The indigenous people of Norway, called the Sami people, were for a long time oppressed and their culture was in danger of dying out. Today the Sami stand stronger than most aboriginal people in the world. Having their own flag, parliament, and independence day. Furthermore, they have preserved aspects of their interesting culture, like clothes, language and music.
The Sami people have several long and interesting traditions. The typical way is to live at one with the nature in tents (lavvo), doing reindeer husbandry. They also speak their own language, that is very distinct from Norwegian.
Furthermore, the Sami culture has unique expressions. Their traditional song, joik, is one of Europe’s oldest song traditions. A joik is assigned to a person, an animal or a place, by reflecting it. Their traditional suit, is a costume that will still keep you warm until 40 degrees Celsius below zero. The old Sami religion is called shamanism. A shaman is the spiritual leader. He use a special drum to make contact with the ancestors, nature and gods.
However, for a long period of time, the Sami population was subjected to oppression, abuse and attempts at assimilation. During the fifties the Sami children were placed in boarding schools where they were not allowed to speak other languages than Norwegian. During this period there were many Sami who did not learn Sami properly. This almost resulted in that their culture was lost.
Today, there are no Sami people in Norway that fully live a traditional life, like they did before. Most Sami’s life appears to be very modern. They do not live in tents or go with the traditional costume normally.
However, it is estimated that around 2600 of Sami people in Norway still live of reindeer husbandry. And most of the area of Northern Norway is actually used for herding. Reindeer herding is therefore even to this day central in the Sami culture. It provides meat, fur and transportation. Furthermore, the interest in joiking, the traditional dress and art crafts of the Sami people, as well as the language itself growing rapidly.
Many Sami people are very interested in learning the heritage of their culture to their children, despite that they today live a modern life. Fearing that, it is just a matter of a generation or so before their history and traditions will be forgotten.
This is a picture of the Buljo family in Norway. Josef and Laila Buljo are reindeer herders and do what they can to preserve their Sami culture. They raise their children Anne Laila, Risten and Aslak, by educating them within the Sami traditions. This includes letting the children decide when they will go to bed. Due to that in the north of Norway the days never ends in the summer and the nights that never end in the winter, both children and adults sleep when they feel the need. The parents mean that if they make their children go to bed at the same time every day, it would cause problems when they have to work day and night during reindeer carving time.
If you travel to Norway in the summer, especially in the north, it is not a unusual sight to see the Sami people selling souvenirs, including colourful local costumes, shoes and hats, reindeer skins, wooden and leather handicrafts by the road. While in the winter you can find them providing reindeer sledding to tourists. As well as learning them to throw a lasso.
I remember well, when I was around fifteen years I was standing behind the reindeer of the Sami people on skies. It is super fun! It can totally be recommended if you ever get the chance.