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LOCATION: Norway; Sweden; Finland; Russia

POPULATION: About 50,000

LANGUAGE: Sami language in many dialects; also language of country in which they live

RELIGION: Lutheran Church


While the Sami, or Lapps (as they were formerly called), are commonly thought of as the inhabitants of Lapland, they have never had a country of their own. They are the original inhabitants of northern Scandinavia and most of Finland. Their neighbors have called them Lapps, but they prefer to be called Samer or Sami, since Lapp means a patch of cloth for mending and was a name imposed on them by the people who settled on their lands. The Sami refer to their land as Sapmi or Same.

The Sami first appear in written history in the works of the Roman author Tacitus in about ad 98. Nearly 900 years later, a Norwegian chieftain visiting King Alfred the Great of England spoke of these reindeer herders, who were paying taxes to him in the form of furs, feathers, and whale bones. Over the centuries many armed nationsincluding the Karelians, Swedes, Danes, Finns, and Russiansdemanded their loyalty and taxes. In some cases, the Sami had to pay taxes to two or three governmentsas well as fines imposed by one country for paying taxes to another!

Today the Sami are citizens of the countries within whose borders they live, with full rights to education, social services, religious freedom, and participation in the political process. Norway, Sweden, and Finland all have Sami parliaments. At the same time, however, the Sami continue to preserve and defend their ethnic identity and traditional cultural values. Until the liberalization instituted by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's government in the late 1980s, the Russian Sami had almost no contact with those in other areas. Sami living in Scandinavia formed the Nordic Sami Council in 1956 to promote cooperation between their populations in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. In 1973 the Nordic Sami Institute at Kautokeino, Norway, was founded to promote the study of the Sami language and culture. In 1989, a Sami College was established there as well. The universities of Tromsø in Norway, Umla in Sweden, and Oulu in Finland have Sami departments in which Sami topics are taught, both separately and as part of established disciplines.


The Sami live in tundra (arctic or subarctic treeless plain), taiga (subarctic forest), and coastal zones in the far north of Europe, spread out over four different countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia's Kola peninsula. They live on coasts and islands warmed by the Gulf Stream, on plateaus dotted by lakes and streams, and on forested mountains. Sami territory lies at latitudes above 62 degrees north, and much of it is above the Arctic Circle, with dark, cold winters and warm, light summers. It is often called the "land of the midnight sun" because depending on the latitude, the sun may be visible for up to seventy days and nights straight in the summer. The far north sees almost three months of continuous daylight. Balancing this out, however, is an equally long period of darkness in the winter, which may last from October to March. Beginning in November, the sun disappears for weeks. Much of the Samis' land is at high altitudes, rising to over 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level. The highest point is Kebnekajse, at 6,960 feet (2,121 meters).

Traditionally, the Sami lived in a community of families called a siida, whose members cooperated in hunting, trapping, and fishing. Officially, the number of Sami is estimated at between 44,000 and 50,000 people. An estimated 30,000 to 35,000 live in Norway, 10,000 in Sweden, 3,000 to 4,000 in Finland, and 1,000 to 2,000 in Russia. However, some think the actual number is considerably higher. For many years, the Sami culture and way of life were criticized by their neighbors, causing many to conceal their true identity. Thus, it is difficult to know how many Sami there actually are (some estimates are as high as 200,000).


Sami is a Finno-Ugric language that is most closely related to Finnish, Estonian, Livonian, Votic, and several other little-known languages. While it varies from region to region, it does so based on the lifestyle of the Sami people rather than on the national boundaries of the lands in which they live. In fact, the present official definition of a Sami is primarily a linguistic one. Altogether there are fifty dialects, but these fall into three major groups (east, central, and south) which are unintelligible to one another, which is to say that speakers of one dialect sill not understand those of another dialect. Today almost all Sami also speak the language of their native country.

Sami is rich in words that describe reindeer, with words for different colors, sizes, antler spreads, and fur textures. Other words indicate how tame a reindeer is or how good it is at pulling sleds. There is actually a separate word describing a male reindeer in each year of his life. A poem by Nordic Council-prizewinning poet Nils-Aslak Valkeapää consists mainly of different Sami words for different kinds of reindeer. There are also hundreds of words that differentiate snow according to its age, depth, density, and hardness. For example, terms exist for powdery snow, snow that fell yesterday, and snow that is soft underneath with a hard crust on top.

The availability of schooling in the Sami language has become an important issue to those concerned with the preservation of the Sami culture and way of life. Nowadays Sami may be used as the language of instruction throughout primary and secondary school. Sami is taught and studied at the university level as well.


Traditionally, the Sami believed that specific spirits were associated with certain places and with the deceased. Many of their myths and legends concern the underworld. Others involve the Stallos, a race of troll-like giants who ate humans or sucked out their strength through an iron pipe. Many tales involve Sami outwitting the Stallos. Another kind of villian in Sami folklore is the stallu, a usually wicked person who can appear in various forms.

The Sami creation myth, directly related to their harsh environment, tells the story of a monstrous giant named Biegolmai, the Wind Man. In the beginning of time, Biegolmai created the Sapmi region by taking two huge shovels, one to whip up the wind and the other to drop such huge amounts of snow that no one could live there. One day, however, one of Biegolmai's shovels broke, the wind died down, and the Sami were able to enter Sapmi.

Some of the Sami epics trace Sami ancestry to the sun. In the mid-nineteenth century, a Sami minister, Anders Fjellner, recorded epic mythical poems in which the Daughter of the Sun favored the Sami and brought the reindeer to them. In a related myth, the Son of the Sun had three sons who became the ancestors of the Sami. At their deaths they became stars in the heavens, and can be seen today in the belt of the constellation Orion.

One of the most famous Sami folktales is the story of "The Pathfinder." In it, a Sami village is attacked by a marauding tribe from the east called the Tjudes. The village fights as best it can, but the Tjudes vastly outnumber the Sami and soon kill all but onea young boy. The Tjudes then force the young boy to lead them to the next village so they can attack and overtake it as well. The boy reluctantly agrees, leading the Tjudes by night through the mountains. At the top of one mountain, the Tjudes decide to wait until morning, fearing they will lose their way getting down the mountain. The Sami boy, however, urges them to follow him. He says he knows the mountain well and will lead them by torch. He suggests that they all tie themselves together by rope so none of them gets lost. The Tjudes agree, grateful that the Sami boy has become so loyal to them.

As they make their way down the mountain, however, the Sami boy leads them to a great cliff, stops at its edge and tosses his torch over the side, yelling, "Follow me!" The Tjudes, tied together, fall over the edge.

This story was made into a movie called The Pathfinder.


