The Sami languages

October 1, 2008 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Language, Scandinavia | Leave a comment
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It has been a long time ago since I posted about the Sami people, so today it is the turn of the languages. As this is an introductory post, the information comes from the Wikipedia:

The Sami languages

The Sami languages are spoken in Sápmi in Northern Europe, in a region stretching over the four countries Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, reaching from the southern part of central Scandinavia in the southwest to the tip of the Kola Peninsula in the east.

During the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age now extinct Sami languages were also spoken in the central and southern parts of Finland and Karelia and in a wider area on the Scandinavian peninsula. Historical documents as well as Finnish and Karelian oral tradition contain many mentions of the earlier Sami inhabitation in these areas (Itkonen 1947). Also loanwords as well as place-names of Sami origin in the southern dialects of Finnish and Karelian dialects testify of earlier Sami presence in the area (Koponen 1996; Saarikivi 2004; Aikio 2007). These Sami languages, however, became later extinct under the wave of the Finno-Karelian agricultural expansion.

The Sami languages form a branch of the Uralic language family. According to the traditional view, Sami is within the Uralic family most closely related to the Baltic-Finnic languages (Sammallahti 1998). However, this view has recently been doubted by some scholars, who argue that the traditional view of a common Finno-Sami protolanguage is not as strongly supported as has been earlier assumed, and that the similarities may stem from an areal influence on Sami from Baltic-Finnic.

In terms of internal relationships, the Sami languages are divided into two groups: the western and the eastern ones. The groups may be further divided into various subgroups and ultimately individual languages. (Sammallahti 1998: 6-38.) Parts of the Sami language area form a dialect continuum in which the neighbouring languages may be to a fair degree mutually intelligible, but two more widely separated groups will not understand each other’s speech. There are, however, sharp and absolute language boundaries, in particular between Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami, the speakers of which are not able to understand each other without learning or long practice.

Western Sami languages

– Southern Sami
– Ume Sami
– Pite Sami
– Lule Sami
– Northern Sami

Eastern Sami languages

– Inari Sami
– Kemi Sami (extinct)
– Skolt Sami
– Akkala Sami (extinct)
– Kildin Sami
– Ter Sami

At present there are nine living Sami languages. The largest six of the languages have independent literary languages; the three others have no written standard, and there are only few, mainly elderly speakers left. The ISO 639-2 code for all Sami languages without its proper code is “smi”.

The other Sami languages are moribund and have very few speakers left. Ten speakers of Ter Sami were known to be alive in 2004, and Pite Sami and Ume Sami likely have under 20 speakers left. The last speaker of Akkala Sami is known to have died in December 2003, and the eleventh attested variety Kemi Sami became extinct in the 19th century.

Of course the data needs to be continuoslly revised as the sociolinguistic situation is always dynamic. Advice an info in that direction would be very appreciated, so if you are Sami and are reading that, do not hesitate to comment!

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The significance of the Bear Ritual among the Saami and other Northern Cultures

August 28, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Posted in Community, Japan, Scandinavia, Traditions | 2 Comments
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Things are becoming more and more interesting! As I told you yesterday, I remember some kind of religious ritual related to the bear as a Saami practice. I saw it when visiting the Ajte Museum in Jokkmokk last December. So I keep searching, and see what I found! A very interesting article by Brandon “Kál’lá” Bledsoe:

The Significance of the Bear Ritual Among the Sami and Other Northern Cultures

By Brandon “Kál’lá” Bledsoe

There is an ancient belief that the bear is in communication with the lord of the mountains and with the sky, and certainly he has from time immemorial been surrounded by an aura which enjoins caution and respect.
-Ivar Lissner, Man, God and Magic, (p.163)

Of all the animals that inhabit the worldís northern climates none has been subject to greater reverence than the bear. Indigenous societies of North America and Northern Eurasia share a seemingly uniform belief that this elusive creature is endowed with supernatural qualities. Ceremonies venerating slain bears were, until more recent times, an important aspect of the Sami belief system. Close examination of eyewitness accounts shows that this ritual is in many ways typical of other bear ceremonies in the northern hemisphere. In this essay I will explore possible explanations for the common occurrence of bear ceremonialism, and what this indicates about the Samiís relationship with other indigenous cultures. This subject has received a fair amount of scholarly attention, and a few anthropologists have actually theorized about the origin of the ritual. Based on their information I believe that we can logically infer three possible explanations for this cultural parallel.

