Seeds (people)

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Parliament Sameting in Karasjok , Norway
Sami and Komi cultural center in Lowozero , Kola Peninsula, Russia

The Sami (obsolete rags ) are an indigenous people in northern Fennoscandinavia . Their settlement area extends from the Swedish municipality of Idre in the province of Dalarnas län in the south over the northern parts of Sweden, Norway , Finland and in the north-east to the coasts of the White Sea and the Barents Sea in Russia . The original Sami languages belong to the Uralic language family , so they are related to Finnish , Hungarian and Samoyed . The Russian Sami on the Kola Peninsula are counted among the "indigenous peoples of the north" .



The Sami self-designation is Sámi ("swamp people"), Samit , Samek or Sápmelaš from the original form šämä , which is related to the Baltic word žēme "land". Other spellings and word forms are: Sami , Saami , Sámen or Saamen .

It was not until the 1970s that the name Sámi , which is officially used today , became more and more popular . The term rag is viewed as derogatory by some seeds .

The word same has only been used in modern Nordic literature since the 1960s. Until then, the term was almost exclusively Lappe (plural cloth ) is used. Another exonym is Finn . It was already used in Old Norse literature , also in the variant Skriðfinne , and is cognate to Old High German fendo "pedestrian".


The word first appears in the form lop in a Russian chronicle from around 1000. In Nordic literature, the earliest evidence can be found in the Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus as the landscape name Lapponia .

The etymology of the word Lappe is confusing and not clearly understood. Possibly the origin lies in a derivation from the old Finnish word lappe (e) a "Rand", which developed into a name for a "peripheral area". The Finnish expression Lappalainen was originally used in the sense of "inhabitant of the border area" by the Finns who pushed the Sami to the north. Later there was a geographical fixation on the provinces in northern Finland.

Stachowski regards the similarity of the North Germanic word lapp ("Lappen", "Lumpen") as coincidental. Many centuries later, when the Finnish country name Lappia was changed to Lapland , the idea of ​​the original identity of the two words and thus the cause of the association with devaluation arose. That went so far that z. B. in the 16th century in Finland the use of the word Lappalainen could be punished.

The strengthening of the Sami will to identify after the end of the social Darwinist racial policy led in the last third of the 20th century to officially avoid the term Lappe and instead speak of Sámi . In some Sami dialects, however , Lappe is still the name for Sami who are involved in reindeer farming . However, if strangers use the term, this is considered disrespectful.

Settlement area

Sápmi - the
Sámi settlement area
Sami reindeer herders protest in Jokkmokk against insufficient compensation when reindeer are lost to predators

The approximately 90,000 to 140,000 Sami live in the north of Norway (60,000–100,000), Sweden (14,600), Finland (9,350) and Russia (1,991). The settlement area of ​​the Sami is often equated for simplicity with Lapland , but goes far beyond the areas of the provinces of the same name Lapland in Sweden and Lapin Lääni in Finland . The Sami call their settlement area Sápmi or Same Ätnam .



In terms of appearance as well as genetic studies (including by Cavalli-Sforza ), the seeds show some features that clearly distinguish them from all other Europeans , so that their origin has always been controversial. Three hypotheses are currently favored:

  • Eurasian people came to Fennoscandinavia as the first settlers very early after the Ice Age (10,000–5,000 BC) and lived there largely in isolation for many millennia (this hypothesis dates back to the 17th century, but is still popular).
  • An emergency situation (e.g. lack of food due to climate change) in the 1st millennium BC Chr. Led to the development of the typical characteristics of the seeds in the isolated tribes through genetic drift .
  • According to Cavalli-Sforza's DNA studies, the seeds genetically form the transition from the Europeans to the East Asians. Accordingly, a very long isolated European gene component predominates, while the second component from Uralic ethnic groups has led to the visible East Asian features (e.g. epicanthic fold , skin and hair), some of which can be seen in the seeds. A possible explanation of this genetic disposition in connection with the Finno-Ugric languages ​​of the Sami is the immigration of Samoyed peoples , who taught the "original Sami", among other things, the domestication of the reindeer as pack animals and draft animals. The language of the more progressive culture was adopted.

The conclusions from the DNA analyzes have met with some criticism:

  • The theoretical and methodological premises for applying the results of DNA analyzes to prehistoric social and cultural conditions have not been addressed sufficiently.
  • The current genetic distribution does not have to correspond to the ethnic and cultural distribution in prehistoric times.
  • The deviation of mitochondrial DNA from other Europeans is also questioned.
  • The alleged deviation is not found in the genetic markings of the male Y chromosomes .
  • The choice of subjects is questioned. Which premises led to their selection? Which Sami groups did they represent? Were they selected from a settlement area assumed to be originally Sami?

Early history

Sami family around 1900

Hunters, gatherers and fishermen have lived in large parts of Fennos Scandinavia since the Neolithic . Proof of this is provided by finds around 10,000 years old, for example the remains of fire places or arrowheads in Arjeplog . 6,000 year old rock carvings have also been found in Alta , northern Norway . The settlement area of ​​this so-called Komsa culture extended from the north to far into the south of Scandinavia and to the White Sea in Russia .