In the traditional Sami religion, both living beings and inanimate objects such as trees were thought to have souls. A priest or shaman, called a noaidi, acted as an intermediary between the spiritual and material worlds. He would consult with the dead while in a trance induced by beating on a magic drum and performing a special kind of chanting called juoigan (yoik) in Sami. Juoigan is the traditional Sami music.

Over the course of time, all of the Sami have converted to Christianity, in large part through the efforts of Lars Levi Laestadiusin, a nineteenth-century evangelical Congregationalist. Today most Sami practice the dominant Lutheran religion of the Nordic countries in which they live.


Sami observe the major holidays of the Christian calendar. Every Easter (late March or early April), a big festival is held at Kautokeino in northern Norway, complete with typical Sami entertainments, including sled races and yoik singing. Many couples choose this setting for their weddings. Many Sami observe Finland's "little Christmas" (Pikkujoulu ) early in December, marking the beginning of festivities that last through December 26. On Christmas Eve (December 24), special "midday trees" are adorned with candles, silver and gold ribbons, and other decorations. After readings from the Gospels, a festive meal is eaten, typically consisting of salmon, ham, vegetables, and rice pudding. Boxing Day on December 26 is marked by sled rides, lasso throwing, and other traditional games.

Secular holidays include the large spring celebrations held by the Sami every year, occasions on which they wear their best clothes and gather with friends to mark the end of winter.


The Sami held on to their traditional ways longer than most peoples in Europe and have yet to fully abandon traditional life for a modern way of life. Still, the dictates of today's world have forced them to follow rituals that would be easily recognized in the Western world. Most Sami, for instance, participate in the major Lutheran rituals even though they sometimes adapt them to their own use. The ritual of baptism and the way the Sami have both used and avoided it offer an interesting illustration of a traditional culture struggling to maintain itself within the industrialized world.

The Scandanavian countries where the Sami live required surnames, and the Lutheran church applied pressure on the Sami to use traditional Christian names for their children. The Sami resisted for years, maintaining their tradition of no surnames and naming their children for recently deceased elders or infants. The Sami reluctantly created a system of surnames similar to the Scandanavian system of adding "son" (sen) or "daughter" (dotter) to the first name of a parent and began using traditional Scandanavian names for baptism. Afterward, however, when the family left the church, they would hold their own baptism ceremony in which the imposed name was "cleaned" away and a "stronger," more traditional name was given to the child.

Similar practices have been applied to other areas of traditional Sami life: a concession is made to modernism, while a connection is maintained to traditionalism.


Sami society is traditionally open and egalitarian, and the Sami are known for their courtesy and hospitality to outsiders. They willingly accept other Sami who may not be full-blooded. A person's attitude toward the treasured Sami language and traditions are considered more important than bloodlines. A knowledge of the Sami language is considered one of the main ways of identifying someone as a Sami.


As a seminomadic people, the reindeer-herding Sami traditionally maintained permanent dwellingssometimes more than oneand spent part of their time living in tents. The permanent homes were either frame buildings or sod huts. The Sami tent, called a lavvo, has a circular framework of poles leaning inward like the teepee or wigwam of Native Americans, and a floor of birch twigs covered with layers of reindeer fur. Both tents and huts are arranged around a central fire. Today most Sami, who are no longer reindeer herders, live in typical Scandinavian houses with central heating and running water. Family life typically centers on the kitchen.

The Sami receive the same level of health care as other citizens of the countries in which they live. Like their Scandinavian neighbors, they have a high rate of heart disease. However, Sami are often active and healthy into their eighties. They sometimes supplement Western-style medical care with home remedies or treatment derived from old beliefs in the curing power of the word of the shaman, or medicine man.


Traditionally, the Sami lived in a group of families called a siida. Today, the nuclear family is the basic social unit among the Sami, and families are close-knit with a great deal of attention paid to the children. The Sami language contains an unusually large number of words that refer to family relationships. Traditionally, the males of the family were occupied with herding, hunting, and making boats, sleds, and tools, while the women cooked, made clothing and thread, and cured the meat. Each family had its own mark (and children had their own marks as well). Herding families use these marks to distinguish their reindeer from those of other families.


Some, but not all, Sami still wear the group's brightly colored traditional clothing. It is most easily recognizable by the distinctive bands of bright red and yellow patterns against a deep blue background of wool or felt. These bands appear as decorations on men's tunics (gaktis), as borders on the women's skirts, and on the hats of both sexes. Men's hats vary by region; some are cone-shaped while others have four corners. Women and girls may drape fringed scarves around their shoulders. Warm reindeer-skin coats are worn by both sexes. The Sami wear moccasins of reindeer skin with turned-up toes, fastened with ribbons. However, they wear no socks. Instead, they stuff their moccasins with soft sedge grass to protect their feet against the cold and dampness.

Urban Sami dress in modern, Western-style clothing.


Reindeer meat is a protein-rich dietary staple. Even the reindeer's blood is used, for sausages. Fish caught in the many lakes of the Sami's homelands are eaten boiled, grilled, dried, smoked, or salted. Wild berries are another mainstay of the Sami diet, especially the vitamin Crich cloudberry. To help them stay warm and alert in their cold environment, the Sami drink coffee throughout the day. Supper is the main (and traditionally, the only hot) meal of the day.


Traditionally, Sami children learned what they would need to know as adults by observing and helping their parents. Today, they generally attend the schools in the countries in which they live. There are several Sami high schools, where most of the subjects are taught in the Sami language. The universities of Tromsø in Norway, Umla in Sweden, and Oulu in Finland have Sami departments in which Sami topics are taught.


The Sami have a rich tradition of storytelling. A Sami musical tradition that has recently been revived is the singing of the light-hearted, unaccompanied song called the juoigan (yoik). It contains improvised words on almost any topic, but the musical element is the main focus. The yoik resembles the Native American practice of "melodizing" a feeling or mood. There are no collections of yoiks because they are so individualized and so private. A person's yoik is only shared within a close circle of friends and family. The yoik has been described by researchers as one of the most ancient musical traditions in Europe.

The Sami also invented their own musical instrument, a small reed pipe. There are also Sami theaters, publications, and arts and crafts organizations. In 1991 Nils-Aslak Valkeapää of Finland became the first Sami writer to win the Nordic Council prize for literature.


Young Sami often are faced with the decision of whether to remain working within their traditions or to adapt to modernism, which the governments of Scandinavia make available to them through schooling and programs of adaptation. For many years, there was intense government pressure for the Sami to abandon tradition and assimilate to Scandinavian life. In recent years, many Sami have rejected this pressure and there is now a considerable movement among the Sami to retain their cultural identity. A considerable number of young Sami who have been exposed to the modern, urban lifestyles of Scandinavia have rejected it for a more traditional lifestyle, although they still have modern conveniences unheard of in earlier generations. Still, it is more common to see a Sami driving a Volvo than to see one herding rein-deera traditional occupation engaged in by only 10 percent of Sami.

