Sámi(aka Saami, Sami, Lappish) is the language of the Sami people of Northern Europe. It is a Finno-Ugrian language. Most of the variants of the Sámi language are extinct, nearly extinct or seriously endangered.

The different variations of the Sámi language are:
Kemi Sámi
Ume Sámi
Pite Sámi
Akkala Sámi
Ter Sámi
South Sámi
Lule Sámi
Inari Sámi
Skolt Sámi
Kildin Sámi
North Sámi(Davvi Sámi)

The Saami are an aboriginal people who live in an area they call Sápmi, which spans the borders of five Scandinavian countries. The Saami do not consider themselves citizens of these nations, and have their own independent language, culture and lifestyle. The Saami people and culture date back ten thousand years, when their ancestors hunted moose and reindeer. They continued to inhabit the northern region of Scandinavia during the days of Viking prevalence, trading with the Vikings and adapting the famous Viking game of Hnefatafl into their own game called Tablut. When the settling of Scandinavia began in earnest in the 16th century, the game they hunted decreased in numbers. The Saami adapted and learned to fish and raise domesticated reindeer.

In the century that followed, much of the Saami grazing land was settled by colonial Swedes, who began taxing the Saami as well. In the 17th century, when silver ore was discovered near Nasafjäll, the native Saami were forced into servitude as miners and carriers, using their reindeer to haul the silver. Any who refused were tortured and killed. This was not the only blow dealt them at this time - their polytheistic religion was condemned by the Swedish King and the Christian church, and its practicioners were publicly burned at the stake. Their unique music, called jojk, was also condemned as Devil's music by the church, and was thus suppressed for centuries.

In the ensuing years, as the borders between the various Scandinavian nations were drawn and redrawn, the Saami population was shuffled back and forth across the land. Property rights were given to them and later revoked, and disputes over these and other rights, including hunting and fishing, continue to this day. The situation is very similar to that of the Native Americans residing in North America, and to the aboriginal population of Australia. They are discriminated against and looked down upon by much of the population, and bumper stickers reading, "Save the Wolves - Shoot the Saami!" can sometimes be seen on Swedish cars.

The above node has probably excellent account of sami history (I didn't know nearly as much, and I'm one...), but is a bit thin on how they live today. I might not be the best to tell about it, since I basically abandoned the sami culture some years ago, but I don't see anyone else around... (by the way, the actual spelling is Sámi. The 'á' is one-and-half 'a'. I'm used to "Sami", and it's also the spelling used in Sámi Radio webpage at www.yle.fi/samiradio)

First, The Saami do not consider themselves citizens of these nations. At least here, in almost northernmost finland, the heart of finnish sami territory, this is certainly an exaggaration. It's not like we live in reservations, wear our national costumes all the time or have our own secret societies plotting to overthrow local government and found a Sami nation. Most of the time it's really hard to even tell who is Sami and who is a colonist, as the two have mingles for a while. Nobody around here makes a big deal out of it that I've seen, and considering yourself not to be a finn is certainly not the case. Technically, we are citizens of Finland too. There's this legal body (Saamelaisparlamentti - Sami parlament, I think), but for what I've heard, it really doesn't have that much power.

Now, as for the culture, that is more to the point. Many still practise a form of the traditional reindeer tending, but I don't think it's primary (or the only) source of income to many. Wasn't to my family, in any case. People own their reindeer and they do feed them sometimes when food's scarce and come to these events called poroerotus (separating the reindeer) and vasanmerkintä (marking the calves) to gather all the reindeer in area to one place, to separate and account their own ones, take suitable ones to slaughter, to mark the newlyborns as their property and like, but I understand mostly they just let reindeer do on their own in the woods as much as possible. Note that my information on this is a bit unaccurate as I never did learn that trade either.

In other related thoughts, the "Save the Wolves - Shoot the Saami!" is probably not exactly racism. Very likely it refers to same controversy that is going on here in Finland - wolves eat reindeer, thus cutting on Sami's income, but there are laws against killing them (if you ask which you need to raise your humor budget). Some Sami kill the wolves anyways, which has understandably pissed off a lot of people - there aren't that many wolves around even without Sami killing them.

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