Sámi culture in Finland

The Sámi live in the Northern parts of Scandinavia and in parts of North-Eastern Russia. The Sámi have been known in English as Lapps or Laplanders, but these terms are regarded as offensive by some Sámi people. You just can use the word Sámi. In Finland, the Sámi population is around 10 500 persons. The preservation of their endangered language and culture is governed by an autonomous Sámi parliament in Inari, Finland. The Sámi have their National Day on February 6.

Sámi culture

The Sámi has a rich cultural heritage. It is known for its close connection to the land they live on. Inari, Enontekiö, and Utsjoki are the best places to explore the colorful Sámi culture of today. The traditional Sámi livelihoods are fishing, gathering, handicrafts, hunting, and reindeer herding. Reindeer herding is still one of the most important things of the Sámi culture. Ever since the development of reindeer herding, reindeer have been an important form of transportation. Today, tourists can experience the traditional form of transportation in the form of reindeer sleigh rides in wintertime. In Finland, we have three spoken Sámi languages: North Sámi, Skolt Sámi, and Inari Sámi. Inari Sámi, which is spoken by approximately 350 speakers, is the only one that is used entirely within the borders of Finland. It is spoken mainly in the municipality of Inari.

Ethical tourism

The tourism industry in Finland has been criticized for using Sámi culture as a marketing tool by promoting opportunities to experience ”authentic” Sámi ceremonies and lifestyles. Symbols of Sámi culture have been productized and represented in tourism exploiting Sámi culture in Finland for decades. At many tourist locales, non-Sámi dress in inaccurate replicas of Sámi traditional clothing, and gift shops sell crude reproductions of Sámi handicrafts. To some Sámi, this is an insulting display of cultural exploitation. In the worst cases, the incorrect, primitivized image of the Sámi, which is widespread in tourism exploiting Sámi culture, offends and/or objectifies the Sámi community. Borrowed traditions are largely taking space with invented traditions in that they simply are not part of the culture to which they are claimed to belong to. The difference between borrowed and invented traditions is that borrowed traditions exist as traditions in another culture or region. Borrowed traditions are damaging when they are in conflict with a tradition that is an original and authentic part of the culture of the area. An example of an especially damaging and culturally unsustainable borrowed tradition is touristic dog sledding. In certain areas, this practice is in strong conflict with reindeer herding, one of the main things of Sámi culture, causing direct or indirect harm to this traditional livelihood. When visiting Finland and Lapland, please respect the Sámi people and their culture. Let the Sámi maintain and transmit their culture to future generations without the negative effects of tourism. Please ask for permission before you photograph people, whether by the camera or mobile phone. -Anniina Sources: Visit

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