Sami in Scandinavia have bright prospects for employment. While there is some discrimination, most Scandinavians are rigidly egalitarian, and virtually all occupations are open to the Sami.


The Samis' outdoor recreation is closely linked to the activities that provide their survival. They enjoy competing to see who can throw their reindeer lassos the farthest and with the greatest precision. Reindeer-drawn sled races are popular, especially at the Easter festivals in the heart of Sapmi.


Sami entertainment is provided both by expressive activities, including storytelling and yoik singing, and physical contests such as sled racing and lasso throwing.

A traditional board game, rarely played anymore, is tablo and involves one character playing the wolf or the fox and the other a hunter. The players maneuver their pieces around a board with the hunter trying to corner the predator before he or she "eats" all the hunter's pieces.


The Sami produce beautiful crafts, carving a variety of objectssuch as tools and utensilsfrom bone, wood, reindeer antlers, and silver, often with geometric motifs. They have also perfected a special kind of ribbon weaving. Their crafts are popular tourist purchases, although the Sami save many of their creations for their own use. Much of their artistic talent goes into the elaborate braided designs of their costumes.


The Sami homelands have been affected by the invasion of mining and logging companies, hydroelectric power projects, communication networks, and tourism, and threatened by pollution. A controversy that received particular attention was the building of the Alta hydroelectric dam in Norway, which flooded reindeer pastures important to the region's Sami herders. A group of Sami protesters traveled to the capital city of Oslo, where they set up lavvos (tents) in front of the Norwegian parliament and began a hunger strike. Their efforts were unsuccessful, but their actions drew worldwide attention.

Since 1968, the National Association of Norwegian Sami (NSR) has been working actively for Sami political rights, as well as improvements in cultural, social, and economic conditions.

The Sami were also affected by the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine, which contaminated some of their grazing areas, making their reindeer potentially unsafe for them to market or eat themselves. Fish, berries, and drinking water in the affected areas were poisoned as well. Another problem for the Sami has been the increase of tourists from the south, who deplete important Sami resources, such as game birds, fish, and berries, without actually bringing much money into the community.


Beach, Hugh. A Year in Lapland. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1993.

Lander, Patricia Slade, and Claudette Charbonneau. The Land and People of Finland. New York: Lippincott, 1990.

Paine, Robert. Herds of the Tundra: A Portrait of Saami Reindeer Pastoralism. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1994

Rajanen, Aini. Of Finnish Ways. Minneapolis, Minn.: Dillon Press, 1981.

Reynolds, Jan. Far North. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1992.

"Saami." Encyclopedia of World Cultures (Europe). Boston: G. K. Hall, 1992.

Vitebsky, Piers. The Saami of Lapland. New York: Thomson Learning, 1993.


Introduction to the Sami People. [Online] Available, 1998.

Samefolket. Sami Magazine. [Online] Available, 1998.

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ETHNONYMS: Saami, Sámi, Sapmi; formerly Fenni, "Finn," Lapp


Identification. Saami speak various dialects of the Saami language, and/or the national languages, within northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia's Kola Peninsula, and nominally follow the religions of the dominant society. "Sapmi," or "Same-eatnam," refers to traditional Saami Regions others have called "Lapland." The terms "Lapp" and "Lapland" were used mainly by non-Saami, and the derivations of both "Lapp" and "Saami" are contested. Contemporary areas designated "Finnmark" and "Lappmark" constitute but a small portion of Sapmi.

Location. Saami inhabit much of the tundra, taiga, and coastal zones north of 62° N in Norway and Sweden, 66° N in Finland, and 67° N on the Kola peninsula. These arctic and subarctic regions enjoy a climate moderated by the gulf stream, with winters seldom dipping below 40° C (in the far north, without sun for up to two months), and summers occasionally reaching 25° C (sometimes with midnight sun for up to two months).

Demography. There have been no adequate censuses of Saami. Any estimate of their population depends on the operational definition of Saamihood as much as on quality of sampling, but they number very roughly 1 percent of the Populations in their overarching countries. Representative figures around 1982 suggest a total of 40,000 to 60,000 in Norway, 15,000 in Sweden, 4,000 in Finland, and less than 2,000 in Russiaof which about 70 percent speaks Saami and 10 percent breeds reindeer. All in all, the roughly 7,000 Saami dependent on reindeer management as a livelihood herd and husband around 450,000 head. While the majority of Saami resides in the traditional northern regions, the largest concentrations of Saami are today in their national capital cities, to which migration has been most intense in the period since World War II.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Saami language is in the Western Division of the Finno-Ugric Branch of the Uralic Family. Its dosest linguistic relatives include Finnish, Estonian, Livonian, Votic, Veps, Mordvin, Mari, and Permian. Northern, southern, and eastern dialects of Saami mirror traditional habits of resource utilization, cutting across contemporary national boundaries. Saami inflection (of nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives) involves infixes, from alteration of intersyllabic consonant values as well as suffixes. Morphology is highly productive through noun-noun apposition, nuanced verbal and adverbial forms, prepositions, postpositions, and other deictic constructions. Stress is on the first and alternating syllables. Orthographies inspired by Scandinavian, Finnish, and Russian conventions were first devised and disseminated by missionaries in the sixteenth century. Mid-twentieth century efforts for Nordic Saami solidarity have resulted in refinement and consolidation of these orthographies by linguists and native speakers. This writing system follows the Roman alphabet with supplemental symbols and diacritics.

History and Cultural Relations

Hunting and gathering ancestors of present-day herding, farming, fishing, mixed-economy, and entrepreneurial Saami entered northern Fennoscandia from the east by several routes and separate migrations and over several millennia. During these waves, Saami traversed some areas already sparsely settled by other peoples and languages before establishing themselves in present-day Sapmi. Here, cultural and linguistic contact arose with the later northern movements of Scandinavian, Finnish, and Russian peoples in the current era. Earliest contacts in the historic period came through traders, tax collectors, and missionaries. Periods of intense proselytization and forced assimilation led some individual Saami as well as whole regional groups into the dominant national culture and language, facilitated by the phenotypic indistinguishability of the Saami. More pluralistic national policies in the late twentieth century have stemmed the trend of assimilation. Saami today have full rights as citizens and participate in the same educational, religious, and political institutions as other members of their dominant cultures, at the same time as they actively champion their ethnic status.


