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Definition: Saami from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

var of sami


Summary Article: Saami from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

An indigenous people numbering over 60,000 (1996) and living in northern Finland (7,000), Norway (36,000), Sweden (17,000) and Russia (2,000). Traditionally fishermen, hunter-gatherers, and nomadic reindeer herders, the Saami have lost large areas of pasture since 1965 due to forestry, mining and other economic activities. Today many are settled and have entered the professions. Their religion was originally animist, but most Saami now belong either to the Russian Orthodox or Lutheran churches. Their language belongs to the Finno-Ugric group.

The Saami have inhabited the area for thousands of years and recent genetic studies indicate that they are among the oldest people in Europe. As a nomadic people they are not seen to possess land, and although recognized as people with some political rights in all the countries they inhabit, the question of rights to the land, water, and natural resources reamains unresolved.

In 1972, a Saami parliament was formed in Finland. Self-determination was a key goal and in January 1996 the Finnish constitution recognized a Saami Homeland of 35,000 sq km/13,500 sq mi, although the state owns 90% of the land. There were also given the right to cultural autonomy through their parliament. The Saami also have their own parliament in Norway, and in 1988 the Norwegian constitution acknowledged the Saami as an indigenous people making the state responsible for preserving their language and culture, although no Saami homeland was granted and the Norwegian government claims the right to land, water and natural resources where they live. In February 1996 a new reindeer husbandry act helped to preserve the traditional lifestyle by requiring land users to prove that there are no existing reindeer grazing rights. The Saami parliament in Sweden has been less successful in preserving their way of life with the Swedish government opening traditional Saami hunting grounds to all Swedish citizens in 1992, and in 1996 declaring that the Saami do not have traditional reindeer grazing rights. In Russia, the Saami were collectivized and relocated into large towns in the 1930s, resulting in the destruction of their social, cultural and economic structures. In the 1990s private reindeer husbandry was allowed again.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

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