Photo: Thomas Rasmus Skaug /
Fjord Tours Articles / 24 Apr 2019

Sami People in Northern Norway

The Sami people in Northern Norway have a unique culture, traditions and ancient languages. Their clothing, music, food culture and general way of life are very different from other Norwegians and seen as truly exotic by visitors to Norway. Let’s take a closer look at the Sami culture and history.

Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life -

The Sami People and Culture in Northern Norway

When you take a stroll in Northern Norway, you are walking in the footsteps of the Sami, an indigenous people who also inhabit the northern regions of Finland, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Also known as Laplanders, the Sami people have a unique culture, traditions and very ancient languages, while this indigenous tribe is also counted among the Arctic peoples.

In fact, there are nine different versions of the Sami language and while each dialect closely resembles the next, it’s often difficult for Sami people in one region to communicate with those in another. For example, three of these languages are common in Northern Norway but this also means that Sami people in the south often struggle to understand Sami people in the north.

Photo: Christian Roth Christensen /

Local Culture and the Sami Way of Life

Many experts explain how the Sami people are strongly linked with the traditions of stone-age people. You can even see a continuity in Sami decorations and designs, for these are extremely similar to the hieroglyphs that archaeologists have located nearby settlements from 10,000 BC.

With this in mind, the Sami culture is the oldest in northern Norway and there are various forms of expression in this part of the world. For example, “Joik” is the best known of these expressions and this refers to an ancient song tradition in Europe. Simply put, the Sami people use harmonies and song to replicate the qualities of another person, place or even an animal.


Photo: C.H. -

On the other hand, traditional Sami clothing is also unchanged through time and the same “kofte” is still worn by locals for celebrations. Featuring beautiful pearl and tin embroidery, this clothing is also quite colourful and unlike any other style in Scandinavia. Just so you know, this clothing also needs to be suitably insulated to withstand the freezing temperatures and climate in Northern Norway.

As for the Sami way of life, locals manage to survive this harsh environment by farming, hunting, and fishing in the fjords. Quite often, visitors know about these people due to the fact that they farm reindeer which is present in large numbers in Northern Norway. However, Sami people are usually separated into categories with some farming the land or herding reindeer and others living by the rivers and lakes. At the same time, many Sami have also left their home to settle in towns or cities, and, in fact, Oslo, the capital, is where you’ll find the highest quantity of Sami people in Norway.

Either way, the local culture is still thriving and while the lure of modern life might seem attractive to younger members, the general sense of togetherness and happiness in these communities is always apparent. Interestingly, the Sami people once owned the land in large areas of the north but the Norwegian government insisted this land was state-owned. However, this ownership was recently returned to the Sami people in Finnmark

Photo: Trym Ivar Bergsmo - Nordnorge.Com

Modern Day Life and Preservation of Sami Traditions

In case you might be asking yourself, the Sami people are common in small pockets of almost every corner of Northern Norway. Also, you can find these people living in remote areas further away such as Femundsmarka, Trøndelag and Hedmark.

You will find more than 2,500 people within the Sami community which is still going strong in modern times. That is to say, the traditions and culture is still intact, and Sami people live in the same conditions as they did a very long time ago. What’s more, interest in the local language and expressions is on the rise and joik in particular is proving a popular subject for literature and events in Norway.

Unlike many ancient traditions around the world, it would seem that the future of the Sami people is not in jeopardy. As you can imagine, experiencing Sami culture and traditions are also of great interest to tourists. The opportunity to witness such an ancient way of life is one of the most interesting aspects of a trip to Northern Norway. Find hotels in Northern Norway.