Saami settlements range in size and permanence, since part of the population is seasonally nomadic. More permanent Villages and towns range from a few families to a few thousand individuals. In the latter case, Saami inhabitants may be in the minority, being interspersed with members of the dominant culture, some of very recent entry. Both encampments and settlements are predicated on local resource utilization, and are often along waterways affording access by boat in summer and by sled and snowmobile on winter ice. Contemporary transportation relaxes these constraints on settlement, at the same time as social conventions such as schooling and consumer habits impose other demands and opportunities leading to centralization. In the literature, occasionally "Village" refers to a reindeer-herding, an administrative, or a Territorial unit, rather than to a settlement per se.

Various forms of permanent and portable housing exist, often juxtaposed in the same settlement or even on the same household plot. Earlier types of construction include tents, sod huts, and frame dwellings, and these persist as homes (or are diverted to other purposes such as storage of food and equipment, smoking of meat and fish, or work stations). Contemporary homes are built to national standards, with central heating and running water; social life centers on the kitchen. Particularly in the more mobile reindeer-breeding segment of the population, some families manage more than one permanent dwelling and numerous portable ones. The tents and huts are round, organized around a central, usually open, fire. Any bare ground will be covered first with birch twigs and then by reindeer hides. Small items such as cooking utensils are stored in one or more chests opposite the entry.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The reindeer is best described as semidomesticated and half wild. Dogs assist in reindeer herding and are sometimes kept as pets. Less frequently, goats may provide milk for household consumption. Commercial farmers may raise sheep and cattle. Pets other than dogs are seldom encountered. Originally hunters, especially of wild reindeer, some Saami converted to domestic reindeer breeding in the most recent half-millennium. Today, several forms of reindeer management, all essentially oriented to a cash market, support as much as 35 percent of the Population in some regions, while other regions have only some combination of farming, fishing, hunting, and commercial activity. Even though reindeer management is a minority Occupation of this ethnic minority group, it has largely shaped the stereotype of Saamihood and has been recognized in law as the only justification for special Saami rights. Through both indigenous identification with the reindeer and extrinsic policies controlling but also privileging reindeer management, this occupation continues to be an emblem of the Saami despite some ambivalence and even resentment by the sedentary majority of Saami and other northern dwellers. Farming centers on sheep- and bovine-meat production and some dairy cattle; these animals require shelter and provisioning up to eight months a year. No grains other than barley thrive at these latitudes, but potatoes have been grown since their arrival in the early 1800s. Freshwater fishing focuses on salmon, char, trout, and whitefish, the smaller species available year-round and not just in the open water of summer. Ocean fishing brings in greater quantities of cod, halibut, haddock, coalfish, and sole. Some Saami hunt ptarmigan, small mammals, European elk, and reindeer predators. Wild berries, abundant in season, are collected by all.

Industrial Arts and Trade. Reindeer hide, antler, and bone provide raw materials for footwear, clothing, and utensils. Saami men etch distinctive decorations on the antler sheaths of their knives. Wood is also an important material, especially burls from birch for the carving of shallow cups and containers. Basketry and root-weaving artisans execute utilitarian and decorative wares, and other specialists spin pewter thread to be sewn onto leather and fabric. All these naturally harvested products and manufactures are used in the Household; they are also sold commercially and used in barter Between sedentary and nomadic Saami and among Saami generally, with local and distant non-Saami, and with tourists. The post-World-War II road system has promoted the increase of communications, services, circulation of goods, tourism, and nonindigenous resource extraction. Larger towns have local shops and national chains as well as municipal offices, slaughterhouses, handicraft centers, and museums.

Division of Labor. Today, the sexual division of labor is both more and less pronounced than in earlier times. Reindeer herding and husbandry now falls more into the hands of men, while women are tied down by the need to maintain and utilize the conveniences of modern housing, compulsory schooling for their children, and transportation. In the farming sector, women do most chores with seasonal assistance by men, who may spend other seasons in hunting, fishing, and/or wage labor. Overall, women do the majority of crafts with soft materials, men with hard materials; men slaughter; both genders cook and tend children; men control snowmobiles and women cars. It is common for at least one member of each family to contribute a wage income to the household economy. Higher education and nontraditional professions especially attract sedentary men and nomadic women.

Land Tenure. The Saami reindeer-grazing regions of Fennoscandia are divided into administrative units, only sometimes commensurate with traditional utilization practices. The nation-states grant the Saami special resource privileges (including reindeer grazing, hunting, fishing, and use of timber) on these crown and public lands. However, state ownership of these lands is still contested by Saami organizations. Saami immemorial rights of usufruct have been confirmed in a number of important court cases. The issue of Saami land rights has continually been investigated by government Commissions and brought before international courts of law. With but few exceptions, reindeer management is a right reserved for Saami in Norway and Sweden. Any Finnish citizen living in the Finnish reindeer herding region has the right to manage reindeer. On the Kola Peninsula, Saami herders mix with those of other native herding peoples.


Kin Groups and Descent. Traditionally, the basic kin group in the reindeer-management sector has been based on a flexible and seasonally fluctuating affiliation, usually consisting of consanguineal kin of the same generation living in a loosely defined territory. This kin group is called a siida. Riations of the siida organization persist today, though often subsumed by larger extrinsic units. Individuals resort to a kindred-type structure in locating friends, mates, assistance, and godparents. Descent is bilateral.

Kinship Terminology. Kinship terminology is bifurcate in first ascending generation, with special terms for mother's older and younger sisters and for father's older and younger brothers. Cousins are classified as semisiblings, both differentiated by gender. Classificatory grandmother and grandfather terms generalize when addressing and referring to older Persons. Affines have marked terms. Most individuals will be related to each other by more than one consanguineal, affinal, or fictive kinship link.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is monogamous. Sometimes cross cousins or double cross cousins marry, which is advantageous for nucleation of herding groups. Constraints on marriage include compatibility of the partners' subsistence bases. The merging of two large reindeer livestock holdings or two very small holdings would each be marginally viable arrangements (given some combination of labor requirements, pasturage availability, and herd controllability), as would be the Marriage of two persons having the responsibilities associated with ultimogeniture, or two persons committed to incommensurable livelihoods. Within these limits, individuals Usually choose their own mates, marrying sometimes after a family has been started. Postmarital residence is neolocal, although flexible, as in the case of an ultimogeniture heir apparent, who remains at home. When a newly formed family continues in the subsistence livelihood of one or another of the spouses, they reside so as to take advantage of their familiarity with the area. Divorce seldom occurs, either formally or informally.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is the nuclear family, from which individuals disperse and regroup (also across household lines) owing to activities requiring constant mobility.

