Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Sami People of Nordkapp

IMG_4835 Nordkapp

This summer we took a cruise on the Norwegian passenger and freight line Hurtigruten ("Express Route" in English) We boarded the "Midnatsol" in Bergen and sailed for one week up to Kirkenes.  One of the last stops of our voyage was the North Cape (Nordkapp), located well north of the Arctic Circle.

One of the surprises on this cruise is that I did not spot more birds along the way. I fully expected to see many breeding grounds along the coastline, but it was surprisingly bare. I was therefore on high alert when I saw a few small dots bobbing in the water about an hour before we docked.


IMG_4822 puffin at nordkapp uncropped

A closer examination revealed that these dots were puffins. Not a great picture, but it's the only one I have.

IMG_4822 puffin at nordkapp
Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

I had the option to take the bird safari excursion, where I would have been able to see large flocks of puffins and kittiwakes and even the mighty sea eagles, but ultimately I chose to join the rest of my family on the bus tour to see the North Cape (Nordkapp), 21 miles away, on the north side of the island of Magerøya

We docked in Honningsvåg, which claims to be the northernmost city in Norway, or even the world, but there are several other cities who dispute this claim. The village was occupied by the Germans in World War II; sadly, only the chapel was spared destruction. After the war,  many of the houses were restored to their original style, using the original color scheme. Historically, white was the most expensive paint color and therefore the most prestigious. Prestige or not, the white houses would not look as pristine and idyllic were it not for the occasional red and yellow structures against the bright green grass. 

IMG_4826 on the way to Nordkapp

We boarded a bus that drove us past the traditional fish racks which still had cod drying in the sun before winter sets in. 

IMG_4932 Nordkapp fish racks

We saw many more racks on the hillsides, but they had already been picked bare. 

IMG_4847 Nordkapp fish racks

The bus careened along the winding roads across the bald sub-arctic landscape of the island.

IMG_4840 Nordkapp bus view

Periodically the bus driver would point out reindeer grazing on the short grass. See if you can spot the stag and three does below. Don't worry if you can't, I had trouble seeing them too. If you're hell-bent on seeing them, you can click here . Fortunately, we did get the opportunity to see more reindeer up close only a few minutes later.


IMG_4837 Norkapp bus view

Only the indigenous people called the Sami (also spelled Sámi, or Saami) are allowed to practice reindeer husbandry in Norway. Magerøya Island can boast 5,000 reindeer, all owned by five Sami families. The reindeer are allowed to roam freely, with only minimal fencing to keep them from harm. 

DSC07820 Nordkapp fence

The tags in the ears of the reindeer indicate ownership. 

IMG_4858 reindeer numer 1069
Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)

IMG_4855 reindeer

IMG_4854 reindeer

Both males and females grow antlers.  I was amazed how fuzzy they were (no, I did not touch them). 

IMG_4870 reindeer

To save energy, they shed them annually. On our way back to the ship, we found shed antlers offered for sale in a small Sami shop near the ship.

The bus stopped at a Sami trading post where a Sami posed with tourists in his colorful native costume. It is not difficult to imagine the seed of inspiration for Santa's elves' costumes.

IMG_4851 reindeer photo op

The Sami use a temporary shelter, called a lavvu, which is strikingly similar to the teepees of Native Americans of the Great Plains. The portability of this structure allows the herdsmen to follow their reindeer.

IMG_4930 Sami Trading Post


IMG_4867 saami tent

Traditionally the reindeer hides were used as a cover, but now lighter fabrics are used to lighten the load. The long straight poles to construct these dwellings must be prized because tall vegetative growth appears to be scarce in this region. To our surprise there was an open fire inside, but the smoke easily escapes from the smoke hole at the top. 

IMG_4865 saami tent

The interior walls were decorated with the gorgeous native attire made with generous yardage and elaborate workmanship. I can imagine how fantastic these crisp, bright colors would look in the stark white snow. 

IMG_4861 saami costume

The trousers are made of reindeer hides.

IMG_4863 saami costumes

IMG_4864 saami costumes

The style and colors used in these these garments appear to be a perfect blending of Scandinavian, Russian, and Northwest Indian cultures.  Not surprising, given that all these descend from within the Arctic Circle and the nomadic nature of the Sami people. 

Many Sami regard the term Laplander as a pejorative term. In most Scandinavian languages the word "lap" means a patch of cloth used for mending. Where one culture used a scrap of fabric out of necessity, one could see how it may be difficult to understand that another culture used them as artistic adornments. 

We had only a few minutes to take a look at the goods offered in the trading post. My sister is to be commended for finding and purchasing a splendid black wool shawl for our mother in less than five minutes.