Reindeer domestication began in Northern Europe between 1800 and 900 BC. Dated. From the time of 1500 BC. From BC to AD 300, archaeologists have found asbestos ceramics that have already been interpreted as a feature of Sami culture. Catch pits were also discovered. Moose and reindeer were caught using multiple trapping systems .

The first known possible news about the northern people comes from Tacitus , who called them Fenni in 98 AD . The Greek historian Prokopios mentioned a people in AD 555 whom he called Skrithfinoi . They were still called Skridfinnen by Paulus Deacon in the 8th century. The name referred to skis .

middle Ages

For centuries the seeds provided products of their extensive way of life such as skins, fish, meat, etc. to the tax collectors of the colonial rulers.
Reindeer sleigh races are still a popular Sami sport today.

Regular contact with the Sami has been documented for the Norwegian Vikings since the 9th century, including through Ōhtheres travelogue . They settled on the northern coasts, herds of tame reindeer and taxes from the indigenous people. At that time, Sápmi covered two thirds of the area of ​​Fenno Scandinavia. In Sámi tales it becomes clear that there must have been a protracted conflict with the Vikings. In this, the Sami often deal with their violent opponents with cunning and cunning in order to minimize losses. In addition, there was also trade with the Norwegians and the other neighboring peoples. Animal skins and pelts were z. B. exchanged for salt, precious metals or metal blades.

In the course of the Middle Ages, the then northern European states Denmark-Norway , Sweden-Finland and Russia began subjugating the Sami. First, these states levied taxes on the inhabitants of Lapland, which had to be paid in kind. Since the state borders in the north had not yet been determined, all three states raised taxes in large parts of Lapland at the same time. Up until the 16th century, Northern Finnish traders - the so-called "Birkarle" (the name is derived from bjór "Biber") - took over the collection of taxes for Sweden in trust. They divided the Sami country into trading districts called " Lappmarken ", which were valid for many centuries.

The first churches were built in the coastal regions of northern Norway and northwestern Russia in the 14th century, and the Christianization of the East Sami began. The first Pomorussian settlements appeared around 1430 on the northern coast of the White Sea . A hundred years later, several Russian Orthodox missionaries, including Theodoret von Kola and Tryphon von Petschenga , reached the area as far as the North Cape and founded the first monasteries on the Kola Peninsula. During the centuries that followed, most of the Eastern Sami were converted to the Orthodox faith.

At the end of the Middle Ages, the Sami began to systematically conquer their settlement area through the neighboring nations and to assimilate them into culture.

Early modern age

Mother with baby in traditional Sami clothes, 1917
Kote in the Sarek National Park (1982) - The traditional dwelling

At the beginning of the 16th century, three different groups of seeds were distinguished: The peasant seeds in the southern areas of Norway to the north to south Troms , who mostly practiced agriculture; the sea-Sami, who lived north and east of it, were just as local and lived from fishing and hunting; and the seeds in the mountains and in Finnmarksvidda (" Fjällsamen "). Until then they were a nomadic hunter people who lived mainly from hunting the wild reindeer. Today there is no wild reindeer in all of Sápmi. At that time, domesticated reindeer were mainly used as pack animals and draft animals, although herds of domesticated reindeer presumably already existed. But only the obligation to pay high taxes and the performance of various compulsory services for the foreign rulers led to the expansion of reindeer herding as the main livelihood, probably since the 1540s. Until the 18th century, however, the herds were much smaller than they are today. Despite the claims to power, King Gustav Vasa guaranteed the Sami certain rights at that time.

At the beginning of the 17th century, when the three national states made ever more pronounced claims on Lapland, the pressure on the people of Sápmi increased by leaps and bounds. The Swedish royal family replaced the Birkarle with their own tax officers and had church villages built at traditional trading points , where a market for the surrounding areas should take place at least once a year (e.g. in Lycksele , Arvidsjaur , Jokkmokk , Jukkasjärvi , Enontekiö or Arjeplog ). These markets served the state u. a. for tax collection and as places of jurisdiction. At the same time, the systematic proselytizing and Christianization of the Sami began from there , which lasted until the 19th century. The old market tradition, in which seeds from the entire northern calotte are found, has been preserved in the " Jokkmokk Winter Market " to this day. In order to improve control over the Sami, the Swedish state replaced the original clan associations ( Siida ) with the new division of so-called " Lappendörfer " ( map ).

In 1635, a mine was opened on Nasafjäll to mine silver . The seeds were forced to work in the mine and move the ore to the coast. Mines with enslaved Sami were also built in other areas of Sápmi.

The colonization of the Swedish part of Lapland began in 1673 : the government sent settlers to the Sami territories and gave them the right to use the land regardless of the indigenous people. These settlers were even allowed to demand taxes from the Sami. Due to the uncontrolled hunting that the settlers in the south of Sápmi pursued, the numbers of the animals decreased rapidly. Because of this, the seeds were at times short of food and starvation. Many Sami in the forest areas hired themselves out to the Swedes as so-called "community rags" who were used for all kinds of tasks in the forest. The forest seeds living further north were often registered as settlers themselves. In this way they secured their land ownership, but lost the right to farm reindeer.