Inheritance. In reindeer-breeding families, each Individual, regardless of age or gender, owns livestock. Saami Inheritance is constrained by the various practices of the dominant society. Following Saami tradition, however, inheritance of parental dwellings, plots, livestock, resource-utilization locations, and other wealthas well as the responsibility of caring for elderly parentswill commonly fall to the youngest child.

Socialization. Children learn at their own pace through opportunistic imitation. They are seldom explicitly instructed or disciplined. Versatility and individuality are rewarded.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Saami society is open, fluid, acephalous, and relatively egalitarian. Members of the reindeer-breeding sector enjoy higher prestige within the society and more attention from without. In some regions dominated by non-Saami, the ranking has placed the reindeer breeders last. In their core areas, the nomadic and sedentary sectors integrate symbiotically. Saami reside in parliamentary democracies with and without constitutional monarchies, as well as in the former USSR. When expeditious, Saami can appear to defer to the national majority culture.

Political Organization. In earlier times, the largest though noncorporate group, the siida, was based on resource utilization, and its consensual leader was, and still can be, active, but only in unusual circumstances. Although poorly represented in the governing structures of contemporary society, Saami have initiated a number of their own general- and special-interest organizations, the latter responsive to subsistence interests. Saami have also been active participants in the fourth-world movement since its inception in the early 1970s.

Social Control. Until the eighteenth century, social Control was informal and relatively nonproblematic. In the absence of any hierarchical regulating mechanisms, some disturbances such as reindeer theft could escalate. With the court and religious systems of the encroaching dominant societies, Saami found alternatives in formal administration and litigation while maintaining informal controls through persuasion, gossip, sorcery, and relocation (forced or voluntary).

Conflict. Saami history reveals little endemic conflict other than competition, often between reindeer-breeding units. The exception was a massacre in 1852 in which the two victims were non-Saami. In recent times, however, conflict is more prominent, centering on protests of encroachments on Saami areas through resource extraction (hydroelectric power, mining, logging), by communication networks (roads, snowmobile routes, boat and air lines, and power lines), through usurpation of land (by recreational, tourist, and military activities), and by pollution (most recently nuclear contamination from Chernobyl).

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The ecstatic shamanic tradition has been subsumed but not utterly eradicated by state churches, whose missionizing nominally converted most Saami by the end of the eighteenth century. Most Saami belong to the evangelical Lutheran faith of the dominant culture, while some retain a nineteenth-century syncretic institution named Laestadianism after its charismatic founder.

According to Saami traditions, various spirits reside in and around prominent geographical locales, such as natural outcroppings and encampment sites. The shamanic drum of old commemorated a host of cosmological forces associated with space, time, weather, animals, and social categories. Saami folklore contains abundant references to people of the underworld and a giant troll-like figure. Other spirits correspond to once-living beings, as do ghosts of infanticide casualties.

Religious Practitioners. Male pastors from the dominant society service most Lutheran churches in Saami areas; Laestadian practitioners are usually recruited from the Saami and Finnish populations. Laestadian practitioners also perform in the folk-medicine arena, and are male. Self-styled shamans of both genders serve the medical and sorcery needs of their kin, friends, neighbors, and trading partners. Not all healers are shamans, however, and not all shamans are healers.

Ceremonies. The most elaborate ceremony in former times, congruent with that of other circumpolar peoples, was associated with the bear hunt. The Saami observe the regular Christian life-cycle rituals. Laestadian meetings are held in some of the same places as church services and also in secular buildings and homes. Healing rituals, whether Laestadian or shamanic, usually take place in the home of a patient or during a meeting.

Arts. Most utilitarian arts and crafts are done by all, while specialists such as knife makers, basket makers, and silversmiths render decorative wares. Summer tourism and yearround exports have become important in the local economy. To protect themselves against imitation, Saami handicraft professionals mark their produce with a special seal. A number of Saami have attained international recognition in nontraditional graphic art forms and literature. The vocal arts are represented by the chantlike yoik, which has become a recognized musical form.

Medicine. Indigenous beliefs and practices (such as the stopping of blood) are grounded in the knowledge and skills of the patient, a family member, or a shaman. Remedies are readily available in nature for human, reindeer, and dog maladies. In addition and within limits, these sparsely settled outlying regions receive medical and veterinary services in line with those of the rest of the country.

Death and Afterlife. Saami have a higher-than-average incidence of cardiovascular disease; males in their early years are at risk for accidental death, and in earlier times, a certain toll was taken by childbirth. Barring such mortality, Saami are often active in their 80s. In the past, if burdensome to the family, the elderly boarded with sedentary people, wandered off, or were left behind to die. The funeral and burial follow national custom, usually Lutheran. Saami do not speculate much about afterlife. In pre-Christian and earlier Christian times, when frozen or rocky terrain precluded burial, interment or temporary interment utilized trees and cairns.


Anderson, Myrdene (1978). Saami Ethnoecology: Resource Management in Norwegian Lapland. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms.

Beach, Hugh (1981). Case of Tuorpon Saameby in Northern Sweden. Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology, 3. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Ingold, Tim (1976). Skolt Lapps Today. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Paine, Robert (1965). Coast Lapp Society. Vol. 2, Study of Economic Development and Social Values. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Pelto, Pertti J. (1962). Individualism in Skolt Lapp Society. Kansatieteellinen Arkisto, 16. Helsinki: Suomen Muinaismuistoyhdistys.

Vorren, Ornulv, and Ernest Manker (1962). Lapp Life and Customs. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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ETHNONYMS: Self-designations: Saam', Same; Lapps, Lopari


Identification. The Saami (Lopari) of Russia number 1,800, about 85 percent of them living in their ancient territory on the Kola Peninsula in the Murmansk Oblast of Russia; 40 percent live in cities. The name "Lopari" apparently comes from neighboring Finns and Scandinaviansfrom whom the Russians also took it. The name "Lappia" appears in Saxus Grammaticus (end of the twelfth century). In Russian sources the term "Lop'" appears toward the end of the fourteenth century. Finnish linguists derive the word "Lop'" or "Lopas'" from the Finnish "Lape" or "Lappea" (T. Itkonen) or relate it to the Swedish "Lapp" (E. Itkonen). Sometimes the Saami are called the "Kola," after the peninsula. Recently, both in the literature and in everyday life, they have preferred to be called by their own name of Saami.

