1. Strangers in Their Own Land
Speak – but speak our language. Wear clothes – but only what we want you to wear. Learn – but learn in our way.
The assimilation policy left a deep scar in Sami society. It is a trauma that is passed from generation to generation.
2. Border Crossing People
One day it was one village. The next day it was two. Divided between a King and a Tzar. In the years to come the villagers paid their taxes not to one, but to three countries.
The nation has no borders, but countries do. The Sami were divided by the four states of Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden. But still there is one united Samiland, Sápmi.
3. Cross-Generational Stories
In the nearby mountain lives Stallu, the man eating ogre. I am not supposed to go there at night time when he is awake. And Čáhcerávga, a water wrath living in our well, could snatch me away. Anytime. Grandmother says not to go near. I know my territory, it’s monsters and spirits.
Sami children know which places are safe and which are not because of the stories passed from generation to generation. They learn the right way of doing things through stories.
4. The People of Eight Seasons
Nature will tell us what’s next: When it’s time to gather the reindeer herd, when it’s time to fish, when the cloudberries are ready to be picked and when it’s time to rest. We listen and nature will show. We gulahalla luondduin – speak with the Earth.
Spring, spring-summer, summer, fall-summer, fall, fall-winter, winter, spring-winter. The rhythm of life is based on the circle of the seasons.
5. Persistent Stereotypes
People see me, but they don’t really see me. They expect me to behave and act like my ancestors did. People see me through romantic images or negative expectations they have for my culture. Am I the one who decides what I am, how I look and how I behave? I’m not here to fulfill the stereotypes, not the good ones or the bad ones.
The modern society evolves but somehow the indigenous Sami should stay the same.
6. Living Outside the Samiland
The pace of the city is faster, it makes one almost dizzy. The air smells filthy and the ground is filled with trash. Back home the snow is white. Here it’s brown or it doesn’t exist at all. There is too much of everything: the noise, the smells, people, houses, cars, trees, colours… Too much! I miss home, where I can breath again, where I can hear my language and be with my people. Until I want escape again. Back here. In the city.
Most Sami already live outside the Samiland. For instance, 1000 Sami live in Helsinki area. Some Sami people identify themselves as “city-Sami”.
7. Ultima Thule
I am the light and I am the darkness, I am the strong and I am the frail. In all extremes, I have persisted and adapted – but for how long?
By definition, Ultima Thule is “A distant unknown region; the extreme limit of travel and discovery”. The Samiland is located in the Arctic. The area is characterised by the long distances and extreme variation of light and temperatures. The people have adapted to harsh conditions. Although the people have adapted, the beautiful arctic nature is very sensitive to changes.
8. One Nation, Many Languages
My great grandmother spoke Inari Sami, Northern Sami and Finnish. Grandmother, áhkku, spoke Northern Sami and Finnish. My father spoke Northern Sami and Finnish but lost the first one. I speak only Finnish. How can my children find their voice if they don’t know their mother tongue?
The Sami have always been multilingual. Even though many Sami have lost their language, the Sami don’t fall silent.
Don’t panic! It’s up to you to ensure that Sami culture, language and traditions survive. No pressure.
Sami languages and culture are endangered. From the moment a Sami child is born, they inherit a responsibility of preserving and reviving their culture. It can be a heavy burden for one individual to carry.
10. Activism and Artivism
An island. Standing tall in the middle of a river. This island is moratorium, where laws don’t apply. Occupied by brave Sami warriors. Fighting for their rights with disobedience. Using words and art as their weapon.
The Sami is a nation of peace. Still they have been forced to fight for their survival. Some Sami fight with words, art and music.
11. The Future Sami
Where do we go from here? Blend in, change our ways or find our voice and prosper? How do we gain our living in the future? What happens to us and the Samiland?
The sami can listen and understand the nature but can they overcome the power of the artificial? What kind of skills will Sámi people need in the future to survive and make most out of what is available? How can ancestral and local knowledge be adapted to meet the demands of the future?
12. Lost Memories
When Áddjá is gone, who will tell his story? When he forgets, who will remember?
Many aging Sami have their future in institutional care. Often the connection to their culture is cut off. The languages learned later become forgotten and independent performance weakens. Nothing in the new environment reminds them of the life they’ve lived.
Nijdam, E. “Biz.” (2023). Recentering Indigenous Epistemologies Through Digital Games: Sámi Perspectives on Nature in Rievssat (2018). Games and Culture, 18(1), 27–41. https://doi.org/10.1177/15554120211068086
LaPensée, E. A., Laiti, O., & Longboat, M. (2022). Towards Sovereign Games. Games and Culture, 17(3), 328-343.
Nijdam E. (2022). Recentering Indigenous Epistemologies Through Digital Games: Sámi Perspectives on Nature in Rievssat (2018). Games and Culture. 10.1177/15554120211068086. 18:1. (27-41). Online publication date: 1-Jan-2023.
Laiti, O. (2021). Old ways of knowing, new ways of playing—the potential of collaborative game design to empower Indigenous Sámi. Doctoral dissertation. University of Lapland. Rovaniemi, Finland. https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-337-249-8
Laiti, O., Harrer, S., Uusiautti, S., & Kultima, A. (2021). Sustaining intangible heritage through video game storytelling-the case of the Sami Game Jam. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 27(3), 296-311.
Kultima, A., & Laiti, O. (2019, August). Sami Game Jam-Learning, Exploring, Reflecting and Sharing Indigenous Culture through Game Jamming. In DiGRA Conference.