In 1695 the King of Sweden (from 1660 to 1697 it was Charles XI. ) Converted the former natural produce poll tax into a municipal money tax. In addition, the Sami had to maintain winter roads and carry out transports for officials and traders. As a result, the time to obtain food became scarcer and many people became impoverished. Others fled to Norway. From 1720 to 1729, some of the Swedish Sami were resettled in designated areas.

In 1751 the kingdoms of Norway and Sweden signed a border treaty, the Treaty of Strömstad. An addition was agreed to this contract, the so-called Lappen Codicil (also known as Sami Magna Carta ). He regulated the hunting rights between the settlers and the Sami and gave the Sami a right to cross the border at any time. In fact, the Sami remained disadvantaged.

In 1732 the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (1707–1778) traveled to Lapland. Until then, the natives of Lapland were portrayed as primitive people by magicians with low morals ; Linnaeus, on the other hand, portrayed them as innocent primitive people who had fallen victim to the oppression of civilization. This changed the image of the rag in the cities. However, this did not stop the Church from continuing to destroy Sami religious sites and their sacred drums. Christianization had been so radicalized since the end of the 17th century that now and then the Sami who refused to be converted were sentenced to death. In 1755 the New Testament and in 1811 the Old Testament were translated into the Sami language.

From the 19th century

Samebyar - emerged from the original local communities ( Siida ) in Sweden-Finland in the 16th century and Siidor on the Kola peninsula (until the beginning of the 20th century)
A reindeer seed in Northern Norway
Mari Boine , the most famous Sami singer (Norway)
Sofia Jannok , a Sami singer from Gällivare (Sweden)
Anja Pärson , Sami world-class ski racer from Tärnaby (Sweden)

Due to the increasingly miserable social conditions among the Sami there was a violent confrontation in Kautokeino in 1852 . 35 Sami, supporters of the Laestadian revival movement , came to the place "to wage war against the unrepentant". Two residents were killed and one ill-treated, after which the uprising was brutally suppressed. Two of the leaders were sentenced to death and beheaded in the fall of 1854.

In the course of the 19th century the hunting rights of the Sami were restricted, which led to a further deterioration in living conditions. In 1888 the mining of iron ore began in Kiruna and Gällivare and the construction of the ore railway from Luleå to Narvik . The consequence for the Sami was the increasing displacement and change of their culture through industry and tourism.

With Darwin's theory of evolution , the theory of developmental hierarchy levels of human peoples came up ( social Darwinism ). The Sami were viewed as a lower developed people. This resulted in significantly worse treatment, which the Swedish state sought to mitigate around 1870 by establishing the so-called “Fjällodlingsgräns” ( Fjällodlingsgräns ), which ran from north to south through Sápmi and reserved the fells west of the border for Sámi reindeer herding. However, implementation in practice failed in many places; however, the border is still marked on Swedish maps today. From the end of the 19th century until the 1920s, the governments of Norway and Sweden took the view that the “seed race” had to be patronized because it was unable to take on a higher cultural level. They were “protected” in such a way that, among other things, so-called “nomad schools” were set up, in which the Sami children were educated at the lowest level, and the Sami were forbidden to live in “real” (rectangular) houses. At the same time, however, the use of the Sami languages ​​was banned in the state schools in all four states . In Norway, land was only allowed to be sold to Norwegian-speaking people. In 1922 the Swedish State Institute for Racial Biology carried out the so-called “flap examination”, which was supposed to prove that racial intermingling would lead to the ruin of society. In addition, in the 1920s and 30s, large seed groups were forced to move from northernmost Sweden to more southern regions.

On the initiative of the Norwegian Samin Elsa Laula, a transnational conference of the Sami of the three western states took place in Trondheim for the first time on February 6, 1917. Since then, the Sami have regarded this day as Sápmi's national holiday. Nevertheless, they remained an oppressed minority for a long time. In the politics of Norway and Sweden only those Sami were recognized who were fully employed in reindeer farming. The only thing left for the rest of the Sami was to adapt to the cultures of the supposedly superior neighboring peoples. However, it was precisely this “ability” that led the Social Darwinist dogma to absurdity , so that it was abandoned around the 1940s.

From 1868 the tsarist Russian government settled Komi and Nenzen on the Kola Peninsula, which was previously inhabited exclusively by Sami, and granted them tax exemption in order to ensure Russian influence (see also: Russification ) . Since the Russian settlement, the Sami of the Kola Peninsula had taken over some cultural elements of the Russians, as can be easily seen from the handicrafts.

The Soviet power reached the seeds in 1924. In the 1920s, schools were in the seed area first established, also to support the Soviet ideology. The Sami language was written down and a campaign against illiteracy was carried out. In the early 1930s, more than 200 children were taught their mother tongue. However, teaching in secondary schools was apparently in Russian.

