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The Lapps - the Indigenous People of Lapland

The Lapps is the only indigenous people living in the northern parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia.

In Four Countries

The Sami people is a people living in four countries. They live in:
  • in the northern regions of Finland
  • the northern parts of Norway
  • the inner parts of northern Sweden
  • the Kola peninsula in northern Russia
The Lapps call themselves "the Sami". And the whole area where the Lapps live, is called "Sapmi" (the land of the Sami). Lapps from Finnish Lapland

How many Lapps are there?

Altogether there are around 70.000 Lapps in these four countries:
  • in Finland about 6.000
  • in Norway about 42.000
  • in Sweden about 20.000
  • in Russia about 2.000

Who Is a Lapp (Sami)?

There is no clear definition of what a Sami is. But according to Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish law in connection with Sami parliament elections, you are a Sami, and you can vote if :

1. you consider yourself a Sami.
2. have Sami as your mother tongue
3. your parents or grandparents must have had Sami as their mother tongue.

You must fulfill point no. 1. But you only have to fulfill no. 2 OR no. 3. Mature Sami girls

The Sami Language

We can divide Sami into 3 main languages:
  1. The eastern (spoken in the Russian part of Sapmi and a little in Finland)
  2. The central/northern (spoken i northern parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden)
  3. The southern (spoken i central parts of Norway and Sweden)
Each of these are divided into different dialects. It is difficult for people speaking one of these, to understand the other two. The Sami language is related to Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian.

Maybe as much as 85% of all people who speak Sami, speak the central/northern language.

Experts are not certain as to the origins of the Sami or the language of the Lapps.

You can even learn a little of the language of the Lapps and the other Scandinavian languages here

Portrays of Lapps

There are few peoples in the world that have been portrayed as often in literature as the Sámi, or Lapps. These portrayals have been influenced by the real conditions of the Sami, but certainly also by the different backgrounds of the writers themselves.

From the start, knowledge and myths mixed and piled up in the literature on Lapland. Even the writings of ancient Roman writer Tacitus were full of cliches that were used to describe tribal peoples. He wrote about the Fenni who were primitive hunters, but still "happy in their simplicity" because they did not know about heavy agriculture.

Other ancient writers who portrayed the Lapps - or Sami - were Prokopios and Jordanes (550 A.D.), Paulus Diaconus (795), the Norwegian Ohthere (894), Adam of Bremen (1070), and Saxo Grammaticus (1200). These writers gave new details to the picture: the Sámi were "skrithiphinnoi", and they lived in a country where the sun did not set at all during summer.

And the Lapps were masters of sorcery. Many mythical and curious elements were repeated by the authors up through the ages, thus strengthening the wrong picture of the Sami.

The work "Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus", published by Olaus Magnus Gothus in the mid-1500s, brought a new type of information on Lapland. Olaus Magnus based his writings on his own experiences. He had travelled as far north as Tornio.

With the new administrative and missionary activities led to an enormous increase in the amount of information about the northern regions. The classic work "Lapponia" by Johannes Schefferus in 1673 started a more scholarly way of thinking about the Lapps.

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