1. Convergence – In each culture the bear is recognized, on some level, as the archetypal messenger to the supernatural world. The uniformity of this belief is the result of an inherent human tendency to venerate certain animals. The special role of the bear in the aboriginal metaphysical system is not due to contact between these societies, nor is it the result of a common ancestral belief system. The contention is that the rituals are a consequence of semi-isolated groups of people reacting to similar environments in a similar manner. These northern people can be said to constitute ìa single circumpolar cultural district in which a single environment forms the basis of common developmentî (Lissner, 160)
2. Ancient Ancestral Belief-System – The bear’s position of prominence within the totemic dominance hierarchy, in each of these groups, is the result of a common ancestral belief-system of Asiatic origin dating back to the time of the Magdalenian period of 20,000 years ago. The Sami, the ancient Finns, the Tungus, the Gilyaks and various other tribes of Siberia, the Ainu of Japan, and Native North American groups, such as the Algonkins and Tlingit, all derived this belief (more or less intact) from the bear cult of prehistoric times.
3. Historical Interaction – Reverence is a common reaction for humans living in close contact with bears. However, many of the similarities in rites, rituals, and folklore are the result of cultural interactions. Other similarities are purely superficial and do not indicate a shared ancestral system.

One of the inherent difficulties of a broad -based cultural analysis- especially one requiring an outsider to explain alien practices- is the temptation to interpret data in a manner favorable to the ethnographer’s assumption. The author of Theoretical Archaeology warns against this tendency. Dark asserts, ìin order to recognize artifacts, structures or actions associated with religion or ritual, we must employ a reliable middle-range theory capable of doing so, unless we choose a relativist positionî (Dark, 145) It appears to me that the best way to create a ìmid-range theoryî in this particular case is to explore multiple levels of ritual interpretation. Once multiple interpretations have been established we can investigate how these levels overlap and influence one another. The bear ceremony is a good example of a ritual containing multiple functions. I will maintain that these functions can be interpreted as follows:

1. Religious Level – The bear ceremony is a form of communication with the supernatural world, and is an expression of the belief in a hierarchy of spiritual entities. The bear is the representative of a high-ranking deity.
2. Economic Level – This belief-system is the result of a perceived need for reciprocity with nature. ìSuccess in hunting and fishing is dependent on the good will of the bear that rules over the reproduction of animalsî (Shnirelman, 9)
3. Psychological Level – In hunter-gatherer societies there is a certain amount of guilt associated with killing animals. The level of guilt may be greater when it is necessary to kill an animal that is seen as being more anthropomorphic or rare. The bear ceremony is performed in order to pacify the bear’s vengeful spirit.

I will not claim that any one of these levels alone is the causal motivator. Nor will I assert that one of the three hypotheses on its own can sufficiently explain every aspect of this subject. However, in order to avoid a ìrelativist positionî, I will attempt to integrate all of these hypotheses, and levels of interpretation, into one satisfactory conclusion.

[…]Particulars of the Bear Ceremony

The Sami

The hunting and killing of such animals is certainly necessary, but at the same time it is frequently a dangerous matter, because in doing so the hunter naturally incurs the anger of the animal killed.
-Rafael Karsten, Religion of the Samek, p.113

1. Departure for the forest. Bear hunting usually takes place during the hibernatory season, late winter or early spring. Once a den has been located the hunters are assembled, the Noajdde and his drum are consulted, and they then depart for the forest. The one who has located the bear takes the lead. He holds a staff with a brass ring attached to it. A Noajdde usually follows him and precedes the hunter elected to strike first.
2. The Hunt. The one who located the bear is sent into the den to awaken it. The Sami were known to have used firearms, bow and arrow, lances or spears, and even axes as a means of slaying the bear. The animal was not attacked directly if a spear was being used, the weapon was held in reverse until the beast began its attack and impaled itself.
3. ìBirchingî the bear. After the bear has been killed they drag it out from the lair and begin to whip it with soft twigs or birch branches. ìA switch is twisted into the form of a ring which is fastened to the lower jaw of the bear. It is tied to the belt of the principal bear-killer; the latter pulls at it three times singing (joiking) in a peculiar tone that he has become the bears masterî (Karsten, 116)
4. The Bear Master returns. When the hunters return to the sijdda their wives greet them by spitting elder bark juice in their faces. The principal bear-killer brings the ring to his goahte, knocking three times at the door. If the bear is female he calls out s–ive neit (holy virgin), if the animal is male he shouts s–ive olmai (holy man) The bear master’s wife keeps the ring in a linen cloth until after the ceremonial meal.
5. The Feast. It was customary for the men to prepare and cook the bear meat in a specially erected goahte that no woman could enter. Women must cover their heads and during the next five days can only look at the bear killer through a brass ring. After this prescribed period of three days, the bear’s skin is stretched out in the center of the banquet area where various libations of tobacco and foodstuff are offered to its spirit. After an apologetic speech is given the feast of bear meat begins.
6. Ringing Him in. After the feast the ring is removed and the women and children attach pieces of a brass chain to it, which is then tied to the bears tail. Next, the ring is given to the men who bury it with the bones. Great care is taken to ensure that the bones are arranged in their original form.
7. Immunizing the women. Finally, the skin is laid out on a stump and the blindfolded wives of the bear slayers take turns shooting at it with arrows.