In the 1930s, the Sami herds were forcibly collectivized as part of the general Soviet agricultural policy and reindeer kolkhozes were formed. As a result, the Sami could no longer roam freely, but had to live in permanent settlements ever since. Since the 1940s, the Sami habitat has been severely restricted by the construction of dams, canals, industrial and military facilities on the Kola Peninsula and many settlements have been relocated. In 1991 the Kola-Sami got access to the transnational Semen parliament.

From the middle of the 20th century onwards, there was an enormous expansion of ore mining, road construction, hydropower, communications, forestry and tourism in Lapland with further negative effects on the reindeer industry. Even the establishment of the national parks was sometimes associated with restrictions on the traditional Sami way of life .

In 1952 the first radio by and for seeds went on air in Sweden; in Norway, a radio studio called Sámi Radio was set up in Karasjok in 1984 . In 1956 Sami from Finland, Norway and Sweden founded the " Nordic Sami Council " as a political lobby group . However, the crucial prerequisite for improving the Sami way of life came in the 1960s when the right of the Sami to maintain their own culture was officially recognized by the Norwegian government. Sami became the language of instruction in schools and new facilities were created, such as the Sami Museum in Karasjok and a cultural center for the South Sami. From then on, the Sami of the three western countries of Lapland gradually fought for more rights.

Political development

See main article: Sápmi

Nevertheless, the recent history of the Sami - especially the remaining 15 percent reindeer herders - has been marked by major problems. In the 1970s, Norway planned to use hydropower in the Alta Canyon in Finnmark, which led to the Alta conflict . In cooperation with environmentalists and human rights organizations, the Sami sued Norway.

When the Chernobyl disaster struck in 1986 , 73,000 reindeer south of the Arctic Circle were radioactively contaminated. The governments promised compensation, but it was far lower than needed.

In 1990, Norway was the first country in Northern Europe to ratify the ILO Convention No. 169 on the binding rights of indigenous peoples, and in 2019 it was the only country in the Sami settlement area .

In 2000, a Sami national fund was set up to the value of 75 million Norwegian kroner (approx. 10 million euros). It is intended to be used to strengthen the Sami language and culture and to serve as compensation for the damage and injustice caused by oppression.

In 2003, the EU signed a contract with Norway to recycle Finnmark's mineral resources without the Sami participating.

In Finland at the end of 2005 there were particularly violent clashes between reindeer herders, the Sami Council and Greenpeace on the one hand and Metsähallitus and Stora Enso on the other. It was about logging for paper production.

In Russia there is no way to lease the pastures; however, this did not prevent the authorities from giving out such leases to Russian hunting parties, and poachers are also a problem in the Sami area. If reindeer keepers resist, they are harassed, for example by being charged with poaching.


The original religion of the Sami up to Christianization belongs to the classical shamanism / animism of the circumpolar peoples, who consider all phenomena in nature to be animated and who seek contact with the spirit world through a shaman . The lule seeds called this influential mediator "Noajde". With the help of his sacred drum ( Gievriej : a frame drum , also called "magic drum "), the joik singing and various mind-expanding practices ( meditation , ecstatic trance , certain postures) he went on a "soul journey" into the spirit world, calling dead relatives or animal spirits . However, he was not only a mediator and priest, but also a pastor and doctor. The fact that the neighboring peoples were afraid of the Noajds and their magic until the 17th century shows their powerful position in Sami society.

Typical of the old Sami religion was the already mentioned drum, which was painted with various symbols of gods and nature and, in the belief of the people, represented the whole world. Not only the Noajden, but every family used to own such a drum, with the help of which they tried to predict the future. For this oracle function , a "pointer" (piece of horn, brass ring or similar) was placed on the eardrum and the drum was struck. The path of the pointer and the motif on which it stopped were interpreted.

The ubiquitous natural phenomena were met with great awe, with the entire earth being regarded as the life-giving mother goddess. The sun, named as the creator god Biejve , created the family of gods, who in turn created the earth and all beings. Important gods of the Sami are z. B. Bieggaolmaj , the god of winds and Lejbolmej , the god of animals. The Sami still refer to themselves today as the people of the sun and the wind. Places of power ( Siejdde ) such as caves, prominent rock groups or springs where sacrifices were made to the gods were particularly sacred . The places of power were also seen as entrances to the Sájvva underworld , which was accepted as a paradise with stately people who owned large, healthy herds of reindeer. Mainly young reindeer were sacrificed, but also the sacred bear, which was considered a messenger between gods and humans. Bear hunting was therefore a ritual act that was carried out with great respect. The Sámi bear worship is still particularly in today Skolt partially preserved.

Christianization, which began as early as the 14th century, was incompatible with the traditional religion , which was finally banned by King Christian IV in 1609 . In addition to the burning of the drums and the ban on joiking, violent examples were made of the shamans. From the middle of the 18th century, the Sami were officially evangelized. Nevertheless, in some places the ethnic religion was still openly practiced until the middle of the 19th century.

