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In this tribal tourism post we will discuss the Sami indigenous peoples. The Sami civilization is present in four different countries: Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia with a population of approximately 80.000. Around half are living in Norway. The main activity of the Sami is herding reindeer. Next to that, they fish, farm livestock and hunt for a living, but now they also earn money in tourism. (Northern Norway, n.d.).  Many of them still live in their traditional settlements. 

Tromsø Arctic Reindeer and Sami Experience ©NicolasLafargue/Flickr

The Sami have quite an interesting culture. Joik, for example, is one of the oldest song traditions in Europe, and still exists today. Originally, Joik referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing. As an art form, each Joik is meant to reflect or evoke a person, animal, or place (Northern Norway, n.d.). If you have watched the first Frozen movie, you will already have heard some Joik. The composer of Frozen’s opening song is actually Sami and the opening song, ‘Vuelie’, is a slightly altered version of the song “Eatnemen Vuelie” (meaning Song of the Earth), which was originally written by Fjellheim in 1996 (Visitnorway, n.d.). For the second Frozen movie, Disney worked even more closely together with Sami representatives to ensure they portrayed the right image on Sami in the movie (Fauche, 2019). Moreover, during the 2019 Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv, the Norwegian-Sami group called KEiiNO represented Norway. Their song ‘spirit in the sky’ was a combination of dance, pop, electronic and Joik music (Visitnorway, n.d.). Click here to see their performance at Eurovision. Besides Frozen, the Sami people were also included in the Oscar nominee film Klaus (IMDB, 2020), where the Sami are presented as they are, speaking their own language and wearing their traditional clothing. To read about how these two movies brought indigenous Sami representation to film, click here.

Sami flag. ThomReijnders/Flickr

Besides their music, the Sami are also famous for their traditional clothing, also known as the Gakti. These handmade outfits are nowadays only worn during special events such as festivals, parties, funerals and weddings. The design on the clothing shows the individual’s region of origin and the state of marriage (Tribes, n.d.).

Sami girls in traditional clothing at the European parliament. © European Union 2017 – European Parliament/Flickr

Since 1989, the Sami have their own parliament. The Norwegian Sami are capable of selecting representatives for a parliament which discusses issues concerning the Sami only. The building itself is in the shape of a traditional Lavvo, a tent they used to utilize on their annual food migration. The parliament is located in Karasjok (a municipality region in the north of Norway, close to the Finnish border) and it is possible to participate in guided tours inside the building (Nikel, 2018).

Sami people in front of a lavvo (traditional tent) ©Perspektivet Museum/Flickr
Sami parliament building. ©

The interest in indigenous tourism has increased significantly in Norway over the past decades. To ensure that this type of tourism will be developed in a sustainable and ethical way, a project called STiNN (Amisk Reiseliv i Nord-Norge – Sami Tourism in Northern Norway) has been created. This project has several objectives: 1) to create better coordination between the different tourism entrepreneurships, 2) to develop a clearer Sami product profile, 3) to ensure the quality of the various offerings and 4) to increase their profitability, which in turn is seen to improve economic growth in the region (Fonneland, 2017). 

Have a look at the interesting links mentioned below for more information on (visiting) this tribe!
Three Days with the Sámi Reindeer People (YouTube video)
Traditional Norwegian cuisine: From the Sami to the Vikings with Gordon Ramsay (YouTube video)

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