This last feature is the most outstanding of the Sami ritual. Special care must be taken to guard women and children against the bear’s vengeful spirit. By shooting the carcass they conquer this fear.

The Gilyaks

The bear plays a great part in the life of all the peoples inhabiting the region of the Amoor and Siberia as far as Kamtchatka, but among none of them is his importance greater than among the Gilyaks.
-J. Frazer, The Golden Bough, (517)

1. A cub is captured in the forest; its mother is killed if necessary.
2. The cub is brought back to the village, where it is confined in a cage until reaching maturity. During its time at the village the cub is treated like an honored guest, it is routinely walked, cleaned, and well fed.
3. An arena where the bear will die is prepared. It is then removed from its cage for the final time and is lead from hut to hut where it is teased with fir branches. At the same time reassuring words are spoken to it. The bear’s host sometimes sneaks up on it and kisses it good-bye.
4. The bear is led down to a river, around the host’s house three times, and then into the house. Everyone must leave the house except for the oldest kinsman. Finally, the bear is led to a place that has been prepared for it and tied down between two stakes. The animal is left alone for a moment while the banquet commences.
5. The host feeds the bear for the last time. ìFarewellî, he says to the bear, ìI feed you for the last time; go directly to your owner. May you be able to gain your master’s affection.
6. The procession of the executioner begins. The village headman walks in front, carrying a kettle and an axe, he is followed the Narch-en (shaman), holding the same, and then the rest of the guests.
7. The executioner waits for the bear to turn in such a way that an arrow can be sent straight to its heart, all the while he speaks to it reassuringly.
8. The bear’s corpse is laid out in the snow facing west. All of its skin is removed except for the head. The head and skin are laid out on a framework resembling a body. A quiver of arrows, tobacco, and eatables are laid beneath the head.
9. The meat is eaten on the day after the execution. A lively feast goes on through the night.
10. Two dogs are often sacrificed to the bear’s spirit on the day after the feast.

The great winter festival is only an extension of the rite that is observed at the slaughter of every bear.

The Ainu

I-yomante- ìthing/send, ìthing/let goî
Hunting, particularly bear hunting, required strict adherence to ritual. The bear itself is a deity and the Bear Ceremony is the best known of all Ainu rituals.
-N.G. Munro, Ainu Creed And Cult, p.4

1. Hunters capture a bear cub from a den or shortly after emerging.
2. The bear is raised among the villagers for a year and a half inside a special hut. The women of the village sometimes nurse the cub.
3. The Iyomante festival is held at the beginning of the cold season, September or October.
4. Prayers are offered to Fuchi the fire goddess and to Kimun-Kamuy the god of the mountains.
5. The bear is lead out of the hut by a procession of prominent village men to the nusa (sending place). At this time the women begin addressing it with terms of endearment.
6. The bear is shot with blunt arrows. Critical wounds are made using sharp arrows, and then the bear is strangled between two logs. ìMeantime the women and girls had taken post behind the men, where they danced, lamenting and beating the men who were killing the bearî (Frazer, 508)
7. Male elders skin and dress the bear. The skin is left attached to the head. Afterwards they place the skin in front of an altar with gifts that may include food, sake, and a sword and quiver. She-bears are sometimes adorned with a necklace and earrings.
8. The meat of the bear is taken to back to the hut and left there till the next day. Its liver is cut into small pieces, salted, and then eaten. The men drink the blood that has been gathered in cups. While the bear is being disemboweled the women begin to cry and dance mournfully.
9. The meat is eaten the next day and the celebration continues.

The Iyomante ritual was performed in honor of many of the other animals that the Ainu hunted, as well as certain plants and tools. However, the bear ceremony was by far the most important and elaborate
Conclusion

Many of the peoples living in Siberia and North America called the bear ìold manî, ìlordî or ìsacred animal.”
-Viktor Shnirelman, Grandfather Bear, p.9

Interpreting the rituals

The parallels between the bear ceremonies of these three very distantly related cultures are unmistakable. In each case all three functional levels are simultaneously present. A consistent belief in the bear’s role as mediator between humanity and the lord of the forest reveals much about the rationale behind the ceremony. It was not the physical manifestation of the bear that controlled natural phenomena, such as reproduction; rather it was his or her archetypal ìownerî. In each of these examples the creature’s spirit is begged for forgiveness -the blame is often ascribed to a neighboring tribe- and offered gifts to take to its master. Many of the rites performed may appear paradoxical to the western mind. Why is it that they would kill an honored guest? Why tease and praise the bear at the same time? Why fear its wrath if you are paying homage?