The Saami are of a singular physical type that combines features of the European and Mongoloid races, with a predominance of the former. There is a series of hypotheses for the genesis of this type. One of these rests exclusively on ancient mestization (metizatsia ) of the Europeans by a Mongoloid population that had penetrated the European North in the Mesolithic and early Neolithic periods. According to another hypothesis, the specific character of the Saami type cannot be explained by mixture alone. The proponents of this hypothesis raise the possibility of a third component reflecting certain ancient physical characteristics of the populations of eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

Location. The Saami are the original people of the extreme north of Europe. In the past their ancestors occupied regions significantly to the south and east of their current distribution, but they were gradually pushed northward by other peoples (Russians, Karelians, Finns, Scandinavians). As various sources indicate, the Saami at the turn of the first to second millennia had settled a very wide area, including the northern regions of Scandinavia, the Kola Peninsula, and a significant part of Finland and Karelia, including the shores of Lakes Ladoga and Onega. To the east the basins of the Onegin, Northern Dvina, and, possibly, the Mezen rivers were apparently part of Saami territory. Into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Kola Saami occupied the land of contemporary Karelia. We find evidence of this in the Novgorodian cadastres, which mention the Lopskie pogosts (a complex of country church, churchyard, and cemetery) in the Zaonezh' area. By the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, the Saami occupied almost all the Kola Peninsula, with the exception of the southern partthe Terpsk shore of the White Sea, where Russians predominated. At present the Saami live primarily in the Lovozersk region of the Murmansk Oblast of Russia, with their center in the village of Lovozer.

All of the territory that is settled by Russian Saami today lies beyond the Arctic Circle in the zone of tundra and wooded tundra or the border of the northern taiga. The climate is cold but relatively gentle and moist owing to the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream. The year-round average is about 0° C but the average in July, the hottest month, is 13.7° C. The flora of the tundra is dwarf birch, willow, bushes, mosses, and lichens; in the wooded zone it is fir/spruce, birch, pine, alder, aspen, and rowan. Animal life is quite varied, consisting of diverse mammals: the wild northern reindeer; furbearing animals such as Arctic foxes, red foxes, rabbit, stoats, musquashes, and so forth; ptarmigan; and waterfowl. The natural reservoirs are rich in fish: in the lakes there are whitefish, perch, pike, trout, and the kumzha; in the rivers that fall into the Arctic Ocean, the syomga salmon.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Saami language belongs to the Baltic-Finnic Branch of the Finno-Ugric Language Family but occupies a special place. Linguists have revealed a substratum within it going back, in their opinion, to the Ugro-Samoyedic languages. The language of the Kola Saami falls into four main dialect groups (Iukangsk, Kil'dinsk, Notozersk, and Babensk) and a series of other dialect divisions, the differences among which are sometimes so great as to preclude mutual intelligibility. All the Russian Saami today know Russian.

History and Cultural Relations

The first contacts of the Saami with Russians were in the thirteenth century, specifically in 1216, when there is mention of the payment of tribute by the population of the Terpsk shoreland to the Novgorodians. After the fifteenth century and the fall of Novgorod, Lapland began to gyrate toward the Great Principality of Moscow and later became part of the Russian state, which was then forming. With the onset of the sixteenth century, the Christianization of the Saami began; the Pechengsk monastery, founded in 1550, played a major role. The expansion of Christianity among the Kola Saami was also related to the activity of the Solovetsk, Antonievo-Siisk, Krestr, and Voskresensk monasteries.

Contacts by the Kola Saami with neighboring peoples have been occurring for many centuries. Toward the end of the nineteenth century the Saami interdigitated with other peoples. Particularly close were the contacts with Russians. Also of many years' duration were contacts with the Karelians and Finns, particularly on the southwestern part of the peninsula. Moreover, in the 1880s, groups of Komi and Nenet reindeer breeders came to the Kola Peninsula from the Pechora River; these contacts had a significant influence on those aspects of Saami life that were related to reindeer breeding. In the twentieth century the national constituency of the Murmansk Oblast became even more mixed. The large influx of an immigrant populationamong whom were a significant number of Ukrainians, Belarussians, Tatars, and other nationalitieswas connected with the intensive development of industry in the area in the 1930s. The influx continues to this day, and contact with other peoples has become very extensive. Ethnically mixed marriages constitute about 50 percent of all marriages.


Busy with their work, especially hunting, the Saami traditionally led a seminomadic form of life. Every Saami social group had its regular winter and summer quarters, the pogost, and, in addition, a number of spring and autumn stopping places in hunting areas. The winter quarters were most often situated in the interior of the peninsula, close to the edge of the forest, where the winter pastures of the reindeer were located. The summer quarters were on the shores of lakes or rivers or on the seacoast.

Traditional dwellings were of three basic kinds. The oldest and most distinctive structure was the vezha, a transportable dwelling with a frame of poles and a covering made of skin and turf; it had the shape of a truncated tetrahedral pyramid. In the previous century this was, apparently, the basic dwelling of the Saami, but in the twentieth century it has become a dwelling used in spring and autumn stopping places. Sometimes they also lived in vezhas in their summer camps. The winter quarters, by the end of the nineteenth century, consisted basically of small, one-room log cabins with flat roofs or huts of the Russian type. The third type of Saami dwelling was a light transportable structure, conical in form, with a frame of poles covered with skin or tarpaulin. This was the basic dwelling during nomadic migrations. Even today reindeer herders and fisherman use it as a portable dwelling. In the main settlement, most Saami today live in contemporary brick five-story buildings or in private homes of the log-cabin type.


The distinctive traditional culture of the Saami developed over centuries under the diverse influences, especially the natural environment. The ancient economic culture of the Saami was characterized by a combination of hunting, fishing, and (later) reindeer breeding. For those Saami who live near the seashore, the hunting of sea mammals, particularly the nerpa (a kind of freshwater seal), has always been important; among the Saami living far from the sea, the hunting of northern reindeer was particularly developed. Toward the end of the nineteenth century the role of hunting in the economy lessened because of the exhaustion of game in the region. The basic source of subsistence became reindeer herding, with fishing for "black" fish from inland lakes (vodoyom ) and for the syomga salmon at the mouths of large rivers falling to secondary importance; there were also other, nontraditional occupations such as working on the Kirov railroad or as guides for geological groups. Today about half of all the Saami living in Lovozer are reindeer breeders. In addition, Saami are employed in many nontraditional forms of work, including dairying, construction, education, and service industries.

The traditional system of reindeer breeding of the Kola Saami has characteristics that set it off as a special type among the reindeer-breeding systems of the Peoples of the North and Siberia. These are small herds, free pasturing of the reindeer in the summer with the use of brands (dymokur ), reindeer barns and fences (izgorod' ), and the use of herding dogs. The Saami used the reindeer as pack animals when traveling on foot or harnessed them to a very distinctive one-runner sleigh-carriage (Russian: bezkopyl'nyl ) similar in appearance to a boat with a truncated poop and a sharply raised prow. They sat in this sleigh-carriage with their feet extended forward or with the right foot extended and the left hanging overboard. They drove with the help of reins running along the left side of the reindeer from a halter around its head. They sometimes hitched two reindeer to a freight sleigh-carriage.

