Rare photos of indigenous Sámi people of Nordic Europe depict their ancient and traditional way of life, 1890-1930

The Sami form an indigenous ethnic group that has settled in Norway, Sweden, northern Finland, and wide areas of the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

Their number is difficult to establish, as ethnic definitions can vary, and the choice of identifying oneself as a Sami is an individual.

Current estimates, however, place the total population at between thirty thousand and fifty thousand, most of whom live in Norway.

The Sami have historically been known in English as Laps or Laplanders, but these words are considered offensive by the Sami, who preferred the name of the area in their own languages, e.g. Northern Sami Sapmi.

Their traditional languages ​​are the Semitic languages, classified as a branch of the Uralic language family.

The Sami are the descendants of nomadic people who inhabited northern Scandinavia for thousands of years. When the Finns entered Finland, beginning around AD 100, Sami settlements probably spread throughout that country; Today they are confined to its northern end.

In Sweden and Norway, it has likewise been pushed north. The origins of the Sami are unclear; Some scholars include them among the Paleo-Siberian peoples; Others say that they were Alpine and came from Central Europe.
Reindeer herding was the basis of the Semitic economy until very recently.

Although the Sami hunted reindeer from the earliest times and kept them in small numbers as pack and herd animals, full-scale nomadism with large herds began only a few centuries earlier.

The reindeer-raised Sami lived in tents or turf huts and migrated with their herds in units of five or six families, supplementing their diet by way of hunting and fishing.

The Sami have a complex relationship with the Scandinavians (known in the medieval era as the Norse people), the dominant people who spoke the Scandinavian language and who founded and thus dominated the kingdoms of Norway and Sweden in which most of the Sami people live. .

While the Sami have lived in Fennoscandia for about 3,500 years, the Sami settlement of Scandinavia does not predate the Norse/Scandinavian settlement of Scandinavia, as is sometimes popularly believed.

The migration of German-speaking peoples into southern Scandinavia occurred independently and separated from the later Semitic migrations to the northern regions.

For centuries, the Semitic and Scandinavian peoples had relatively little contact; The Sami lived mainly inland in northern Fennoscandia, while the Scandinavians lived in southern Scandinavia and gradually colonized the Norwegian coast.

From the 18th and especially the 19th century, the governments of Norway and Sweden began to assert sovereignty more aggressively in the north, and targeted the Sami with Scandinavian policies aimed at forced assimilation from the 19th century. .

Before the era of forced Scandinavian policies, the Sami were largely ignored by Norwegian and Swedish authorities and did not interfere much with their way of life.

While Norwegians engaged in an export-driven fisheries industry before the 19th century to gradually colonize the coast of modern Troms and Finnmark to the north, they also engaged in a harsh and uncultivable inland population populated by reindeer-herding Sami. showed little interest in

Unlike Norwegians on the coast, who relied strongly on their trade with the south, inland the Sami lived off land.

From the 19th century, Norwegian and Swedish authorities began to regard the Sami as a "backward" and "primitive" people as a necessity to be "civilised", enforcing the Scandinavian languages ​​as the sole legitimate language of the states and Effectively banned the Semitic language. Culture in many contexts, especially in schools.

Nowadays, the indigenous Sami population is a mostly urbanized demographic, but substantial numbers live in villages in the High Arctic.

The Sami still face the cultural consequences of the loss of language and culture, generations of Sami children being taken to missionary and/or state-run boarding schools and a legacy of laws that seek to deny Sami rights. were created for them (for example, for them to practice faith, language, land and traditional livelihood).

The Sami face cultural and environmental threats, including: oil exploration, mining, dam construction, logging, climate change, military bombing ranges, tourism and commercial development.

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