IMG_4873 saami costumes

IMG_4874 saami accessories


The Sami people suffered from laws of forced assimilation into the Norwegian culture, which peaked from 1900 to 1940 when anyone who wanted to buy or lease state lands for agriculture in the county had to have knowledge of the Norwegian language and register with a Norwegian name.

Sami Family, 1900, Source: Wikipedia

Despite these pressures and other draconian practices since the nineteenth century, the Sami prevailed. The pressures to chip away at their colorful culture is now coming from all around the globe.

IMG_4938 Nordkapp Saami vendor and teen

I dearly hope that the Sami culture continues to prevail so that the world can enjoy their artistry. 
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43 comments:

CC said...

Would love to take this trip.
Fascinating people and place.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Happy New Year, DB.

Marilyn said...

What an amazing trip and experience. I would love a trip like this and we have actually talked about taking a cruise in that area. Wonderful pictures and yes for sure, thanks for sharing them.

tchesney said...

That is a trip of a lifetime (and thanks for sharing it with us virtually)! Wow, what amazing sights and animals you came across...another trip added to my bucket list lol

Eryl said...

I just popped over from Constance's blog, having read her glowing post about you how could I not? And you have taught me something completely new! I'd heard only vaguely of the Sami people, now you have given me some purchase with which to build a little knowledge, should I find myself with the headspace for it. Thanks.

George said...

A very interesting posting, Dutchbaby. I enjoyed the trip and especially love those photos of the villages. Gorgeous!

lisa said...

What a wonderful trip this must have been!!
Your photographs are beautiful!

rochambeau said...

Dear Dutchbaby,
Thank you for this post. For preserving the Sami's culture through your thoughtful words and experience.
I had to "click", as I was hell~bent one seeing the three does.
Oh sweet puffins!! Love them! Thank you for ALL your photos including the furry antler shots! Tomorrow my mom will love to read your post and see your fab photos.
xox
Constance

Kris said...

What a magical place! A very happy belated New year to you!

Yolanda said...

Looks like a wonderful trip. I would love to go to this part of the world. I hope your Year this year will be the best year ever.

Ruth said...

As you always do, you manage to insert much great information in this post, without making it long. You also bring keen insights. I have not heard of the Sami, that I recall. They do remind of the people of the "stans" in former Russia. We were fascinated by the Kirghiz people, and were heading that way when we lived in Istanbul.

I don't understand why they dry the cod out there where birds can pick it bare?

The scenery is beautiful, your photos superb. The first one is just amazing. Some of the landscapes remind me of Ireland, the national park of Killarney to be precise. I also love that rustic fence photo.

Beautiful post!

Kala said...

What a far away and very interesting place!

Ginnie said...

Believe it or not, DB, just Saturday Astrid and I made the decision to do this same Hurtigruten cruise except in the opposite direction (north to south) the first week in April. We will be visiting blogger friends, Renny and Tor, and decided to take the opportunity to do the cruise. It will be a trip of a lifetime, I'm sure. We are so excited. Vagabonde's trip last summer put the thought in our heads. Don't you love that about blogging! You've really added to the anticipation!

Pattaya Girls said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
A Cuban In London said...

And so do I. We need cultures such as the Sami to remind us what the world was like before Facebook. Many thanks for the beautiful photos. I've always had a soft spot for the Scandinavian countries, something to do with their landscape, the scarcity of people and the abundance of natural places. It's a similar thing with Canada, a country I've wanted to visit for many years.


Greetings from London.

Elisabeth said...

I',m pleased to meet you Dutch baby. I'm partly drawn by your blog title. I live in Australia but my parents are Dutch.

This is a stunning post for its visual excellence and for the degree to which you take us on such a wonderful journey. Thanks.

lorilaire said...

Merci de tes encouragements, oui c'est bien moi qui a peint ce portrait.
C'est dommage que tu n'aies pas sur ton blog un traducteur comme chez notre vagabonde.
A bientôt !
Lori

susanna said...

Fascinating post! This is my kind of of trip - thank you for taking me along on the journey. My family lived in the Cdn arctic for a few years during my childhood and your post reminded me of that time. The similarities of indigenous tribes in countries within the arctic circle are so interesting, aren't they?

Btw, I talked with Constance before she met up with you in New Orleans. She was really looking forward to meeting you there. It's great that you both unexpectedly stayed in the same hotel, eh? It sounds like you both had fun together.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear CC,
I hope you will get to go on this wondrous, peaceful journey.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Marilyn,
Please let me know if I can answer any questions about this journey. I would love to read about the trip from your perspective.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear tchesney,
I bet your bucket list is as long as mine :)

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Eryl,
I must run over and thank Constance for sending you here. Your blog is utterly delightful!

