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The Saami (there are other names for the same people, including Sámi, Lapp, Davvin, etc.) are an indigenous people of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, Siberia and the Kola peninsula in northern Russia. The Saami are one of the largest groups of indigenous peoples in Europe.

They call their ancestral lands Sápmi. The population of about 85,000 are primarily farmers and reindeer herders. Roughly half the Saami population lives in Norway, although Sweden also has a significant group. Finland and Russia only have smaller groups.

The Saami folk have inhabited northern regions of Scandinavia since far back into antiquity. The culture of the "Fenni," a tribe described by the Roman historian Tacitus, among others, as hunter-gatherers who dwelt in the lands north of the Baltic, is identifable with the Saami. During the Middle Ages many groups of Saami were forced to pay tribute to their southern neighbors, the rulers of Norway, Russia and Sweden, a practice which continued in some cases until the 19th century.

Many books and official documents call these people Lapps, but they prefer to be called Sámi or Saami, the name they use for themselves. They consider Lapp to be a particularly offensive term.

Reindeer have central importance in Saami culture, though nowadays reindeer herding is of dwindling economic relevance for the Saami people.

The Saami language is divided into nine dialects, of which several have their own written languages. Southern Saami cannot understand Northern Saami. Most dialects are spoken in several countries, as linguistic borders do not correspond to national borders. The Saami language is part of the Finno-Ugric family, related to Finnish but not to Swedish and kin, however due to prolonged contact with the Scandinavians, there is a large number of Germanic words in Saami. See Saami language.

Table of contents
1 Yoicking
2 Related links
3 External Links


One very interesting Saami tradition is the singing of jojk (in English, yoicks, not to be confused with the call used in fox hunting). Yoicks are traditionally sung a capella, usually sung slowly and deep in the throat with apparent emotional content of sorrow or anger. Christian missionaries and priests regarded these as "songs of the Devil". In recent years, yoicks are frequently accompanied by musical instruments.

It has been conjectured that yoicks are a highly modified form of Sama Veda, one of the four Vedic traditions of India and the one that pundits sing most slowly. The name of the Saami people may actually have been derived from the Sanskrit word Sama.

Related links

Northern Indigenous Peoples

External Links