The motif that reoccurs most often is reciprocity with nature. The animal is expected to sacrifice its mortal self so it may return to the god with words of praise for its human counterparts. Still, there may be some uncertainty as to whether or not the animal wishes to leave. The bear’s spirit is not feared because of any inherent malignance, he may simply be angry for having been slain. This idea could indeed be the result of the respect, and guilt, experienced after taking the life of a formidable creature. Equally plausible explanations can be given in terms of religious beliefs, economics, or underlying psychology, but I find none of them alone to be adequate. Only by assuming the participant’ mind set can one hope to appreciate the ritual’s true meaning.
Origins

The widespread dispersal of these notions, from S·pmi to the Hudson Bay, does suggest that its origins are indeed rooted in the bear cult of prehistory. A wall painting from the Trois-FrËres cave, which dates back to the Magdalenian period, clearly depicts an ancient bear ritual. The bear is shown being shot and stoned to death while blood streams from its mouth. Countless collections of Ursine bones and skulls have been found deposited across the Northern Hemisphere. Of course many of the similarities shared by the Gilyak and the Ainu ceremonies can no doubt be explained by the close contact between these two groups. But this should in no way negate the theory of its ancient origin. Nor should the fact that reverence for bears does seem to be a natural inclination for humans everywhere. There are remnants of this in western culture as well: the word berserk is of Norse origin meaning ìbear shirt,î the Welsh name Arthur is usually translated as ìbear hero,î and the Greek myth explaining the origin of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor is strikingly similar to some of the beliefs of the peoples discussed.

The animal’s peculiar habit of hibernation certainly lends it an air of mystery. Bear remains are difficult to find because they usually crawl away to the mountains to die. Above all, the bear is a creature that lends itself easily to anthrophomorphication, its habit of standing on two legs to strike and the human-like appearance of its skinned carcass gave many cultures, including the Sami, a sense of kinship.

Interesting, right? One of the main problems I have found for this projects is which criteria to use when chosing and limiting which communities to include or exclude on the trip. I think that religious practices may be a good one to use, as it provides a very interesting approach.

Odyssée Sibérienne and others

August 21, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Alaska, Scandinavia, Siberia, travel | Leave a comment
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I found my hero! I found a the website of Nicolas Varnier, a French guy who travels the North with a dog sledge! Wow! He has an interesting website, though it is in French. I am quite able to read it but too lazy  to translate it… Anyway you can take a look at it if you want. Wannabe that guy!

Nicolas Varnier

From all his expeditions, my favorite ones are l’Odyssée Sibérienne, l’Odyssée Blanche and the Translaponie:

Translaponie (Hiver 88- 89) de Kiruna à Mourmansk, 1000 km. Le Grand Nord Lapon a été le premier Grand Nord de Nicolas. Il s’y est rendu pour la première fois à l’age de dix-sept ans pour une longue randonnée à pied dans les vastes espaces sauvages du nord de la Finlande. Accessible depuis la gare du Nord de Paris, la Laponie était aussi le seul grand Nord adapté au petit budget qu’un étudiant sans le sous pouvait économiser et consacrer à cela. [Read more]

L’odyssée blanche (1999): depuis Skagway à Québec, 8600 Kilomètres. À l’origine de ce nouveau défi que Nicolas Vanier se lance à lui-même : son attelage, il est au top de sa forme . Formidables coureurs des neiges, puissants, endurants mais également très rapides, ses chiens ont réalisé de belles performances lors de la Yukon Quest , l’une des deux plus difficiles courses de chiens de traîneau auquel Nicolas à participé durant l’hivernage qu’il à effectué au Yukon avec sa famille qui s’est agrandie d’un petit garçon. [Read more]

Odyssée Sibérienne (Hiver 2005/2006): depuis le Lac Baïkal jusqu’à Moscou, 8000 Kilomètres. C’est une aventure dans des paysages époustouflants à la rencontre de peuples rivalisant d’ingéniosité pour vivre dans l’un des endroits jugé par d’autres comme l’un des plus hostiles de la planète. Sur plus de 8000 km de montagne, de taïga et de toundra, Nicolas Vanier et ses dix chiens progressèrent à raison de plus de 80 km par 24 heures sur une piste éphémère tracée une semaine avant son passage par des sibériens, trappeurs, éleveurs de rennes menés par une équipe Franco-Russe qui se relayèrent d’un village à l’autre, d’un campement à un autre depuis Irkoutsk jusqu’à Moscou. Cette Odyssée qui débuta le 2 décembre sur les bords du très mythique Lac Baïkal s’est achevée à la fin de l’hiver le plus froid de la planète, sur la très symbolique Place Rouge de Moscou , spécialement enneigée pour l’occasion, le 19 mars 2005. [Read more]

