Reindeer and Sami culture

The indigenous Sami people and their reindeer have been living and working on the land for centuries. It’s only in recent times that the Sami have invited guests to be part of their life. But who are the Sami? Why are reindeer so popular in Norway? Learn more about the Sami people and their culture, where are they from and why are they so important?

Sami man with two kids and lavvo in the background

Who are the Sami?

You may have heard about the Sami people living in the north of Europe, but how much do you really know about them?

The Sami were the first indigenous people of Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Their presence extends from Norway to Sweden, Finland, and Russia.

Studies suggest that they have inhabited these northern areas for more than 9,000 years, suggesting that they were the first people living in the Arctic after the Ice Age!

Sami man with two kids and lavvo in the background

Who are the Sami?

You may have heard about the Sami people living in the north of Europe, but how much do you really know about them?

The Sami were the first indigenous people of Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Their presence extends from Norway to Sweden, Finland, and Russia.

Studies suggest that they have inhabited these northern areas for more than 9,000 years, suggesting that they were the first people living in the Arctic after the Ice Age!

An estimated Sami population of between 60,000 and 100,000 is spread around the world.

An estimated 40,000 live in Norway, 15,000 to 25,000 in Sweden, 6,000 in Finland and 2,000 in Russia.

The Sami people are best known for their semi-nomadic reindeer herding lifestyle.

Their life is organised around the reindeer migration – up into the mountains during winter and back to their community often near the coast during the summer.

Sami woman with reindeer
Two reindeers on snow
Two reindeers on snow
Sami woman with reindeer

An estimated Sami population of between 60,000 and 100,000 is spread around the world.

An estimated 40,000 live in Norway, 15,000 to 25,000 in Sweden, 6,000 in Finland and 2,000 in Russia.

The Sami people are best known for their semi-nomadic reindeer herding lifestyle.

Their life is organised around the reindeer migration – up into the mountains during winter and back to their community often near the coast during the summer.

What is the Sami culture?

Although the Sami people are now part of modern society, they retain some ancient traditions such as joik (a Sami chanting generally about a place, a person or a thing), duodji (handicrafts) and reindeer husbandry.

When visiting Tromsø, you should try an Arctic tour involving the Sami and their reindeer and learn about their culture and history.

The Sami people don’t live in reindeer camps anymore.

During the modern era, their classic lavvu gave way to houses and apartments in towns and villages around Norway.

However, some traditions are retained by a minority (estimated around 10%) of reindeer herders.

Reindeer and sleds with northern lights

What is the Sami culture?

Reindeer and sleds with northern lights

Although the Sami people are now part of modern society, they retain some ancient traditions such as joik (a Sami chanting generally about a place, a person or a thing), duodji (handicrafts) and reindeer husbandry.

When visiting Tromsø, you should try an Arctic tour involving the Sami and their reindeer and learn about their culture and history.

The Sami people don’t live in reindeer camps anymore.

During the modern era, their classic lavvu gave way to houses and apartments in towns and villages around Norway.

However, some traditions are retained by a minority (estimated around 10%) of reindeer herders.

Reindeer on snow

For traditional, environmental, cultural and political reasons, in some regions only Sami people are permitted to own and herd reindeer, which is why this activity is strongly connected to Sami people.

In the Northern Sami language, they call Sápmi the area traditionally inhabited by the Sami people.

It has no formal boundaries but generally includes Northern Norway, Trøndelag and some areas just south of Trøndelag (Trollheimen and Femundsmarka).

The Kola Peninsula in Russia, Lapland in Finland and Norrland in Sweden are also considered part of Sápmi, with just a minority in these areas.

Reindeer on snow

For traditional, environmental, cultural and political reasons, in some regions only Sami people are permitted to own and herd reindeer, which is why this activity is strongly connected to Sami people.

In the Northern Sami language, they call Sápmi the area traditionally inhabited by the Sami people.

It has no formal boundaries but generally includes Northern Norway, Trøndelag and some areas just south of Trøndelag (Trollheimen and Femundsmarka).

The Kola Peninsula in Russia, Lapland in Finland and Norrland in Sweden are also considered part of Sápmi, with just a minority in these areas.

Facts about Sami reindeer herders

Nature and Sami were always closely linked.

For many centuries, the Sami had strong connections with hunting, fishing and reindeer husbandry.

In modern times, most Sami people have other types of jobs just like you.

Sami woman telling stories
Sami women feeding reindeer

Settlements exclusively for Sami people no longer exist.

