Native Village Youth and Education News
February 1, 2009 Issue 194 Volume 1


Condensed by Gina Boltz, Director, Native Village Publications

    Europe: The Saami are among the most mysterious peoples of Northern Europe. Their homelands are divided by the borders of Russia, Sweden, Norway and Finland. In all the world, there are only about 35.000 Saami, who live in Norway (20,000), Sweden (10,000), Finland (2,500) and Russia on the Kola Peninsula (1,800).

     The Saami seem to be descended from ancient Stone Age people who followed the reindeer north to Lapland at the end of the last ice age. This could have been when the reindeer-hunting culture was formed, traces of which are still found in the Saamis' hunting methods and implements.

     Traditional Saami society is adaptive. They engage in many of the same economic activities common to Arctic Circle people. They practice reindeer breeding in both large herds and forest. They hunt and gather and harvest fish and sea animals along rivers, lakes, and streams. Each local cultural is shaped which activities are most important to their people.

     The Saami's nomadic lives follow long fixed routes that are closely connected to nature's seasonal cycles. “At eternal as the changing of the seasons are the circling journeys of the Saami people”  said I. Manninen).

     The reindeer may serve as a visual representation of Saamis' lives. Saami reindeer breeding is unique, and Saami culture revolves around the animals. Reindeer pull sleigh-boats, considered to be one of the most ancient means of transportation in Europe. Several types of harnesses and other equipment is created just for them.  They built reindeer cradles to carr Saami infants across the Lapland's snows.  Reindeer breeders wear fur and woolen clothes designed for the challenges of their jobs.  Portable dwellings, utensils, and other artifacts are transported as Saami follow the deer across their Arctic migration routes.

        The Russian Museum of Ethnography began collecting Saami artifacts in the early twentieth century when traditional cultural forms still existed. Now, these forms have been lost or are rapidly fading into the past.  The Museum's collection is virtually unknown within the European scientific community.  Most have not been incorporated into the Old World discourse on the Saami.

    And one final possibility: Did the celebrated Hans Andersen write his fairy tale about a Saami Hansel and Gretel?


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