With the blossoming of the Laestadian revival movement , the old religion disappeared underground. Lars Levi Laestadius , whose mother was a Samin, preached the Christian doctrine true to the Bible and application-oriented. But above all, the ecstatic gatherings and some elements reminiscent of the old religion helped his movement to break through among the Sami. Laestadianism still has followers today.

Since the self-confidence of the Sami slowly regained strength in the last half of the 20th century, there has been a return to the old religion here and there. Every now and then reports circulate in the newspapers about rituals at the traditional sacrificial sites or found figures of gods. Religious symbolism is enjoying increasing popularity in handicrafts.With the Norwegian Ailo Gaup for the first time a seed calls itself a shaman. However, he had to do an apprenticeship to shamans of other peoples, since the Sami religion has only survived in fragments. Gaup nevertheless sees himself as her keeper. He is a writer of short stories and poems and runs a small neo-shamanistic practice in Oslo . The author Manfred Böckl , who is well versed in the neo-pagan scene, sees signs of a “real renaissance” of the Sami religion in Sápmi.


Samin in traditional costume
A knife by Per Nilsson
Sami handicrafts
Art exhibition in Jokkmokk

Due to their originally semi-nomadic reindeer economy, the Sami are counted as part of the “Siberia” cultural area .

Probably the most famous cultural achievement of the Sami is the ski , which was already used 4,500 years ago. The Sami are also famous for their handicrafts, called duodji , in which different types of wood, birch bark, pewter, horn and leather are processed. Many contemporary Sami artists receive an additional income in this way, as the carefully processed objects in the typical Sami style - especially knives, wooden bowls, jewelry and carvings - fetch high prices.


The Sami flag, introduced in 1986, was designed by Astrid Båhl . Another symbol is the national anthem Sámi soga lávlla , whose text, written in 1906, comes from the pen of the teacher and politician Isak Saba .


The traditional dwellings of the Sami are called Goahti. In the German-speaking world they are called Koten. They are divided into tent pots, peat pots and wood pots.


The traditional clothing of the Sami consists of leather shoes with raised toe, colorful shoelaces, leather pants, the kolt (gákti) - a smock-like top with peplum -, a breast ornament or scarf and a cap. The affiliation to a certain area can be recognized especially by the design of the kolte and the hat. The oldest Kolt find is around 6,000 years old. Until the early modern era, all clothing was made of leather. Subsequently, a move was made to use more fabrics, especially heavy, milled wool ( Vadmal ), which was dyed plain. Blue symbolizes the sky and is the dominant base color in most areas. Yellow stands for the sun, red for the fire and green for the earth. These colors can also be found in the flag of Sápmi . Today the costume is almost only worn at festivities and has disappeared from everyday life almost everywhere. Recently, however, the costumes and elements of traditional clothing are experiencing a renaissance among Sami youth.


Typical Sami dishes are suovvas (salted, smoked and dried reindeer meat in various forms), gáhkko ( flat bread ) and juobmo (boiled sorrel with milk and sugar) and also the reindeer's spinal cord.


The Sami culture also includes cultivating the unique joik, a style of singing that is reminiscent of a mixture of yodelling and Indian chants. It is the only traditional Sami form of music and used to consist of a solo song without instrumental accompaniment, based on a text or meaningless syllables. The fadno wind instrument , which is cut out of the green stem of the medicinal angelica , was only occasionally added to provide melodic support . The yoik repertoire is divided into four categories: songs about people, animals, landscapes and, more recently, about technical achievements.

Joiken is a spontaneous chant that is used to express moods and situations emotionally. Joiking belongs u. a. to the repertoire of the currently best-known Sami musician, the Norwegian-born Mari Boine . In addition, the Sami performance artist Sara Margrethe Oskal, who also comes from Norway, joikt . The Finn Ulla Pirttijärvi and the Swede Yana Mangi use the joik in connection with modern instruments. Another well-known Sami musician is Finland-born Wimme . All four mix the traditional songs of their ancestors with modern elements and rhythms and are therefore often assigned to the so-called world music artists. Nils-Aslak Valkeapää († 2001), who was born in Finland , sang his joiks in the traditional way of his people, mostly without additional musical accompaniment. The folk metal band Korpiklaani played mostly joik-style songs under their former name Shaman , paired with modern rock elements.


The Sami language area

Around 24,000 people in Lapland speak one of the Sami languages, which is part of the Finno-Ugric languages . The most common language is North Sami with around 17,000 speakers, some other variants are almost or completely extinct. Sami is an officially recognized minority language in Finland, Norway and Sweden.


The first Sami language book was published in the 17th century. Johan Turi is regarded as a pioneer of modern Sami literature with his book Muittalus samiid birra from 1910. After the First World War, Sami literature found no place in the Scandinavian countries for decades. Since the 1970s, however, there has been an upswing in Sami literature and numerous publications in various Sami languages .


