Polar People

June 25, 2009 at 8:11 am | Posted in arctic, Demographics, Maps, Research | 2 Comments
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The North and the circumpolar regions, above 60º latitude, are considered to be one of the less populated areas of the world. This map shows the last numbers on that, distributed by country and organized by percentatge. This is published in Arctic Pollution Issues. A State of the Arctic Environment Report. Stefansson Arctic Institute, 2004. Arctic Human Development Report, and the map was created by Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

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.


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


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)

[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.


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.

Who they are: start dealing with naming

March 7, 2008 at 12:54 am | Posted in Naming | Leave a comment
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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the word ‘eskimo’ in an English composition. My teacher pointed to me that this was considered a politically incorrect and pejorative word. I had wrote it because, as a non-native English speaker, I liked how it sounded, and it was also pretty similar to the word I use in my own language, ‘esquimal’. Besides, in Linguistics there’s a group of languages called Eskimo-Aleut spoken in Canada, Alaska and Greenland, so I didn’t make me suspicious about being insensitive. But that worried me; it was a bad beginning for my trip starting naming contemptuously the people who I wanted to visit.

Basically -that’s pretty funny I guess – it’s a problem of terminology and naming, and now that I’ve started investigating it, it’s too much for me. I’m copying here everything I’ve founded in Dictionary.com, classified by geographical areas. Of course, opinions, corrections and comments are more than appreciated.

Alaska, Canada and Greenland
1.a member of an indigenous people of Greenland, northern Canada, Alaska, and northeastern Siberia, characterized by short, stocky build and light-brown complexion.
2.either of two related languages spoken by the Eskimos, one in Greenland, Canada, and northern Alaska, the other in southern Alaska and Siberia.Compare Inuit, Yupik.Usage note The name Inuit, by which the native people of the Arctic from northern Alaska to western Greenland call themselves, has largely supplanted Eskimo in Canada and is used officially by the Canadian government. Many Inuit consider Eskimo derogatory, in part because the word was, erroneously, long thought to mean literally “eater of raw meat.” Inuit has also come to be used in a wider sense, to name all people traditionally called Eskimo, regardless of local self-designations. Nonetheless, Eskimo continues in use in all parts of the world, especially in historical and archaeological contexts and in reference to the people as a cultural and linguistic unity. The term Native American is sometimes used to include Eskimo and Aleut peoples. See also Indian.
1.a member of the Eskimo peoples inhabiting northernmost North America from northern Alaska to eastern Canada and Greenland.
2.the language of the Inuit, a member of the Eskimo-Aleut family comprising a variety of dialects.
Also, Innuit.
Also called Inupik.
Usage Note: The preferred term for the native peoples of the Canadian Arctic and Greenland is now Inuit, and the use of Eskimo in referring to these peoples is often considered offensive, especially in Canada. Inuit, the plural of the Inuit word inuk, “human being,” is less exact in referring to the peoples of northern Alaska, who speak dialects of the closely related Inupiaq language, and it is inappropriate when used in reference to speakers of Yupik, the Eskimoan language branch of western Alaska and the Siberian Arctic. See Usage Note at Eskimo.

1.also, Aleutian. a member of a people native to the Aleutian Islands and the western Alaska Peninsula who are related physically and culturally to the Eskimos.
2.ahe language of the Aleuts, distantly related to Eskimo: a member of the Eskimo-Aleut family.

1.Eskimo dog.
2.Siberian Husky.
3.Canadian Slang.
a. an Inuit.

b. the language of the Inuit.
Usage note: Origin: 1870–75; by ellipsis from husky dog, husky breed; cf. Newfoundland and Labrador dial. Husky a Labrador Inuit, earlier Huskemaw, Uskemaw, ult. < the same Algonquian source as Eskimo.

Norway, Sweden, Finland and Kola peninsula

1.A member of a people of nomadic herding tradition inhabiting Lapland.
2.Any of the Finnic languages of the Sami.

1.Also called Laplander . A member of a Finnic people of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and adjacent regions.
2.Also called Lappish. any of the languages of the Lapps, closely related to Finnish.
Also called Sami.


1.a member of the nomadic Ugrian people living in northwestern Siberia (east of the Urals)
2.a Ugric language (related to Hungarian) spoken by the Ostyak [syn: Khanty]

1.a member of a Paleo-Asiatic people of northeastern Siberia.
2.the Chukotian language of the Chukchi people, noted for having different pronunciations for men and women.

1.a member of a Siberian people living mainly in the Yakut Autonomous Republic, Khabarovsk territory, and Evenki National District in the Russian Federation.
2.the Tungusic language spoken by the Evenki.

1.a member of a Uralic people dwelling in W Siberia and the far NE parts of European Russia.
2.Also, Samoyedic. a subfamily of Uralic languages spoken by the Samoyed people.

Usage Note Siberian Mongolian people, 1589, from Rus. samoyed, lit. “self-eaters, cannibals” (the first element cognate with Eng. same, the second with O.E. etan “to eat”). The native name is Nenets. As the name of a type of dog (once used as a working dog in the Arctic) it is attested from 1889.

1.A member of a reindeer-herding people of of extreme northwest Russia along the coast of the White, Barents, and Kara seas.
2.The Uralic language of this people.

In both senses also called Samoyed.


1.A member of an indigenous people of Japan, now inhabiting parts of Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands.
2.The language of the Ainu.
3.caucasoid people in Japan and eastern Russia, 1819, from Ainu, lit. “man.”

As it uses to happen, not only is the problem solved, but is it’s bigger. As far as I know, and though it’s not on the dictionary, ‘lapp’ and ‘lappish’ aren’t the right words, though I don’t know if it’s because its pejorative or just inadequate. I’ve put my head around Wikipedia, but the maps where so colorful and the words so complicated that I’ve decided that mt head was not prepared enough to hold out for such a terminological invasion. I’ll carry on another day.

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