I had not heard the word Sami before this trip. I only knew of them as Laplanders, but this moniker is considered to be pejorative. I'm always thrilled to know that someone has learned something from this blog.

Welcome!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear George,
Thank you for your kind words about the photos. I'm afraid many of my photos are not as sharp as I would have liked. I was new to this camera and many of these were taken from a moving bus. I'm still learning...

Dutchbaby said...

Dear lisa,
Thank you for your kind compliment! Yes, it was a wonderful trip.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Constance,
Thank you for chasing that link. I love knowing that your mother will be reading this post.

Since you left this note, I added a link to a photo of some antlers that were offered for sale at the harbor.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Kris,
Magic is a great word for this place. Happy new year to you too, Kris!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Yolanda,
I am so glad to see this part of the world; I think you would enjoy it too.

Happy New Year to you too!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Ruth,
It's funny you should say this about my writing style. My English professor in Berkeley once told me that reading my papers was like reading the Reader's Digest Condensed Books. It's curious that my concise writing style is quite opposite to my speaking style. I'm still working on learning to think before I speak.

Sami is the native, non-derogatory name for these people. You may be more familiar with the pejorative term I described in the post.

I have to honest, Ruth, I never once wondered about birds pecking at the drying fish. You make a very good point. Maybe the high salt content is a deterrent for the birds.

We saw these simple, rustic fences all over Norway. My sister and I were obsessed with them.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Kala,
It was indeed a long journey from San Francisco!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Ginny,
I'm so excited to hear that you will be "Hurtigruting" down the coast, the same direction Vagabonde traveled.

I'm already looking forward to your artful mosaics of the coastline!

Susan said...

What a great anthropology lesson, DB. The people are so beautiful and to survive in such a harsh and rugged land says a lot for their determination. It's remarkable that their tents look almost exactly like tipis. I wonder if there is a connection to Native Americans.

Gorgeous photos, as always. Thank you.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Cuban in London,
Yes, there is something spiritual about gliding past miles and miles of coastline without seeing any evidence of people. I hope you have a chance to visit Scandinavia one day.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Elisabeth,
I am pleased to meet you as well. I so enjoyed reading your beautiful words on your blog.

Thank you for your kind words. I am grateful for your Dutch parents so that I can welcome you here.

Vagabonde said...

Your photos are beautiful. I wish I could place large photos like this on my blog but my daughter told me that because my family in France has the dial-up connection they would never be able to open my posts, and that is true as last time I went to France it was taking me up to 25 minutes to open my post. I should also have posts on my trip to the Norwegian Coast, about one month after your trip, but I always get side tracked. I still have not finished posting on my trip to Alaska in 2009 or to Newfoundland in 2008 and more trips are coming up! I enjoyed looking at the Sami though and I recognized that Sami guy. I have his picture too.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear lorilaire,
Tu peints magnifiquement bien!

J'ai eu un traducteur sur ma "sidebar"; j'ai maintenant il s'est déplacé plus haut.

Bonne journée!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear susanna,

Yes, the similarities in the artwork and lifestyles of the people within the Arctic Circle is striking.

I am so glad that Constance sent you in this direction. I am very happy to meet your acquaintance. It was a great treat to meet her in person; especially is such a fabulous setting.

Relyn said...

Did you get a new camera? That's some kind of lens!!

Margaret Bednar said...

This is fascinating! I will have to follow you and come back here. The photos on this post are truly beautiful.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Susan,
The similarities between the Sami people and the Native Americans are truly striking. Though it sounds counter-intuitive, the distances between all northern countries are quite small; in fact, I do believe they can all see each other from their kitchen windows...

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Vagabonde,
Thank you, I'm glad you like my photos. I found that my photos loaded significantly faster when I posted them from my Flickr account rather than directly from my hard drive. I think either Flickr and/or Blogger have some type of optimization algorithm they invoke.

I laughed at the second part of your comment. I have not finished posting about my African safari in 2009, my Galapagos trip in 2007, Italy 2005, etc. etc. etc.
I wonder how many photos there are out there of that same Sami guy; the man has the patience of Job.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Relyn,
I used the Canon camera my daughter used for her high school photo classes and then I bought an 18-200 mm lens for the trip. My sister used my trusty dusty Sony point-and-shoot I'd been using up to now.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Margaret Bednar,
Thank you so much for taking the extra step by coming back here. I am honored that you are taking the time to follow me, given how busy you are with your large family. It's a pleasure to see you here on Dutchbaby!

Amila said...

Hi Diana,I cant thank you enough for taking me to a this far far away land,with incomparably beautiful environment and people with a long history and rich culture still living up to much of their traditional way of life!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Amila,
The pleasure is all mine. Thank you for dipping into the archives and leaving word. Welcome to Dutchbaby!

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