Meanwhile, some Sami are also active as filmmakers and actors. The first film made in a Sami language is Ofelaš (international title: Pathfinder , alternative German television title: Die Rache des Fahrenensuchers ) by Nils Gaup from 1987. The actress Anni-Kristiina Juuso was chosen for her role in the Russian film Kukuschka by Awarded in 2002, in which the three protagonists each speak their own language (Sami, Finnish and Russian). The girl from the north (original title: Sameblod ) by Amanda Kernell appeared in 2016 . Since 1996 , the seeds in Kautokeino, Norway, have been holding their own Sami film festival at Easter, where films by and for seeds are shown. The festival is the only snowmobile - Drive-in movie theater in the world.

Museums and markets

The German ethnologist Erich Wustmann lived in Sápmi for several years and published several films and books about the region and the Sami. The Siida Sámi Museum in Inari , Finland houses an extensive collection on the culture and history of the Sami . The Swedish Mountain and Seed Museum Àjtte in Jokkmokk is also renowned . To get to know the Sami culture - history, tradition and present - first hand, a visit to the winter market in Jokkmokk (Sweden) is particularly suitable , an annual social event in February at which Sami from all over Fennoscandinavia come together.

Today's way of life

Sámi acquisition structure in Sápmi (excluding the Kola Peninsula)

Today the Sami are a " minority in their own country". In relation to the whole of Sápmi, only 4% of the population are Sami. The indigenous population is lowest on the Kola Peninsula, at 0.2%.

As can be seen in the adjacent graphic from 2005, today almost 60% of the Sami live in modern professions, with tourism becoming increasingly important. The economic focus of the coastal seeds of Norway was previously the seal hunt . With the increase in market economy activities, this shifted to commercial fishing. Competition with the big fishing companies, however, is now enormous, so there is an ongoing debate over special rights for the Sámi regarding supplementary catch quotas for the self-sufficiency are (see also: retraditionalisation ) . In the case of domestic seeds, only 15% live exclusively from reindeer farming, which today is predominantly market-based (with differently large subsistence shares - especially in Finland). However, two thirds of all Sami are still connected in some way to the reindeer farming. This shows how important the reindeer is for the Sami culture.

Reindeer farming

"Modern times" in a reindeer divorce near Nikkaluokta
Same des Tingevaara Sameby and Tourist

“I love the reindeer most of all. In my thoughts and dreams it is with his manner, his beauty and his longing. "

Since around the 17th century, the nomadic reindeer economy of the mountain seeds replaced hunting and became the basis of the Sami subsistence .

Unlike cattle , the reindeer is only a semi-domesticated animal. Like their wild ancestors, the animals follow the natural seasonal migration routes between woodland and mountains. Human intervention is limited to separating the animals ready for slaughter from the herd and protecting them from predators, so that essentially natural selection takes place. Nevertheless, due to the great distances of migration and the impassable landscape, reindeer farming is very time-consuming and therefore costly. Until the middle of the 20th century, the herds were watched around the clock. In the 1960s, the "snowmobile revolution" began, which made tracking of the herds a technology. Since then, the snowmobile has been used in winter and motocross motorcycle in summer , provided the terrain allows it. In the last few decades the use of chartered helicopters was added. In inaccessible mountain areas, however, the Sami are still on foot today, as the roaring machines expose the animals to enormous stress, which often leads to falls. To simplify the collection of the animals even more, fences up to 400 kilometers long now run through the fell, separating areas between 1,000 and 5,000 square kilometers in size. In order to live exclusively from the reindeer economy, a family needs at least 400 animals. There are more than 500,000 reindeer living in all of Sápmi. Whether this number is still an extensive form of agriculture is controversial, although it is undisputed that the reindeer industry meets the strict criteria of organic farming . However, it is also certain that the lichen mats in the fells south of the "reindeer border" thrive much more luxuriantly, so that one can argue about the size of the herds.

However, since the beginning of reindeer herding in the 15th century, the Sami have been forced to keep ever larger stocks for economic reasons. In the past it was the increasing tax burden, today it is market economy requirements, including falling prices for reindeer meat. Although the EU wants to promote traditional economic practices, z. In Finland, for example, a reindeer is subsidized with only 50 euros, while a sheep brings 190 euros. In addition, there are regional conflicts over land rights and the effects of modern environmental pollution, which are a considerable burden on reindeer farmers.

Environmental pollution Fennoskandia
 Sources of radioactivity
cesium-137 , after Chernobyl 1986: > 60,000 Bq 20,000–60,000 Bq 3,000–20,000 Bq Heavy metals : Mercury (surfaces and dotted) Chromium (surfaces and dotted) Cadmium Lead -  Limit of reindeer farming


For example, the reindeer herders in the Swedish provinces of Dalarna , Härjedalen and Jämtland feared for their existence. In 1991 the state sold state forests to private owners who then sued the Sami for compensation because of the traditional right to winter grazing in the forest. The Sámi lost the first trial in 1996. Another ruling by the highest Swedish court in 2004 ruled against the reindeer herders. As a result, the Samebyans lost around 25 to 30% of their winter pastures. In addition, according to the court order, compensation payments and shooting rights for reindeer are required for “illegal forest use”. According to the defendant, the judgments violate the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, so that in 2006 they turned to the EU Parliament with a corresponding petition . The proceedings are still ongoing. In January 2020, Sweden's highest court made a decision which referred to an overriding customary law of the indigenous population "from ancient times" and which allowed them to administer hunting and fishing rights.

