Sami Culture in Northern Norway

© Rune Dahl
Northernlights Njalasouka

Sami Culture in Northern Norway

© Njalasouka
Njalasouka reindeer activity

Sami Culture in Northern Norway

© Deep Forest Husky
Sami family

At the top of the European continent, ancient tones, distinctive languages ​​and
reindeer herding traditions live in close interaction with modern technology.
The Sami in the Narvik region and the rest of Northern Norway
today represent one of the oldest cultures in our part of the country.

“It is quiet around the reindeer fence. Just a little rustling in leaves and the occasional bark from the dogs breaks the silence. The reindeer herders, the people of few words and weather-beaten faces, start to light a fire. Others prepare the lassos.

Suddenly it is as if the whole forest is waking up. The ground is roaring. The dogs become uneasy. They start to bark. Hundreds upon hundreds of reindeer behind us are chased into the fence. Women and men, small and large, enter the enclosure. A lasso hits the antlers. The reindeer runs till it is tired and is forced to its knees. I follow the others, enter the ring. The reindeer thunders past me and incorporates me into the flock. I hear their breath, it smells. I pull myself together, make myself as small as possible, feel antlers touch me on both sides.

It's noon. Parted reindeer hangs everywhere. All the time, new, steaming bodies are being skinned and emptied of blood and bowels. A Sami following their ancient traditions, takes a sip of fresh reindeer blood. Birds of prey are circling above us after getting the scent of raw meat in their beak, and behind the stones the predators are waiting to take part in the feast.

Nothing goes to waste of the slaughtered animals. The meat is cleaned and wrapped in plastic, the bowels are gently rinsed, pelts are dried and large piles of antlers sorted and bundled.

The sun is breaking through the cloud layer. Lapland still has the autumn coat on. Tools are washed, sorted and packed. It's time to break through. I can't overcome it. Still living in the adventure - captured by the experience.”

The beautiful spring

Almost wherever you set foot in northern Norwegian wilderness, you find yourself in a reindeer grazing area. For hundreds of years, reindeer herding has been an important business, and some still follow the reindeer in the mountains and across the meadows throughout the harsh annual cycle in the North.

Calf marking, slaughter and separation are major and important events for all reindeer herders. Still, it is the spring calving that is most special.

- The spring in the northern Norwegian mountains is without a doubt the most beautiful for us, reindeer herding Sami. Light takes up more and more of the day and all the sounds of snow melting and birdsong that communicates awakening, tells us that a new spring is about to emerge. This is also the time when the reindeer calves, and gives us new life and new hope. At that time, we are together with our flock to watch over them all day. If I could choose just one of the months of the year, it would undoubtedly be May, says the Sami reindeer herder and experience supplier, Lars-Eirik Niia.

Lule Sami in Tysfjord

In Tysfjord, southernmost part of the Narvik region, we find the main area of the Lule Sami population in Norway. People who through the migration routes to the reindeer, early gained strong links to the east, which has led to both the culture and traditions of the Sami in Tysfjord being influenced by the Sami farther east in Scandinavia. In Tysfjord you will also find the Árran Center, which works to secure and develop Lule Sami culture, language and community.

Sami origin

In the Narvik region, we talk about Sami reindeer herdsmen, seafarers, landowners and rural Sami. Everyone has the same origin where the reindeer was central, but where changes in the Sami business paths over time have led some to settle down and make a living out of fishing, while others have focused on agriculture and livestock. Today, a large part of the Sami people lives outside the traditional Sami areas, and have moved to the towns of Northern Norway or the Oslo area.

Joik a friend

The Sami culture has many unique expressions. Joik is one of Europe's oldest singing traditions and is still alive today. A joik is assigned to a person, animal or place, and the harmonies reflect the characteristics of what you sing. The Sami costume, kofte is another unbroken, living tradition. The Sami costume show where you come from, and unlike the bunad culture, you can make your own twist on the attire. History shows that the costumes have often changed in line with the other fashion images in society.

As visitors in the Narvik region, it is possible to take part in Sami history and the Sami way of life. You can experience the magic of the Arctic silence while the Northern Lights dance blesses the moment. You can also learn more about the impressive history of the Sami as year-round reindeer herders in an inhospitable and frozen landscape.

Experience a Sami adventure
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