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Sami History & Culture

As the earliest ethnic group in the Arctic Europe, the Sami are consequently considered an indigenous population of the area. 

The Sami are counted among the Arctic peoples and are members of polar groups such as the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat. The Sami people are represented by the Sami Council.

Sami flag
Reindeer sledding in Tromsø


Traditional Sami women's outfit
Reindeer herd

Since prehistoric times, the Sami people of Arctic Europe have lived and worked in an area that stretches over the regions now known as Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola Peninsula. They have inhabited the northern arctic and sub-arctic regions of Fenno-Scandinavia and Russia for at least 5,000 years. 

Traditional Sami outfits
sami 1.JPG

Petroglyphs and archeological findings such as settlements dating from about 10,000 B.C. can be found in the traditional lands of the Sami. The now-obsolete term for the archaeological culture of these hunters and gatherers of the late Paleolithic and early Mesolithic is Komsa.

A cultural continuity between these stone-age people and the Sami can be assumed due to evidence such as similarities in the decoration patterns of archeological bone objects and Sami decoration patterns. Also, there is no archeological evidence of this population being replaced by another.

Recent archaeological discoveries in Finnish Lapland were originally seen as the continental version of the Komsa culture about the same age as the earliest finds on the coast of Norway. It is hypothesized that the Komsa followed receding glaciers inland from the Arctic coast at the end of the last ice age (between 11,000 and 8000 years B.C.) as new land opened up for settlement (e.g., modern Finnmark area in the northeast, to the coast of the Kola Peninsula).

Traditional Sami women's outfit
Komse, a Sami cradleboard
Sami family on reindeer sledding ride
Sami crafts
Traditional Sami shoes, Finneskoes
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