The Norwegian government, which was faced with a similar problem, was able to assert itself against the private forest owners and confirm the rights of the Sámi resident there.

The first major environmental impact on the reindeer industry was the Chernobyl reactor disaster in 1986, after which 188,000 reindeer had to be culled in Sweden alone.

As the adjacent map shows, the Kola Peninsula in particular has other major environmental impacts that endanger reindeer farming. Since 2006 there have been increased efforts to find ore in northern Sweden . A British company is planning the construction of an iron ore mine south of the Muddus National Park and an Australian company is trying to obtain the mining rights for the huge Ekströmsberg deposit north of the Sjaunja nature reserve . The latter project was previously taboo for nature conservation reasons, but the prospect of profit may lead to new developments here in the future. As a result, the Sami fear significant negative effects of mining on the reindeer industry and nature in the vicinity of the Laponia World Heritage Site . The construction of a wind farm in Norway is also viewed critically by reindeer keepers.

But even in the most remote areas of Sápmi, reindeer herding by the Sami will be at stake due to climate change . The consequences - including heat stress, bush cover, parasites and lack of food in winter - can already be felt today.

See also

Ice sculpture in the form of a shaman's drum with typical Sami symbols


  • Ørnulv Vorren, Ernst Manker: Seed cultures. Oversikt in cultural history. Universitetsforlaget Tromsø, Bergen / Oslo 1976 (2nd edition, 1981).
  • Gunnar H. Gjengset (Red.): Samisk mot - norsk hovmod. Pax Forlag, Oslo 1981.
  • Reidar Nielsen: Folk uten fortid. Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, Oslo 1986.
  • Odd Mathis Hætta: Seeds. History - culture - samfunn. Grøndahl og Dreyers Forlag, Oslo 1994, ISBN 82-504-2049-7 .
  • Hans Ulrich Schwaar: At the edge of the Arctic - Adventure Lapland. Waldgut 1994, ISBN 3-7294-0099-1 .
  • Sunna Kuoljok, John-Erling Utsi: The Sami - people of the sun and the wind, Ajtte - Svenskt Fjäll- och Samemuseum, Luleå 1995, ISBN 91-87636-10-7 .
  • Halvard Bjørkvik: Folketap og Sammenbrudd 1350–1520. In: Aschehougs Norges history. Volume 4, Oslo 1996.
  • Rolf Lindemann: The Sami - a minority in Northern Europe. In: Geography Today. Volume 85/1990, pp. 28-31.
  • Ingrid Hemmer: The Sami reindeer economy 10 years after Chernobyl. In: Geographical Rundschau. Volume 48, Issue 7-8 / 1996, pp. 461-465.
  • Wolf-Dieter Seiwert (Ed.): The Saami. Indigenous people at the beginning of Europe. German-Russian Center, Leipzig 2000.
  • Veli-Pekka Lehtola: The Sami People. Traditions in Transitions , Fairbanks 2005.
  • Lars Ivar Hansen, Bjørnar Olsen: Samenes historie fram til 1750. Cappelen Forlag, 2007, ISBN 978-82-02-19672-1 .
  • Karin Kvarfordt, Nils-Henrik Sikku, Michael Teilus: Sami - a people of origin in Sweden. (PDF online) Ministry of Agriculture u. Sami Parliament, Västerås 2007, ISBN 978-91-975444-9-7 .
  • Neil Kent : The Sámi Peoples of the North. A Social and Cultural History . Hurst & Co., London 2014. ( Review ), ISBN 978-1-84904-257-4 .

