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The Sámi are a group of Uralic-speaking people indigenous to the Scandinavian peninsula, comprising the modern-day nations of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and a little bit of Russia. Like many other aboriginal people, the Sámi contest state land ownership, having never conceded land rights through treaties.[1]

They are primarily known for being the only recognized indigenous people of Scandinavia, and for being Santa's chief competitor in the trade of reindeer herding.


Undoubtedly the reason that they are even subject to an article on this website, the Sámi people have been subject to state-sanctioned discrimination and oppression for decades at the hands of countries often considered to be the international role models of social democracy and progressivism.


For the most part, the Sámi people have primarily suffered through the repression of their traditions, culture, and language through campaigns of forced assimilation conducted by the countries that developed over them. Despite assimilation policies, the Sámi culture was, and still is, a target for exoticism and exploitation by the majority. During the turn of the century, there were also recorded instances of members of the Sámi being toured through continental Europe as a part of people zoos.[2] In the same era, Sámi people were considered by the pseudoanthropologists of the day to be of a "uraloid type" or ""Lappid race" and therefore "inferior" to "Nordid Europeans."[3]

During World War II, many were conscripted by their respective countries' militaries along with majority citizens.[4]

Reindeer herding was introduced by the Sámi, and it is still the stereotypical Sámi occupation. Like with all stereotypes, this is grossly oversimplified: not all Sámi are reindeer herders, and not all reindeer herders are Sámi. Along with the majority, Sámi people have taken up modern occupations. A large number have moved to big cities: in Finland, the city with the largest Sámi population in Finland is the capital Helsinki, despite the Sámi being a tiny minority there.[5] Likewise, reindeer herding is also practiced by some ethnic Finns in Lapland. Only in Sweden, the occupation is legally reserved to the Sámi. The main problem with reindeer herding is uncertainty over land rights and borders. Unlike cattle, which is fully domesticated, the reindeer are semi-domesticated and are are left to roam (mostly) free. This necessitates freedom of movement regardless of land ownership. This has caused friction between reindeer herders and the state and the majority. Reindeer are often killed by natural predators such as wolves, which means that predator conservation policies are not well-liked, and also by human activity such as collisions with trains or cars.


About two-thirds of the total Sámi population reside in what is now Norway,[6] with an estimated population of 40,000 to 45,000, 1 percent of the Norwegian population. Rather than use a system of blood quanta, Norway considers anyone whose grandparents spoke Sámi as their first language, and recognized by the representative Sámi, as being Sámi and living within their rules.[7] They, as well as other indigenous groups in the country, were for centuries subject to the policy of Norwegianization, which was basically your standard forced cultural assimilation that included suppression of Sámi traditions and cultural practices, most notably the languages, which Norwegian schools banned Sámi children from using up through the mid-20th century, which is probably why half of the historical languages spoken by Sámi in the region are now extinct, with the other half being varied levels of endangered.[8]

Perhaps one of the more interesting recent issues revolves around the Alta controversy, in which the Norwegian government actually legitimately considered the prospect of building a hydraulic dam that would have turned the Sámi village of Máze into a lake.[9] The incident inspired a number of fictional works both in Norway and elsewhere, most famously the subplot of the 2019 Disney animated musical Frozen II, where Elsa and Anna's grandfather King Ruenard built the dam under the false pretence of a gift to the Northuldra — a tribe based on the real-life Sámi — only for it to be actually a way to further subjugate the tribe, who was viewed by Ruenard as pagan heathens.


The Sámi of Finland reside in the northernmost regions of the country, called Lapland, which has earned them the English moniker "Laplanders". The Sámi experienced basically the same sort of assimilative policies present in other countries, largely as a result of post-World War II nationalistic sentiment within the country.[2] Contemporarily, they encounter marginalization through being considered a linguistic minority rather than an ethnic group.[8] Their treatment as a linguistic minority is based on the belief that Sámi languagesWikipedia have a nearest common linguistic ancestor with Finnish languages, but this is not a consensus view in linguistics.[10]


The Sámi are estimated to number 17,000 people or 0.2 percent of the Swedish population. The budget allotted by the Swedish government for the Sámi Parliament from July 1995 to December 1996 was approximately KrS15m (0.0009 per cent of GDP).[11]

See also[edit]

  • Frozen, a Disney animated feature where the Sámi are portrayed and/or alluded to

External links[edit]


  1. Indigenous Affairs in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States of America, Norway and Sweden
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The ‘Finnification’ of The Sami People: A Silenced History". Crossing the Baltic
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20181004063042/http://humanphenotypes.net/basic/Lappid.html
  4. Ãlehtta. "The Sami and World War II". The University of Texas at Austin
  5. http://pohjoiskarjalankarjalaisseurat.net/saamelaiskulttuuri-suomessa/
  6. Strømsnes, Kristin (2004). "Multicultural Citizenship as Sámi in Norway". ISTR Sixth International Conference
  7. Sillanpaa, Lennard. A comparative analysis of indigenous rights in Fennoscandia. Scandinavian Political Studies, 20 (3) 1997: 197-217.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "The Sámi of Northern Europe – one people, four countries". United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Alta controversy.
  10. T. Salminen: Problems in the taxonomy of the Uralic languages in the light of modern comparative studies. — Лингвистический беспредел: сборник статей к 70-летию А. И. Кузнецовой. Москва: Издательство Московского университета, 2002. 44–55.
  11. Figures obtained from the Sámi Parliament's homepage at: http://www.sametinget.se (March 1998).