Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sápmi: The Coolest Place Samuel Gray Has Ever Been

Since I know how difficult it is to click on a link, I've pasted some essential Sápmi facts from everyone's favorite fake encyclopedia:

Sápmi is the name of the cultural region traditionally inhabited by the Sámi people. Sápmi is located in Northern Europe and includes the northern parts of Fennoscandia. The region stretches over four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Sápmi is the name in North Sámi, while the Julev Sámi name is Sábme and the South Sámi name is Saemie. In Norwegian and Swedish the term Sameland is often used.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and increasing internationalization, cross-border co-operation is becoming more important, and existing state borders less important both for the Sámi indigenous population and non-Sámi inhabitants—the latter constituting the majority population of the region. Russians and Norwegians are the most numerous groups, and the Sámi make up only a small minority of about 5%.[1] No political organization advocates secession, though several groups desire more territorial autonomy and/or more self-determination for the region's indigenous population.

The region has its own football team, the Sámi Spábbáčiekčanlihttu, that plays in the NF-Board, won the 2006 Viva World Cup and hosted the 2008 event.


Sápmi (and corresponding terms in other Sámi languages) refers to both the Sámi land and the Sámi people. In fact, the word "Sámi" is only the accusative-genitive form of the noun "Sápmi"--making the nation's name (Sámi olbmot) simply mean "people of Sápmi." The source of the word is speculated to be related to the Baltic word *žēmē that simply means "land".[2]

In historical texts the Swedish names "Lappland" or Lappmarken may occur, and also the Norwegian name "Finnmark" or "Finnmork.".[3] Originally these two names did refer to the entire Sápmi, but subsequently became applied to areas exclusively inhabited by the Sámi and today they are names of provinces that only constitute parts of Sápmi.


Sami or Saami is a general name for a group of Uralic languages spoken by the Sami people in parts of northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and extreme northwestern Russia, in Northern Europe. Sami is frequently (and erroneously) believed to be a single language. Several names are used for the Sami languages: Saami, Sámi, Samic, Saamic, Lappish and Lappic. The last two are, along with the term Lapp, are considered derogatory by some.[1]

On the map [below] numbers indicate Sami Languages: 1. South (Åarjil) Sámi, 2. Ume (Upme) Sámi, 3. Pite (Bitthun) Sámi, 4. Lule (Julev) Sámi, 5. North (Davvi) Sámi, 6. Skolt Sámi, 7. Inari (Ánár) Sámi, 8. Kildin Sámi, 9. Ter Sámi. Of these languages the Northern one is the by far most vital; whereas Ume, Pite and Ter seem to be dying languages. Darkened areas represent municipalities that recognize Sami as an official language.

Written Languages

At present there are nine living Sami languages. The largest six of the languages have independent literary languages; the three others have no written standard, and there are only few, mainly elderly speakers left. The ISO 639-2 code for all Sami languages without its proper code is "smi". The six written languages are:

The other Sami languages are moribund and have very few speakers left. Six speakers of Ter Sami were known to be alive in 2004,[5] and Pite Sami and Ume Sami likely have under 20 speakers left.[citation needed] The last speaker of Akkala Sami is known to have died in December 2003,[6] and the eleventh attested variety Kemi Sami became extinct in the 19th century.

Official Language Status

Adopted in April 1988, Article 110a of the Norwegian Constitution states: "It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and way of life." The Sami Language Act went into effect in the 1990s. Sami is an official language of the municipalities of Kautokeino, Karasjok, Gáivuotna (Kåfjord), Nesseby, Porsanger, Tana, Tysfjord, and Snåsa.

A bilingual street sign in Enontekiö in both Finnish (top) and Northern Sámi

In Finland, the Sami language act of 1991 granted Sami people the right to use the Sami languages for all government services. The Sami language act of 2003 made Sami an official language in Enontekiö, Inari, Sodankylä and Utsjoki municipalities.

On April 1, 2002 Sami became one of five recognized minority languages in Sweden. It can be used in dealing with public authorities in the municipalities of Arjeplog, Gällivare, Jokkmokk and Kiruna.

See also: Sami parliaments of Finland, Norway, and Sweden


The approximate number of people living in Sápmi is about 2 million, though it is difficult to give the precise number of inhabitants since certain counties and provinces only include parts of Sápmi. It is also quite difficult to account for the distribution of ethnic groups as many people have double or multiple ethnic identities - both seeing themselves as members of the majority population and being part of one or more minority group.


Please enjoy these videos from everyone's favorite video-hosting site:

Transjoik (founded in Trondheim in 1992) is a Norwegian band that plays jazz and Sámi music, often characterised as an ambient electronic, techno and trance band, but with a dose of yoiking (traditional Sámi vocals), so it is often considered world music. This reminds me of Suicide's "Misery Train":

1 comment:

  1. The problem of dying languages throughout the World is a serious one.

    Although there are at least 7,000 languages throughout the World, they are threatened by the linguistic imperialism of both Mandarin Chinese and English.

    The following declaration was made in favour of Esperanto, by UNESCO at its Paris HQ in December 2008.

    The commitment to the campaign to save endangered languages was made, by the World Esperanto Association at the United Nations' Geneva HQ in September. or


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