Saemieh - the reindeer people.
The Sami are sometimes referred to as Lapps, but prefer to be called Samis. Their culture has been developing in Northern Scandinavia since the arrival of the first people 11,000 years ago. Like other aboriginal peoples, the Sami lived at one with nature. The Sami wore colourful jackets and lived in tents and turf huts whilst they followed the reindeer.
For a long time the Sami were an oppressed people and their culture was in danger of dying out. Today the Sami stand stronger than most other aboriginal people in the world. They have their independence day, and their own flag and parliament. Mari Boine is a famous Norwegian artist of Sami descent who has helped to strengthen this trend. She is a proud symbol of Sami culture in urbane, modern Norway. She uses her Sami background and the folk music of Northern Scandinavia in creating her music.
Sami people live nowadays in an area which spreads from Jämtlands Län in Sweden through Northern Norway and Finland to the Kola Peninsula in Russia. There are some 100,000 Sami living here, about half of them in Norway. With its recognised Sami institutions and living Sami culture, Karasjok is the Sami capital with almost 3,000 inhabitants. Its nearest airport is Lakselv, approximately 75 kilometres away (an hour's drive).
The Sami's language, traditional clothing, handicraft, and music, are distinctively different from other ethnic groups in Scandinavia. A majority of the Sami population pursue other careers however, since there isn't enough space for everyone in a habitat that is constantly shrinking due to mining operations, clean-cutting of the forests and the construction of hydroelectric power plants.
The "Reindeer Husbandry Law" of 1971, allows the Sami some freedom for the economical life within the native communities. The present law, like its predecessors, does however only regulate the rights of Sami's involved in the reindeer husbandry. So only those Sami's who carry out reindeer herding have any native land and water rights in the Sami nation. The land and water rights of Sami fishermen and hunters or other Sami's have never been covered by law. Most Sami's do however have a family member or a relative who in some way are involved with the reindeers. So the reindeers are still fundamental to the Sami culture and society, with the possible exception for the fishing Seasami's of north-western Norway.
As with most indigenous peoples the Sami never has had a sovereign state of their own and today they live in an area which has been divided by Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Currently, there are Sami political, cultural and youth organizations in all four countries and a Sami Parliament in each of the three Scandinavian ones.