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DISCOVER 5 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE SAMI REINDEER HERDING CULTURE

Updated: Apr 11


reindeer herder, Sami, Norway
Nils is a Sami reindeer herder from Norway.

Imagine soft powder white snow, where you can only hear your breathing and the noise you make as you step on the snow. You don't see any buildings or roads; the only thing in front of you is the Arctic wilderness. The only true one in Europe. It's the homeland of the Sami reindeer herders for whom reindeer husbandry is more than just an activity; it is a livelihood and lifestyle.


The Sami are the European Union's last indigenous people who live between four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. For the Sami reindeer herders, this land is called Sapmi. Sami people have rich traditions, a reindeer herding lifestyle, religion, knowledge, and wisdom. Estimating how many still live as full-time reindeer herders is challenging, but not so many anymore. One thing is sure: they uniquely live in balance with the surrounding Arctic nature and animals. 1. A TRADITIONAL SAMI SHAMAN IS CALLED NOAIDI


Like most indigenous cultures, Sami also have traditional healers and protectors called Noaidi. Noaidi is like a shaman who has the skills to communicate with ancestral spirits. In Sami mythology, Sami are the children of the Sun and the Earth, and all the people living in nature have a close and respectful relationship with the Earth. Therefore, Sami are called the people of the Sun and wind.


Sami mythology and healing traditions have unique wisdom and indigenous knowledge. In the past, Sami had many nature gods who believed everything in nature was alive and thus had to be protected. Noaidi, the traditional shaman and healer, was essential in Sami culture as the mediator between people and gods. Noaidi was a respected healer to whom people turned in times of trouble and crises. In the past, every Sami family had a drum too. The Noadi, the shaman, used the drum to go into a trance when traveling to other worlds to meet the spirits of ancestors.


2. DON'T ASK HOW MANY REINDEER SAMI HAVE


Reindeer are the kings of the tundra and Lapland. Like many other pastoralists, the Sami don't count the exact number of reindeer they own. A guest should never ask how many reindeer they have as it can bring bad luck for the Sami. The primary function of having reindeer is much deeper than just an exact amount in numbers. Instead, Sami recognizes every reindeer by the earmark, the shape of antlers, the color of the fur, and other animal behavior.





3. THE SAMI REINDEER HERDING CALENDAR IS BASED ON EIGHT SEASONS


Reindeer herding follows seasonal changes, so Sami's concept of time is based on different seasons that the Sami reckon eight. The present Western Christian Calendar is based on 12 months, but Sami people calculate weeks.


Reindeer migrations, calving season, and other herding tasks define the Sami reindeer herder's annual calendar. For example, May is essential as the new baby calves are born. In June, Sami people gather all reindeer into corrals before marking the reindeer calves with earmarks. September is rutting time, and Sami herders slaughter big males this time. After that, Sami migrate to their winter pastures. In March-April, another migration occurs when the Sami herders return to the summer pastures.


4. THERE EXISTS TEN SAMI LANGUAGES


The Sami have a language that belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of the Uralic language family. But, instead of having one language, the Sami have ten languages that are not dialects. The most spoken Sami language is Northern Sami. However, all the Sami are bilingual and speak the official language of their country. Sami languages have a rich vocabulary regarding nature terminology, like describing the weather, snow conditions, and reindeer herding. Did you know there are 100 words just for snow in the Northern Sami language?



Sami reindeer herder Nils inside a traditional Sami tent
Sami reindeer herders have rich traditions and lifestyle

5. SAMI REINDEER HERDERS LIVE IN FOUR COUNTRIES


Sami reindeer herders' traditional land is called Sapmi. They live between four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Sami people have their flag, too, whose colors symbolize Sami culture. The red part of the circle represents the sun, and the blue part represents the moon. The colors red, blue, green, and yellow reflect the Sámi national costume. Green symbolizes nature, blue water, red fire, and yellow the sun. Traditional Sami clothing has these same colors as well. According to different calculations, there are approximately 800,000 Sami, but not everyone has reindeer or practices reindeer herding culture. For example, only in Norway, which has the largest Sami population, only 1round 2,600 Sami are reindeer herders.



Sami reindeer herders, Norway, snowmobile
Herding reindeer with a Sami in the Arctic wilderness in Norway

Are you interested in Sami culture? Join Visit Natives's immersive trips where you can live and experience the life of the Sami reindeer herders in Northern Norway. You can book a winter stay while Sami reindeer herders are in the winter pastures or join a Sami family during the annual spring migration.





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