Yo can also check his movies:

Loup (un film produit par MC4 et distribué par Pathé. Tournage 6 semaines en 2008, sortie sortie la fin de 2009) Nicolas voue une véritable fascination à cet animal dont il a croisé la route plusieurs centaines de fois. Il a toujours rêvé de lui consacré un grand film. L’histoire de ce film est né de la rencontre que Nicolas avait faite avec une famille de nomades éleveurs de rennes au cours de sa longue traversée de la Sibérie en 1990. Pendant près d’un an, Nicolas vivant comme l’un des leurs avait partagé la vie de ces nomades et de leur grande harde, se déplaçant avec eux d’un alpage à un autre, à dos de rennes ou juché sur un traîneau. Il avait alors constaté le lien très fort qui unissait ces hommes au territoire sur lequel il vivait en parfaite harmonie. Territoire qu’ils se partageaient avec les loups qu’ils haïssaient et vénéraient en même temps.

– Le Dernier Trappeur (Long métrage de fiction – Décembre 2004): Norman Winther est l’un des derniers trappeurs à entretenir avec les majestueuses Montagnes Rocheuses une relation d’échanges fondée sur une profonde connaissance du milieu et un grand respect des équilibres naturels. Avec sa femme, Nebaska, une indienne Nahanni, et ses fidèles chiens de traîneau, Norman nous emmène à la découverte d’un autre monde rythmé par les saisons. Randonnées dans la froidure de l’hiver, descentes de rivières tumultueuses, attaques de grizzly et de loups sont le quotidien du trappeur. Norman cultive sa vie comme un art de vivre dans ce monde où les blizzards soufflent parfois plus fort que les mots. Ce film est un hymne aux pays d’en haut et à la magnificence de ces vastes espaces sauvages.

Breathtaking! I like to see that there are still adventurers today!

Traditions live on up North

August 4, 2008 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Scandinavia, Traditions | Leave a comment
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The Aftenposten in English it is being quite useful! Look at what I found:

Traditions live on up north

A traditional reindeer feast is a big part of Sami confirmations. PHOTO: OLE MAGNUS RAPP

Spring is busting out all over, and in the far north of Norway it’s accompanied by a wave of confirmations and weddings celebrated in traditional Sami style.

The past weekend unleashed what some observers call “the most beautiful fairy tales” of the season. It was wedding and confirmation time in Kautokeino and Masi, before the Sami people herd their reindeer from the vast inland areas of Finnmark to coastal grazing land.

Confirmations quickly turn into community events, and normally full local churches are packed to overflowing. Family members are given tickets, to be sure they get seats.

The event is a spectacle of bright colours, smiles, brilliant handicraft and serious expressions of the Christian faith.

The pastor speaks in Norwegian, which in turn is translated to the Sami language (Samisk). There are few if any shortcuts: Sami congregations sing all verses of the hymns, sermons are detailed and all those being confirmed are expected to come forward to take communion.

Months of preparations have taken place before the young Sami teenagers kneel in church, both religious and non-religious.

Special reindeer were slaughtered last fall, to feed guests at the parties that follow the church services. The reindeer skin has been well taken care of, and turned into trousers. Colourful, traditional dress is an important part of all Sami celebrations.

“Everything should be new, from the innermost to the outermost clothes,” said Berit Andersdatter Buljo Eira, mother one of the teenage girls being confirmed. “It’s best when the clothing is sewn by the parents, the grandparents or the godparents.”

She has sewn her daughter’s jacket and the family invested in the silver that goes with the traditional dress. Her mother, Gunnhild Sara Buljo, also contributed to the weaving and sewing that goes into the elaborate and colourful garments.

Her husband handpicked all the cloudberries (multe) served for dessert. Several hundred guests can show up at traditional Sami weddings and confirmations.

“Its important to have traditions,” said Berit Eira. “And we take care of them.”

Berit Andersdatter Buljo Eira (left) makes a final adjustment to her daughter’s traditional handsewn Sami dress before confirmation festivities begin.PHOTO: OLE MAGNUS RAPP

Sara Karen Elle Persdatter Eira admires the traditional wooden chest she received to hold her silver and other items to be used at an eventual wedding. PHOTO: OLE MAGNUS RAPP

Do you know other newspapers like this one? It is quite a good way to be aware of what is happening in the far north, right? At least in Norway. If you find other ones for Alaska, Russia, Canada… Let me know!