The pack saddle, like the harness, was also different from analogical elements of the culture of other reindeer-breeding peoples. It was marked by great simplicity of construction, consisting of two small arch-shaped boards that dropped down along the sides of the reindeer. Their lower ends were fastened with a thong that passed under the belly of the animal, whereas the upper ends were fastened together and the loads, in special sacks, were hung from them. At present the harness and carriage have been replaced by the practical and convenient reindeer sleigh (Russian: narta ) of the Samoyed type, on a high, slanted sleigh-carriage.

The techniques of fishing resemble in many ways those of the neighboring Russian and Karelian fisherman. Since time immemorial the most widely used equipment have been the stationary (stavnaya ) net, harpoon or fish spear, the fishing hook, and, for syomga trout, the "locks" constructed of poles and containing snares made out of withies, with which the Saami used to block off rivers.

The most widespread means of hunting the wild reindeer in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the drive or battue with fences. They drove the reindeer into huge traps made of branches covered with snow. Later they began to hunt with firearmsin the fall with the help of reindeer decoys, but in the spring on a special kind of ski (Russian: lyzhy-golenitsi ) on the crust (the so-called Russian gon'ba ). Furbearing animals were hunted with firearms and diverse traps.

Industrial Arts. The basic materials for the preparation of clothing were reindeer hides and tanned skins, procured locally, but also cotton cloth, linens, and calico obtained from traders at the annual fairs in the district city of Kola. Fox, rabbit, and bear skins were used for adornment. Some kinds of footwear were prepared from water-resistant seal skin (Russian: nerpa and tyulen' ). The Saami also knitted socks and mittens and wove belts from sheep's wool.

The basic upper garment, which was the same for men and women, was in use until the early twentieth century; made of reindeer hide with the fur on the outside, it was put on over the head and came down to below the knees, with the skirt spreading out. This was worn with a fur or cloth cap, of which there are many variants in the various regions of Lapland. Men cinched their coats with a leather belt from which they suspended a knife in a leather sheath, whereas women used colored belts woven of wool. The Saami also wore clothes of a similar cut but made of cloth, which served as outerwear in summer and in winter was donned under the coat. Clothing made of textiles, particularly that of the women, was strongly influenced by neighbors, especially the Russians. Thus there appeared the sleeveless tunic dress (sarafan ) of the Saami women, with a skirt (stiaps ), a calico jacket, and a kerchief over the head.

The Saami sewed footwear out of reindeer skins or tanned leather. This footwear could be high, with a legging running up to the crotch, or low, barely above the ankle. A characteristic of all Saami footwear was that the tip of the toe was turned sharply upward, allowing Saami to step easily into leather bands on their skis and ski without their feet slipping out.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the appearance on the Kola Peninsula of Komi and Nenet reindeer breeders precipitated the diffusion to Saami culture of many Izhem-Samoyedic elements, including clothing. This led to the adoption of the Komi-style cowl (malitsa ) and a combination sock-sandal made of fur. This clothing remains the basic garb for hunting and similar work in the settlements, but the general population wears purchased factory-made clothing. Footwear of deerskin enjoys great popularity.

Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The entire Saami population of the Kola Peninsula at the turn of the century consisted of seventeen societies or communes (Lovozersky, Iokangansky, Semiostrovsky, etc.), constituting territorial associations of sorts. Each society had permanent settlements and its own territory for production (pastures, fishing sites, hunting grounds), the use of which accorded with ancient Saami norms. No information has been preserved about the existence of a clan structure among the Saami. Seventeenth-century sources, however, distinguish three groups of Lopi on the Kola Peninsula and Karelin that perhaps correspond to their earlier division along clan or tribal lines. These are the Konchanskaya Lop' in the western regions of the peninsula, the Terskoya Lop' in its eastern regions, and the Leshoya Lop' in northern Karelin.

Marriage and Domestic Unit. Toward the end of the nineteenth century the Saami lived in small families. The son, after marriage, would separate from his father and run his own household economy. In rare cases, a young husband had to work with his father-in-law, sometimes for as long as one year, before setting up his own household. An only son would remain with his parents until their deaths. The parents always selected the spouses of their children, although this was usually done with the agreement of the children. The groom and the bride were usually related but of different settlements. Weddings generally took place in the winter, after Epiphany, when the entire population was free from work. Saami couples entered into marriage at the age of 20, and it was not unusual for the bride to be older than her groom.

Division of Labor. In the past the head of the Saami family was always the man, but, at the same time, the position of the woman was rather free. Women, according to old notions of the Saami, were considered unclean and, in connection with this, faced a series of prohibitions and constraints. Thus, they could not be in the part of the home (vezha) where the so-called clean/pure place was located and could not participate in the general meal. When guests were in the home, women only served. They could not approach sacred sites. (Whether the Sammi actually regard women as "unclean" is controversial and hinges on the gloss for the Saami word mugga, which can also be translated "spiritually powerful, magically efficacious, dangerous." Women were and are seen as having the potential for special connections with the Mistress of Game, and it may well be that it was for this reason their actions were ritually circumscribed.) Despite these prohibitions, the relationship of the spouses and the allocation of respective duties and obligations were determined by the necessities of the Saami way of life, particularly the day-to-day economic routine under conditions imposed by the severe northern environment. The family actually spent a great deal of time out of touch with the other families of its settlement. Under these circumstances, a wife had to participate on equal terms in the domestic economy, including raising the children and obtaining the basic means of subsistence (catching fish, sometimes even herding reindeer). There was thus no strict gender-based division of labor, although some kinds of work were usually carried out by men (e.g., care of the reindeer, preparing firewood), and others were carried out by women (e.g., preparation of food, sewing, repairing clothing, catching small fish in the lakes).


The Saami of the Kola Peninsula were considered Russian Orthodox. Their Christianization, however, was rather superficial and did not destroy their pre-Christian religion. Of the pre-Christian beliefs, those most characteristic of the Saami were reverence for heavenly bodies (sun, moon) and the deification of diverse aspects of nature. Especially widespread was a belief in the divine patrons of the hunt. Particular respect, for example, was enjoyed by the Mistress of the Reindeer Herds, Luot-Khozik. Reindeer herding was also protected by the Guardians of Grass, or Razi-aike. Other guardian gods were Pots, Khozin, and Pots'-khozik. Saami mythology included numerous spirits, who resided everywhereon the earth, in the water, in the air, under the earth. In the past, devotion to sacred stones (seids ) was also widespread. The seids were large anthropomorphic stones or small mounds of small stones, usually located near water and hunting sites. Offerings were brought to the seids (Saami rubbed the stone with the blood of a slain animal, with fish fat, and so forth). The cult of the seids was related both to ancestor rituals and to hunting rituals. At present the Saami are not especially religious. Members of the older generation continue to preserve in memory the legends about the origin of specific seids, and they believe in a life after death.


