The Sami were at one with nature, and lived in tents (lavvo) and turf huts whilst they followed the reindeer. Their settlement area – Sapmi – stretches from the Kola Peninsula in northeast Russia to Engerdal in eastern Norway and Idre in southern Sweden. The Sami are a minority in each of the four national states, but in central Sapmi they are in the majority. About half of the approximately 100,000 Sami live in Norway. The Sami are scattered throughout the country, but the most concentrated settlement areas are north of Saltfjellet. The Sami in Norway speak three different languages: Northern Sami, Lule Sami and Southern Sami.
For a long time the Sami were an oppressed people and their culture was in danger of dying out. Today the Sami stand stronger than most other indigenous people in the world. They have their independence day, and their own flag and parliament. The Sami celebrate their National Day on 6 February - the date the first Sami congress was held in 1917. The day is marked differently in different places. Sami week in Tromsø, for example, features reindeer racing, lasso throwing championship, a Sami market and more, while in Oslo, the carillon in Oslo City Hall plays the Sami national anthem as the Sami flag is raised. In Finnmark, the day is celebrated in schools and kindergartens during the day, followed by a church service and cultural activities, and of course Sami food.
Other important elements of the Sami culture are its language (the various Sami languages are very distinct from Norwegian) and the joik, the Sami traditional song. Reindeer herding is still central to Sami culture, even to this day, and crucial to the subsistence of the Sami, providing meat, fur and transportation. Reindeer sledding is popular in Finnmark in winter.
During the last years a very positive collaboration between the Norwegian Sami community and the Ainu community in Hokkaido has emerged. In 2012 a Sami-Ainu festival was organized in Norway where Ainu musicians participated. A second festival was organized in Sapporo in July 2013 with participation of Sami musicians. Ainu representatives have also participated at the Riddu Riđđu, which is an annual Sami music and culture festival held in Olmmáivággi (Manndalen) in the Gáivuotna (Kåfjord) municipality in Norway. The goal of the festival is to bring forward both Sami culture and that of other indigenous peoples.
For more information about Riddu Riđđu please see http://riddu.no/en/riddu-riddu-festival
In 2013 the Norwegian National Sami Theatre Company visited Japan for the very first time.
The Sami National Theatre has, since it was established in 1981, been instrumental in strengthening Norwegian Sámi identity through plays in the Sami language. Many of its plays are inspired also by other cultural and ethnic expressions around the world. This time in Tokyo, the Theatre Company performed “The Frost Haired and the Dream-seer”, written by the great Sámi poet Nils Aslak Valkeapää. Valkeapää, who was fascinated by Japanese Noh theatre, wrote the play in the structure of a typical Noh play.
For more information please visit the Sami National Theatre’s website http://www.beaivvas.no/