Following Aftenposten

August 4, 2008 at 2:53 pm | Posted in News, Scandinavia, Wheater | Leave a comment
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The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten publishes regularly an English version, that now it is easily accessible thanks to the RSS feeder. They publish Arctic news like this one, coming straight from Svalbard:

Solar eclipse seen by thousands

Norway has experienced its first solar eclipse since 1954. Spectators gathered round a big screen in Oslo to see pictures relayed from a surveillance plane in the Arctic.

The sun was totally eclipsed when the moon passed in front of it on Friday.


PHOTO: STIG FOSS / LUFTFORSVARET

In Oslo approximately half the sun’s disk was covered by the moon. Further north, increasing parts of the sun were obscured. At Longyearbyen on Svalbard, 93 percent was covered by the moon. Kvitøya, an island North-East of the Svalbard archipelago, experienced a total eclipse for one and a half minutes.

Thousands gathered in Oslo’s Frogner Park to see live television coverage from the Arctic, and to see the local partial eclipse through safety glasses.

I will keep an eye on them, let’s say what they say about Nordic people!

Virtual exhibition “The Saami, becoming a nation”

July 27, 2008 at 9:22 pm | Posted in Education, Scandinavia | Leave a comment
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Some months ago, some friends sent me the link to a virtual exhibition about the Saami people organized by Norway. It is a very good idea, because with a virtual exhibition people of all over the world can learn a bit more about the Saami people, their land and their culture:



“Should the Sami ever experience having books written in their own language, having literature and art based on their national heritage, and cultural institutions that nurtured their folk art, fairy tales and language, it would be the beginning of a process – cultural, social, and economic – the extent of which cannot be perceived today”.

Per Fokstad, 1951

[…] Our presentation is not intended as a typical ’exhibition’ of physical objects. Rather, it is an attempt to present a process of social and cultural development now underway. We aim to show how individual Sami have – through their ideas, debates, and actions – created the forums and measures which have come over time to shape the form and content of Sapmi. We are particularly interested in where this ethnic awakening is directed culturally and ideologically in the new century. The Sami context is no longer limited to a local community; today, international connections and a world arena is no less important for the Sami future.

Thus, our presentation is not only meant as a corrective to the conventional philosophy and practice of museums, but also to provide the public with means to grasp the implications of the emergence of Sami nationhood as a creative, innovative and cumulative process – a virtual revolution in political and cultural terms within the span of some decades. Moreover, we want to make the audience aware that museum displays- like the old and the new exhibit here in Tromsø Museum – are not just ”facts”, but presentations reflecting the interests, motives and historical contexts of those who made them.

It is an interesting idea, isn’t it? Go and take a look if you feel curious!

Third step: Scandinavia

July 22, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Language, Maps, Naming, Scandinavia | Leave a comment
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I continue with the posts that place the Arctic circle cultures in the map thanks to Ethnologue website. The two previous ones were about Alaska and Canada on the one hand and Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) on the other. will include the Kola peninsula and the territories that border it to have all the Saami languages toghether. I think this will help understanding the family languages.

Finland

Republic of Finland, Suomen Tasavalta. 5,214,512. National or official languages: Finnish, Swedish. Literacy rate: 100%. Also includes English (4,500), Northern Kurdish (1,293), Polish, Romanian (1,000), Russian (10,000), Somali (3,103), Spanish, Standard German, Tatar (1,000), Turkish (1,000), Vietnamese, Arabic, Chinese. Information mainly from M. Stephens 1976; B. Comrie 1987; T. Salminen 1987–1998. Blind population: 3,345. Deaf population: 8,000 to 307,333 (1986 Gallaudet University). Deaf institutions: 44. The number of languages listed for Finland is 13. Of those, 12 are living languages and 1 is extinct.

