Sámi: an indigenous peoples under the northern lights


In the far north of Europe, ancient chants, handicraft traditions and distinct languages live side by side with contemporary trends and lifestyles. This is the Sámi culture, the oldest culture of Norway, dominant in Tromsø, and across the region’s charming fjords and picturesque mountains.

Europe’s only Indigenous Peoples

The Sámi are Europe’s only recognised indigenous peoples and have been living in the far north of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia since time immemorial. Traditionally, the Sámi have been fishermen, trappers and reindeer herders based on cross border activities. Today, it is estimated that approximately 60,000 Sámi live in Norway, 2,600 of whom are still practicing reindeer herding. Reindeer herding is more than just a profession, it is a way of life for the Sámi carrying  important cultural and spiritual value.  Next to herding, Sámi craftwork, widely known as duodji, is also a meaningful activity for Europe’s northernmost  indigenous peoples and nowadays bejewels Tromsø’s stores and restaurants. 

6 Things you didn’t know about the Sámi People

  • Due to the close connection between Sámi culture and reindeer herding, the Sámi calendars have been traditionally divided into 8 seasons instead of 4, based on the yearly cycles of the reindeer.
  • The Sámi word for aurora borealis is “guovssahas”, meaning “the light you can hear”.
  • In the past, reindeer milk was produced into cheese made in low basins.
  • The Sámi peoples of the three Scandinavian states have established their own parliaments which operate alongside with the three national parliaments.
  • Depending on the nature and terms of division, there are at least ten or more Sámi languages.
  • Sámi National Day is February 6 and in Tromsø we celebrate with National Sámi Week which includes a thrilling Lasso Throwing Championship and Reindeer Racing! 


Welcome to Sápmi, the cultural region of the Sámi People

Join our team of expert guides to learn more about Sámi culture. We will introduce you to duodji, joik and the 180 Sámi ways to name snow and ice. Be our guest in a historic walk through Tromsø Museum’s comprehensive exhibitions and learn how the Sámi peoples have traditionally survived the cold Arctic weather and how they continue to fight for rights and recognition. Listen to Sámi myths and legends about the Northern Lights, the moon, and the holy mountain Tromsdalstinden. 


And, who knows, if we are lucky enough, we might encounter a reindeer in one of our adventures!