Web links

Commons : The seeds  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Same  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Lars Ivar Hansen, Bjørnar Olsen: Samenes historie fram til 1750. Cappelen Forlag, 2007, p. 47. ISBN 978-82-02-19672-1 .
  2. Rolf Kjellström: Samernas live. Carlsson Bokförlag, Kristianstad 2003, ISBN 91-7203-562-5 . (Swedish)
  3. Jokkmokkguiderna - Dog sledding adventures, canoeing and other wilderness adventures in Swedish Lapland. »Jokkmokks Vintermarknad historiskt perspective. Retrieved November 5, 2018 (Swedish).
  4. ^ V. Uibopuu: Finnougrierna och deras språk: chapter om de finsk-igriska folkens förflutna och nutid . Lund 1988.
  5. Marek Stachowski: On the question of the original meaning of Finnish Lappi 'Lappland' . Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland, 2002. PDF accessed March 23, 2013.
  6. ↑ The same meaning “border area” has the word mark in German ; see. Denmark , Mark Brandenburg and others
  7. ^ Johann Jakob Egli : Nomina geographica. Language and factual explanation of 42,000 geographical names of all regions of the world. Friedrich Brandstetter, 2nd edition, Leipzig 1893, p. 525.
  8. Lapp = Same eller? ( Memento from April 18, 2013 in the web archive ). Website of the Samiskt information center in Östersund, Sweden. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
  9. ^ The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved November 5, 2018 .
  10. ^ Sámi People. Archived from the original on November 13, 2010 ; accessed on November 5, 2018 .
  11. Sweden . In: Ethnologue . ( [accessed November 5, 2018]).
  12. National composition of population, Census 2002, Russia ( MS Excel ; 62 kB)
  13. Rolf Kjellström: Samernas liv (Swedish). Carlsson Bokförlag, Kristianstad 2003, ISBN 91-7203-562-5 .
  14. ^ Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza: Genes, Peoples and Languages. The biological foundations of our civilization. Hanser, Munich / Vienna 1999.
  15. ^ P. Sims-Williams: Genetics, linguistics, and prehistory: thinking big and thinking straight. In: Antiquity. Vol. 72, 1998.
  16. ^ Lars Ivar Hansen, Bjørnar Olsen: Samenes Historie fram til 1750. Cappelen akademisk forlag, 2007, p. 44. ISBN 978-82-02-19672-1 .
  17. R. Villems and other: Reconstruction of maternal lineages of Finno-Ugric speaking People and some remarks On Their paternal inheritance. In: The roots of peoples and languages ​​of Northern Eurasia. Turku May 30th - June 1st 1997. Societas Historiae Fenno-Ugricae, 1998.
  18. T. Zerjal: Geographical, linguistic, and cultural influences on genetic diversity: Y-chromosomal distribution in Northern European populations. In: Molecular Biology and Evolution. Vol 18. 2001.
  19. Lars Ivar Hansen, Bjørnar Olsen: Samenes Historie fram til 1750. Cappelen akademisk forlag, 2007, p. 44. 978-82-02-19672-1.
  20. a b Bjørkvik p. 42.
  21. Lappen-Codicill Norwegian version in the original - Wikikilden. Retrieved November 5, 2018 (Bokmål in Norwegian).
  22. ^ The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire. Retrieved November 5, 2018 .
  23. Pavel Baev, Helge Blakkisrud: Minorities in North-west Russia ( Memento from July 20, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  24. ^ Eckart Klaus Roloff : Sámi Radio Kárašjohka - mass medium of a minority. The radio broadcaster in the Norwegian part of Lapland. In: radio and television. 35th year 1987, No. 1, pp. 99-107.
  25. above: ILO Convention 169. Why Germany does not sign the ILO Convention . Society for Threatened Peoples website, original article dated June 20, 2005, updated to 2019, accessed December 7, 2019.
  26. Saamiraddi. Retrieved November 5, 2018 (se-NO).
  27. «Надоели со своими оленями!" , Novaya Gazeta, April 28, 2019.
  28. a b c Anna Westman u. John E. Utsi, translated by Irmtraud Feldbinder: Gievrie-tijje. Saemiej gievriej jih reeligijovonen bijre. - The time of the drums. Drum and religion of the seeds. Ájtte (Jokkmokk), Nordiska museet (Stockholm), 2001, ISBN 91-87636-18-2 .
  29. a b c d see literature "The Sami, people of the sun and the wind"
  30. ^ Ina Wunn: Natural religions. In: Peter Antes (ed.): We believe in it - diversity of religions. Completely revised new edition, Lutherisches Verlagshaus, Hanover 2012, ISBN 978-3-7859-1087-0 . Pp. 276-277.
  31. a b c Manfred Böckl: The small religions of Europe - where they come from and what influence they have. Patmos, Ostfildern 2011, ISBN 978-3-8436-0000-2 . Pp. 153-159, especially 154-155.
  32. Ralph Tuchtenhagen: Religion in Norway, published in: Markus Porsche-Ludwig, Jürgen Bellers (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Religionen der Welt. Volumes 1 and 2, Traugott Bautz, Nordhausen 2012, ISBN 978-3-88309-727-5 . Pp. 327-328.
  33. ^ Andreas Lüderwaldt: Sámi Music. In: Stanley Sadie (Ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians . Volume 22. Macmillan Publishers, London 2001, p. 207.
  34. See literature: "The Sami, a people of origin in Sweden"
  35. Peoples and Cultures of the Circumpolar World I - Module 3: People of the Coast . University of the Arctic, p. 22. Accessed: July 21, 2015.
  36. Sebastian Holzhausen: RENRAJDvualka - ENGAGEMENT FOR SÀPMI - EXISTENCE STRUGGLE - Struggle for existence of the southern Sami. Retrieved November 5, 2018 .
  37. Sweden's natives fight for a “historic victory” in court , NZZ, January 24, 2020
  38. Mineralrusch i norr. In: Sveriges nature. No. 1, 2013, pp. 32-37.
  39. Swiss investment displaces indigenous people . In: , December 11, 2018. Accessed December 25, 2018.