours visit them to learn about their preserved traditional lifestyle and to see their reindeer.

About Sami Indigenous People

The Sami are indigenous people who have long inhabited the Kola Peninsula of Russia and some areas of northern Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Scientists from different countries are eager to learn more about these people, but there is still no exact version of the origin of the Sami. According to some arrangements, Sami - means "land". In Russia, they were called lopes, lapps. The word came from the Finnish lape, which means "side". The Sami are part of the Finno-Ugric language group, but they occupy a special place in it – the third part of the vocabulary is unique. Fifty-five dialects have been identified in the language of the Northerners.

Scandinavia landscape

Sami Population

These indigenous European people have been adapting to the harsh conditions of the Arctic for many centuries. They now live on the territory of four states: Russia, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. The Swedish Sami (17-20 thousand people) are predominantly mountainous, nomadic. Their traditional trade is mountain reindeer husbandry. Small groups of mountain Sami are also found in Norway and Finland. In Finland, forest Sami (6-8 thousand people) hunt fur animals and deer. They lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle and sometimes engage in reindeer husbandry. In Norway, the Sami traditionally engaged mainly in fishing.

Scandinavia landscape

Sami are seaside, settled people. Now there are 40-60 thousand Sami in Norway. Settled Sami reindeer herders, fishers, and hunters live on the Kola Peninsula in Russia. But their ancestors once roamed, like the Swedish Sami. In total, the population of the Sami is about 90 thousand people, and their way of life fully corresponds to harmony with the surrounding nature. The Sami have a deep respect for nature, trees, plants, and animals and have managed to preserve their traditional centuries-old way of life and rich heritage.


The Sami table did not indulge in variety: meat and fish. Instead, venison was consumed, boiled, dried, and frozen. In addition, they often cooked soup, adding rye flour, salt, and grated berries: crow and cloudberry. For the winter, the meat was dried: cut into strips, and hung over the fire. They also used stroganina – raw frozen meat. The brain, heart, tongue, stomach, and brisket were considered delicacies. To prevent scurvy, they drank deer blood. In the summer, they switched to a fish diet. From fish, soups were cooked, and fish was fried on sticks by the fire. Later, they began to cook fish "with a smell," for which they had previously buried the fish in the ground.

Deer stew

They bought rye flour from the Russians and baked unleavened cakes. The inner layer of pine bark was harvested, dried, pounded, and added to the soup. They willingly picked crow, lingonberries, blueberries, and cloudberries and ate them in dried or soaked form. My favorite drink is tea, and it is drunk with onions. But deer milk was not in high esteem.
The Most Popular Dish
Salted fish and Bierggojubttsa soup are among the most well-known dishes which can be tasted during tours to visit the Sami people.

Sami Clothing & Reindeer

Importantly, the Sami people keep and put to use every part of the reindeer. The skins are used for making shoes and clothes, whereas the bones for crafts and tools, called duodji. All handicrafts are made of natural materials and often depict cultural patterns and designs.

Sami clothing is also very symbolic and differs in style, depending on geographic origin. It can actually tell about the person’s marital status and nativity.

Bright red, yellow and blue colors are used in folk costumes which are called kolt or gakti. For most Sami today this clothing is more of a festive garment for special occasions. Men and women also usually wear traditional accessories as well as shawls, belts and embroidered decorative collars and hats.


Reindeer husbandry plays a significant role in the life of the Sami people. Historically they had a nomadic lifestyle and would follow the reindeer herds as they migrated through the forests, moving on foot or skis and living in tents and huts called lavvu or kata.

Today the Sami say they are reindeer walkers as the animals aren’t kept in captivity and have the opportunity to roam freely on special grounds. Marking the calves ears is also a traditional element of their work.

Sami Language & Culture

Important knowledge about reindeer and the Sami language is also passed down within the community. Dialects vary from region to region, but the language is rich and descriptive. As such there are several hundred ways to describe snow!

The culture of the Saami people is interesting as well.

Their singing is called yoiking, it originated from spiritual chanting and is one of the oldest forms of European music.

National Flag

Yoiks are passed down from generation to generation telling a story of the important things that shouldn’t be forgotten.

As for other forms of entertainment, the Sami are fond of holding events such as reindeer racing championships and festivals.

Fun Fact
There are several hundreds ways to describe snow in Sami language! Impressive, right?

Often called Laplanders, the Sami have always coexisted peacefully with their neighbors and take pride in their cultural uniqueness and identity. Those planning to set off on a journey to the north can make their Northern Lights tour even more unforgettable by visiting these wonderful people and learning about their life.