Charnoluski, V. V. (1930). Materialy po byto Loparey (Material on the way of life of the Lapps). Leningrad.

Haruzin, N. N. (1890). Russkiye Lopari (Russian Lapps). Moscow.

Lukyachenko, T. V. (1971). Materialnaya kultura Saamov (Loparey ) Kolskovo Poluostrova v Konste (Saami [Lapp] material culture at the tip of the Kola Peninsula). Moscow.

TANYA V. LUKYACHENKO (Translated by Paul Friedrich and Sharon Stevens)

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LAPPS. The Sami (Lapps) are a native minority of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Their territory was once much larger than it is today, especially in Finland. The Sami land is not homogeneous, but is divided into different ecological zones ranging from the coast of the Arctic Sea via the high mountains of Scandinavia to the northern forests. From a historical perspective, this territory supports various types of economies, with a focus on reindeer breeding, reindeer hunting, hunting combined with fishing in the sea and in lakes (in some regions combined with small farms), or pursuit of sea mammals. It is also important to connect the economy to different types of consumption with the emphasis on reindeer meat or milk, game and fish, and seal. Vegetables, berries such as cloudberries, bilberries, and lingonberries, and (infrequently) bread can also be seen as complements. Mercantile goods like flour, coffee, liquor, and horse meat, complete the picture.

The transition from hunters and fishers to reindeer herders began at different times in different parts of the widespread Sami territory. For example, the Sami practice of reindeer hunting combined with a nomadic lifestyle has existed in Sweden ever since the end of the Middle Ages.

The reindeer has long been the comprehensive symbol of Sami food culture, and today reindeer meat is exploited by restaurant culture of the Nordic countries, outside of the Sami territory. There one can find it on menus as roast reindeer (for example, under the name of suovas ) or as small pieces of meat in a sauce with mashed potatoes and lingonberry (renskav ).

Formerly the Sami used almost every part of the reindeer as food, including viscera, minced and cooked udder, hooves, and the brain (as an ingredient in bread). Reindeer cheese was once considered a delicacy, even as a commercial product, as were the tongue and heart. Reindeer milk could also be mixed with angelica and sorrel.

Samis traditionally boiled meat and fish. Dried fish (salmon and pike) were a replacement for bread and were also a trade commodity. In the nomadic society there was no oven in the Sami tentthe infrequently consumed bread was made of purchased barley (and later, wheat) on the hot hearth.

Breakfast was not a traditional Sami meal. In the nineteenth century it became a coffee meal or snack. Boiling meat and fish at noon and in the evening was the most common kind of traditional cooking. The principal meal was served in the evening. Traditionally, cooking in Sami culture was a male duty.

After the slaughtering of reindeer, a symbolic meal was traditionally served. This renkok (formerly and especially in gastronomic literature referred to as lappkok ) consisted of marrowbone, liver, tongue, or heart boiled in a fat gravy. One can find such a meal at restaurants, especially in Lapland. Also, until the twentieth century, the Sami served a feast with boiled meat and a fat gravy after a successful bear hunt.

The money market has brought Western foodstuffs to the Sami food cultureat first as status food but gradually more and more as basic foodbut at the same time, reindeer meat has retained its strong symbolic value for Sami identity.

See also Canada: Native Peoples; Inuit; Mammals, Sea; Nordic Countries; Russia; Siberia.


Bosi, Roberto. The Lapps. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976.

Fjellström, Phebe. Samernas samhälle i tradition och nutid [Lappish society in tradition and the present day]. Stockholm: P. A. Norstedt & Söners Bokförlag, 1985.

Ruong, Israel. "Sami Usage and Customs." The Sami National Minority in Sweden, edited by Birgitta Jahreskog. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International in collaboration with Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1982.

Vorren, Ørnuly, and Ernst Manker. Lapp Life and Customs: A Survey. Translated from the Norwegian by Kathleen McFarlane. New York: Oxford University Press, 1962.

Kurt Genrup

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The fifty- to eighty thousand Sami (Lapps) live mostly in northern Norway and Sweden, some in Finland, and only about 3 percent (1,600) in the Kola peninsula of the Russian Federation. They represent less than 0.2 percent of the Murmansk oblast population. They reached the Gulf of Bothnia around 1300. Sami and Finnic languages are not mutually intelligible, having split some three thousand years ago. Three to ten Sami languages are distinguished, and the standard literary Sami in the Nordic countries is difficult to understand for the Kola (Kild) Sami, who are also unfamiliar with its Latin script. The reputed Asian features are actually encountered in only 25 percent of the Sami population.

Inhabiting most of present Finland and Karelia one thousand years ago, the Sami were pushed toward the Arctic Ocean by Scandinavian, Finnish, Russian, and Karelian booty seekers. Those in the west were forced to adopt Catholicism and later Lutheranism. Greek Orthodoxy was imposed on the Kola Samis in the early 1500s, after they were subjected by Novgorod around 1300. The first western Sami book was printed in 1619, and the Bible in 1811, while the first Kola Sami book appeared in 1878.

Reindeer herding remains a major occupation. The Soviet Russian authorities annihilated the traditional Kola Sami settlements in the 1930s, relocating them repeatedly to ever larger state or collective farms, where overgrazing severely reduced the number of reindeer. By now Lujaur (Lovozero in Russian) in central Kola remains the only partly Sami district. In 1937 Moscow ordered all Sami publications destroyed. Ten years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sami became again an optional subject in Lujaur schools, and some basic texts were published. A Kola Sami association was formed in 1989 and later joined the worldwide Sami Council.

See also: finns and karelians; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist; northern peoples


Beach, Hugh. (1994). "The Sami of Lapland." In Polar Peoples: Self-Determination and Development, ed. Minority Rights Group. London: Minority Rights Publications.

Slezkine, Yuri. (1994). Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Taagepera, Rein. (1999). The Finno-Ugric Republics and the Russian State. London: Hurst.

Rein Taagepera

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Lapps People inhabiting Lapland. The mountain Lapps are nomadic herders of reindeer, while those of the forest and coast are semi-nomadic and live by hunting, trapping, and fishing. Their racial origins are uncertain.

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SAMI Socially acceptable monitoring instrument. A small heart‐rate counting apparatus used to estimate energy expenditure.

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Lapps: see under Lapland.

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Sami: see under Lapland.

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