However, you can visit some nice Sami and reindeer camps around Tromsø and choose from many different activities.

From feeding the reindeer, hearing and learning about the fascinating Sami history and culture, trying reindeer sledding, tasting an authentic Sami meal or even staying overnight in a traditional Sami tent.

The choice is yours!

However, as the Sami people move with their reindeer herd to summer grazing areas, most of the activities related to the Sami and their reindeer are offered during winter (October to March).

Sami woman telling stories

Nature and Sami were always closely linked.

For many centuries, the Sami had strong connections with hunting, fishing and reindeer husbandry.

In modern times, most Sami people have other types of jobs just like you.

Sami women feeding reindeer

Settlements exclusively for Sami people no longer exist.

However, you can visit some nice Sami and reindeer camps around Tromsø and choose from many different activities.

From feeding the reindeer, hearing and learning about the fascinating Sami history and culture, trying reindeer sledding, tasting an authentic Sami meal or even staying overnight in a traditional Sami tent.

The choice is yours!

However, as the Sami people move with their reindeer herd to summer grazing areas, most of the activities related to the Sami and their reindeer are offered during winter (October to March).

Reindeer

Reindeer – the Sami’s best friend

The animal that best represents the Sami is the reindeer!

It plays an important role in Sami food, storytelling, myths and legends, clothes, and even souvenirs that are made from reindeer hide and antlers.

The Sami identity is closely linked to reindeer husbandry, which forms an important part of their history and culture.

It’s estimated that there are roughly 250,000 semi-wild domesticated reindeer in Norway.

These are social animals that live in big groups.

Reindeer

Reindeer – the Sami’s best friend

The animal that best represents the Sami is the reindeer!

It plays an important role in Sami food, storytelling, myths and legends, clothes, and even souvenirs that are made from reindeer hide and antlers.

The Sami identity is closely linked to reindeer husbandry, which forms an important part of their history and culture.

It’s estimated that there are roughly 250,000 semi-wild domesticated reindeer in Norway.

These are social animals that live in big groups.

As well as being used in food production and for making clothes, the reindeer is used in traditional Sami handicrafts.

You will find beautiful products and be perplexed by the Sami people’s creativity and ability to use the reindeer for everything!

In former times, reindeer were used to pull sleds as a means of transport, but this has now been replaced by modern snowmobiles.

However, you can still experience the joys of reindeer sledding when you visit Northern Norway (and Tromsø).

As well as being used in food production and for making clothes, the reindeer is used in traditional Sami handicrafts.

You will find beautiful products and be perplexed by the Sami people’s creativity and ability to use the reindeer for everything!

In former times, reindeer were used to pull sleds as a means of transport, but this has now been replaced by modern snowmobiles.

However, you can still experience the joys of reindeer sledding when you visit Northern Norway (and Tromsø).

Feed their reindeer, enjoy a traditional Sami lunch, go on a reindeer sledding experience, see the Northern Lights in the evening at a reindeer camp surrounded by hundreds of reindeer, and enjoy storytelling around a bonfire in an authentic lavvu (traditional Sami tent).

Grab this opportunity and dive into their history, culture and cuisine at their authentic reindeer camps. They look forward to meeting you!

Feed their reindeer, enjoy a traditional Sami lunch, go on a reindeer sledding experience, see the Northern Lights in the evening at a reindeer camp surrounded by hundreds of reindeer, and enjoy storytelling around a bonfire in an authentic lavvu (traditional Sami tent).

Grab this opportunity and dive into their history, culture and cuisine at their authentic reindeer camps. They look forward to meeting you!

Reindeer camps and reindeer sledding experiences

Reindeer sledding, reindeer feeding and cultural sessions around an open fire in a traditional lavvu are among the activities you can book in Northern Norway (and Tromsø).

You can choose to visit these camps in the evening, sleep there, and, if you are lucky, see the Northern Lights!

These experiences generally include a classic Sami meal, bidos (reindeer stew), and an introduction to Sami history and culture.

This provides an opportunity to learn about their traditions, myths and legends and the symbology of their clothes.

Reindeer sledding, reindeer feeding and cultural sessions around an open fire in a traditional lavvu are among the activities you can book in Northern Norway (and Tromsø).

You can choose to visit these camps in the evening, sleep there, and, if you are lucky, see the Northern Lights!

These experiences generally include a classic Sami meal, bidos (reindeer stew), and an introduction to Sami history and culture.

This provides an opportunity to learn about their traditions, myths and legends and the symbology of their clothes.