Saami peoples

The Saami live in an area ranging from central parts of Norway and Sweden through northern parts of Finland to the Kola Peninsula. In Saami, this area is called Sápmi. Of course, there are a lot of Saami also living outside the present Saami homeland. For example, the biggest “Saami city” in Finland is Helsinki.

In the past, Saami used to live a lot further south in the area of today’s Finland than they do today. Little by little they moved further up north and from there again further down south in Norway and Sweden. The current understanding is that the South Saami migrated to their own living areas directly across the Gulf of Bothnia without going via Lapland.

Traditional Saami culture is commonly associated with reindeer husbandry and nomadism. However, reindeer husbandry is only a minor and relatively recent (dating back to the 1500s) part of Saami culture and livelihood. Other traditional Saami livelihoods have included fishing in the sea as well as lakes, gathering and small-scale crop farming. Today, the majority of the Saami work in similar occupations as Norwegians, Swedes, Finns and Russians living in the same areas as them.

The features of traditional Saami culture also include shamanism.

In Finland, Yle produces the news and some other programmes in Saami.


Veli-Pekka Lehtola: Saamelaiset. Historia, yhteiskunta, taide [The Saami. History, Society, Arts]. PUNTSI, 2015.

Johdatus saamentutkimukseen [Introduction into Saami studies]. Tietolipas 131. Finnish Literature Society.

Saamentutkimus tänään [Saami Studies Today]. Tietolipas 234. Finnish Literature Society.

The Saami. A Cultural Encyclopaedia. Finnish Literature Society.