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Discover Four Unique Cultural Activities while Staying with the Sami Reindeer Herders in Norway

Updated: May 7

Northern Norway offers unique and outstanding natural and cultural experiences for all travelers. However, if you yearn for a genuine experience, you should consider visiting and residing with the Sami reindeer herders, who are the earliest inhabitants of the Arctic since the Ice Age.

The Sami reindeer herders are the only indigenous people in the European Union living in the Arctic Circle, divided into four countries: Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia. For them, the land is called Sapmi. The Sami people have rich traditions, and their reindeer herding culture is close to nature. 

If you're looking for an off-the-beaten-path way to explore the Arctic wilderness and Sami reindeer herding culture, check out our four tips for immersing yourself in the region's beauty and diving deep into the Sami culture.

  1. ICE-FISHING Throughout history, nature has always provided everything that people need. In addition to reindeer herding, fishing has been a significant food source for the Sami people. During winter, fishing has to be done through the ice, in the sea, and rivers full of whitefish, char, salmon trout, salmon, pike, and other fish. In the past, the Sami people paid taxes and traded using whalebones, sealskins, and dried fish. Ice fishing is the perfect way to slow down and unwind. Don't miss out on the satisfaction of catching your dinner!

  2. REINDEER HERDING The Sami are known for being skilled reindeer herders, and it's an amazing experience to witness them in action. You can try your hand at herding reindeer in the tundra, which is a must-do activity if you're visiting the area. Reindeer are semi-domesticated and truly beautiful creatures that everyone loves. Walking close to a big herd of reindeer is a magical experience that you won't soon forget. Unfortunately, due to climate change, many Sami herders need to provide extra food for their reindeer, such as pellets. You can even assist in feeding them if you'd like! Another traditional way of catching reindeer is by throwing a lasso. This is a skill that every Sami herder possesses, and they can often be seen catching reindeer with a lasso while driving a snowmobile.

  3. NORTHERN LIGHTS HUNTING The Arctic sky, filled with countless stars, tells stories about Sami mythology. The Sami people have developed the ability to read the sky and use it to predict weather, determine direction, and even tell time. For instance, when the morning star appears in the sky, they know that morning is coming Folklore and mythology provide various explanations for the origin of the Northern Lights. The Sami believed that the dancing lights in the sky were the souls of the dead and had magical properties. Therefore, when the aurora was visible, it was advised to be cautious and stay inside, and children were instructed to be quiet. The Northern Lights are not just a magnificent spectacle of colors but a language that speaks to Sami ancestors and a mystical connection to the cosmos. Witnessing this natural wonder is an opportunity to experience something genuinely transcendent and connect with the universe in an awe-inspiring and humbling way.

Northern Lights dancing in the Arctic Sky
Northern Lights dancing in the Arctic Sky

4. LEARNING SAMI RITUALS It's worth noting that oral storytelling serves as a crucial tool for many indigenous cultures in passing on their wisdom and traditions to future generations. The Sami people are a prime example of this, having encountered numerous changes in their lives, including the impact of Christianity. Despite these changes, the Sami people have successfully preserved their traditions by relying on the power of storytelling. This emphasizes the resilience and strength of their culture, and the importance of preserving cultural heritage for future generations. Did you know that one of the traditions still alive in oral storytelling is the Bear Ritual? This ritual was highly revered by the Sami reindeer herders who considered the brown bear as a holy animal. According to their beliefs, the bear was seen as a messenger between the gods and people, and it could travel between them. As the bear was regarded as a sacred animal, there were many rituals and ceremonies associated with it, particularly when it was killed and eaten. According to Sami cultural beliefs, when a bear was hunted and killed for food, it was customary to bury its bones in the correct order so that the animal's spirit would be appeased and not seek revenge on the people who killed it. It was believed that after death, the bear went to the gods to tell them about how people lived on Earth. This practice was a way to honor and respect the bear, which was seen as a powerful and sacred animal in Sami traditions.

If you are interested in learning about the Sami reindeer herders and their culture, we would love to have you join us on our trips to Norway. Alternatively, you can watch the short documentary featuring Eva, who recently visited our reindeer herder family. By doing so, you will have a chance to witness this one-of-a-kind way of life up close and gain a deeper understanding of this captivating culture. We wouldn't want you to miss out on this unforgettable experience!

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