Saami, North
[sme] 2,000 in Finland (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 3,500 (1995 M. Krauss). Utsjoki, Enontekio, and Sodankyla. Alternate names: Northern Lapp, Davvin, “Lapp”, Saame, Same. Dialects: Ruija, Torne, Sea Lappish. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Western, Northern

Saami, Skolt
[sms] 300 in Finland (1995 M. Krauss). Population total all countries: 320. Ethnic population: 500 in Finland (1995 M. Krauss). Northwest of Inari Saami. Also spoken in Russia (Europe). Alternate names: Skolt Lappish, Russian Lapp, “Lapp”, Saame, Same, Lopar, Kolta, Koltta. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Eastern

Norway

Kingdom of Norway, Kongeriket Norge. 4,574,560. National or official language: Norwegian. Literacy rate: 96% to 100%. Also includes Danish (12,000), English, Finnish (5,358), Northern Kurdish (3,000), Russian (3,000), Spanish (6,500), Swedish (21,000), Tibetan, Urdu, Vietnamese (99,000), Chinese (3,000), from Africa (7,000), from Pakistan (17,000). Information mainly from M. Stephens 1976; B. Comrie 1987; I. Hancock 1991; J. Hupli 1998; B. Winsa 1998. Blind population: 4,000 (1982 WCE). Deaf population: 4,000 to 261,618 (1998). Deaf institutions: 12. The number of languages listed for Norway is 11. Of those, all are living languages.

Saami, Lule
[smj] 500 in Norway (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 1,000 to 2,000 in Norway (1995 M. Krauss). 31,600 to 42,600 ethnic Sámi in Norway (1995). Tysfjord, Hamaroy, and Folden, Norway. Alternate names: Lule, Saame. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Western, Northern

Saami, North
[sme] 15,000 in Norway (1995 M. Krauss). Population total all countries: 21,000. Ethnic population: 30,000 to 40,000 in Norway (1995 M. Krauss). Finnmark, Troms, Nordland, Ofoten. Also spoken in Finland, Sweden. Alternate names: “Northern Lappish”, “Norwegian Lapp”, Saami, Same, Samic, “Lapp”, Northern Saami. Dialects: Ruija, Torne, Sea Lappish. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Western, Northern

Saami, Pite
[sje] Between Saltenfjord and Ranenfjord in Norway. Alternate names: “Lapp”, Pite. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Western, Northern Nearly extinct.

Saami, South
[sma] 300 in Norway (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 600 in Norway. Hatfjelldal and Wefsen, south to Elga. Alternate names: “Northern Lappish”, “Norwegian Lapp”, Saami, Same, Samic. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Western, Southern

Russia (Europe)

Komi-Zyrian
[kpv] 262,200 (1993 UBS). Ethnic population: 345,000. Komi ASSR, 60′ N. Lat., nearly to the Arctic Ocean. South of Yurak, west of the Vogul (Mansi) peoples. Capital is Syktywkar. Alternate names: Komi. Dialects: Yazva. Lexical similarity 80% with Komi-Permyak and Udmurt. Classification: Uralic, Permian, Komi

Saami, Akkala
[sia] 8 (2000 T. Salminen). Ethnic population: 100 (1995 M. Krauss). Southwest Kola Peninsula. Alternate names: Ahkkil, Babinsk, Babino. Dialects: Closest to Skolt. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Eastern Nearly extinct.

Saami, Kildin
[sjd] 800 (2000 T. Salminen). 1,900 Saami in Russia (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 1,000 (1995 M. Krauss). Alternate names: “Kildin Lappish”, “Lapp”, Saam, Saami. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Eastern

Saami, Skolt
[sms] 20 to 30 in Russia. Ethnic population: 400 in Russia (1995 M. Krauss). Northern and western Kola Peninsula around Petsamo. Alternate names: “Skolt Lappish”, “Russian Lapp”, “Lapp”, Saam, Lopar, Kolta, Skolt. Dialects: Notozer, Yokan. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Eastern

Saami, Ter
[sjt] 6 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 400 population (2000 Salminen). Alternate names: “Ter Lappish”, “Lapp”, Saam. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Eastern Nearly extinct.

Sweden

Kingdom of Sweden, Konungariket Sverige. 8,986,400. National or official language: Swedish. Literacy rate: 99%. Also includes Amharic, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Danish (35,000), Estonian (1,560), Greek (50,000), Kirmanjki, Latvian (450), Lithuanian (310), Northern Kurdish (10,000), Serbian (120,000), Somali, Spanish (35,000), Tosk Albanian (4,000), Turkish (20,000), Turoyo (20,000), Western Farsi (35,000), Chinese, people from Iraq (6,000), Eritrea, North Africa. Information mainly from B. Comrie 1987; I. Hancock 1991; E. Haugen 1992; O. Dahl 1996; B. Winsa 1998. Blind population: 15,716. Deaf population: 8,000 to 532,210 (1998). Deaf institutions: 72. The number of languages listed for Sweden is 15. Of those, all are living languages.

