The Sami People


The Sami are Norway’s indigenous people

Travel to Northern Norway to experience their culture. Learn to throw a lasso, or try reindeer sledding.

Sami PeopleThe Sami people also Sámi or Saami, traditionally known in English as Lapps or Laplanders, are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. The Sami are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples, and are hence the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. Sami ancestral lands span an area of approximately 388,350 km2, which is approximately the size of Norway, in the Nordic countries. Their traditional languages are the Sami languages and are classified as a branch of the Uralic language family.

In Norway, the Sami have their own parliament which promotes political initiatives and manages missions and laws delegated to them by national authorities. As a political organ, the Samediggi work with issues they perceive as being of particular concern to the Sami people. However, as with many indigenous peoples, the Sami in Norway have suffered a past dominated by discrimination, particularly regarding religion and language. Their traditional animistic/shamanistic way of life was replaced by in the 18th century, and today their characteristic drums can only be found in museums. According to the School Laws from the end of the 19th century, all education was to be taught in Norwegian, a policy which remained in place until the Second World War.

Karasjok – the Sami capital

Karasjok is the Sami capital with almost 3,000 inhabitants. Experience the culture and history of the Sami people at Sápmi Culture Park. A great place to hear the Sami joik, eat Sami food, meet Sami people, purchase Sami souvenirs, visit Sami dwellings and get acquainted with the Sami’s best friend – the ubiquitous reindeer. Sápmi is located in Karasjok, at the edge of Finnmarksvidda.

Sami festivals

Sami National Day

The Sami celebrate their National Day on 6 February – the date the first Sami congress was held in 1917. The day is marked differently in different places. Sami week in Tromsø, for example, features reindeer racing, lasso throwing championship, a Sami market and more, while in Oslo, the carillon in Oslo City Hall plays the Sami national anthem as the Sami flag is raised. In Finnmark, the day is celebrated in schools and kindergartens during the day, followed by a church service and cultural activities, and of course Sami food.

The Easter Festival

Traditionally Easter was the time of year when the reindeer-herding Sami gathered in the towns of Karasjok and Kautokeino to celebrate the end of winter. Easter was also a time for weddings. Today celebrations are still religious in character, but Easter is also a time when Sami culture takes centre stage, with many events in both Karasjok and Kautokeino. The Sami Grand Prix and the annual reindeer race are two of the highlights, but other events include concerts, theatre performances and exhibitions.

Riddu Riddu Sami Festival

Riddu Riddu Sami festival taking place in Kåfjord, Troms, every July puts on an extensive programme featuring music, film and art from around the world, attracting some 200 artists and 3,000 visitors every year. There are many activities for children too. A platform for various indigenous and non-indigenous people to meet, Riddu Riddu celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011.