Saami, Lule
[smj] 1,500 in Sweden (1995 M. Krauss). Population total all countries: 2,000. Ethnic population: 6,000 in Sweden. Lapland along the Lule River in Gällivare and Jokkmokk. Also spoken in Norway. Alternate names: Lule, Saami, “Lapp”. Dialects: Lule Saami is quite distinct from other Saami. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Western, Northern

Saami, North
[sme] 4,000 in Sweden (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 5,000 in Sweden (1994 SIL). Karesuando and Jukkasjärvi. Alternate names: Norwegian Saami, “Lapp”, Saame, Same, Samic, Northern Lappish, Northern Saami. Dialects: Ruija, Torne, Sea Lappish. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Western, Northern

Saami, Pite
[sje] 20 in Sweden (2000 T. Salminen). Ethnic population: 2,000 in Sweden (1995 M. Krauss). Lapland along Pite River in Arjeplog and Arvidsjaur. Also spoken in Norway. Alternate names: Saami, “Lapp”, Pite. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Western, Northern Nearly extinct.

Saami, South
[sma] 300 in Sweden(1995 M. Krauss). Population total all countries: 600. Ethnic population: 600 in Sweden. Vilhelmina in Lapland, in Jämtland, Härjedalen, and Idre in Dalarna. Also spoken in Norway. Alternate names: “Lapp”, Southern Lapp. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Western, Southern

Saami, Ume
[sju] 20 (2000 T. Salminen). Ethnic population: 1,000 (1995 M. Krauss). Lycksele, Mala, Tärna, and Sorsele, along the Ume River. Probably no speakers in Norway. Alternate names: “Lapp”, Saami, Ume. Classification: Uralic, Sami, Southern Nearly extinct.

As you see, this classification is quite confusing, as the Saami languages are repeated in many countries. This is because the political borders, that cut the Saami lands. I will redo the classification in the future having as a starting point Sápmi and not those countries.

Anyway, you can also check the map to make the situation clearer:

Sámi Duodji

July 21, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Posted in Handicrafts, Scandinavia | 1 Comment
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When I was in Sweden last December, I traveled all the way to the arctic circle, to Sápmi (Lappland is the wrong name, remember!). One of my interests was to find out about their linguistic, cultural and social situation. And while searching that, I also discover the Sámi Duodji or Sámi handicrafts. It was a wonderful surprise, as they are the symbol of a millenarian culture. They are colorful and sober, and they combine utility and beauty. Wikipedia offers this definition for the Sámi Duodji:

Duodji, is a centuries old Sami handicraft, that dates back to a time when the Sami were far more isolated from the outside world than they are today. Duodji tools and clothing accoutrements served their purpose to be functional and useful, however this does not means that the Sami handicraft is unartistic. Sami doudji artist are able to bring function and art together in such a delicate way to create beautiful works of art in their own right.

These functional items include, knives, cases, ladies bags, wooden cups, certain articals of clothing, etc. Duodji items were made and meant to be used in an everyday work environment. Traditionally Sami handicraft was divided into two sub-groups, – men’s and women’s handicraft – men used mostly wood and antlers as well as other bones from reindeers when crafting, women used leather, and roots. The traditional Sami colours are red, green, blue and yellow.

I had the chance to visit a Sámi home, and saw some handicrafts and traditinal costumes. I asked to take pictures:


At least in Sweden, there is an association who brings together most of the Sámi artisans, to guarantee they authenticity of the products. Finding products with their certification label is a safe way to buy Sámi handicrafts, though if you are really interested on them the better thing you can do is to attend the Sámi Marknad, a winter fair that takes place in Jokkmokk every February and that is considered one of the most important Sámi events.

I was there in December so I could not assist, though I managed to buy some certified crafts and reindeer meat. If you are interested on the Sámi handcrafts but Sápmi is to far from your place, here you have some interesting links to contact Sámi artisans:

Árran: Sámi Artisans in North America
Sameslöjdstiftelsen: certified Sámi Duodji from Sweden.

First encounter with the Sámi people

March 10, 2008 at 12:50 am | Posted in Scandinavia | 1 Comment
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Before I came with the idea of the around-the-world journey, I was already interested in the situation of the Sámi, the indigenous people from Sápmi (wrongly named as Lapland), their land, that crosses Norway, Sweden, Finnish and the Kola peninsula in Russia. The story telling how I got interested on them is lond, and its origins are probably a bit unconscious, from some things I saw or read when I was a child. I will talk about it another day. But even now, I find fascinating that a nomade hunter-gatherer society still survives in Europe in the 21st century.

For that reason, the last december I visited them. With temperatures around 15 celsius degrees below zero and only three hours of daylight, it was probable that there were almost no tourists and it was easier for me to ask for the things I was looking for. Everything achieved from that trip was positive, much more than I had thought. In other posts I will write about everything I learned there; now, I just wanted to share some photos I brought back home.

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