Sámi National Day : Reindeer Race!
Originally published on The North Way, my previous blog …
A reindeer race has been organized in Tromsø today. Indeed, we are the Sunday before the National Day of Samis (February 6th).
To make it short, Sámi people, which you might know as “Lapps” (pejorative term!), are an indigenous people of northern Fenno-Scandinavia also called Lapland (Sápmi would be more appropriate). This nation is made up of many tribes who officiate mainly in fishing, trapping and reindeer herding. But Sámi people have always practices reindeer herding. Though they earned the right to continue and are now the only ones authorized to do it. Between the nineteenth and twentieth century, Sámi people were victim of assimilationist policies of countries in which they have been living for centuries (like most nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples in this world). Their territories and their identities were thus under threat. Several associations sprang up and on the beginning of the twentieth century a Sámi got a place in the Norwegian political power: Isak Saba. But that did not lead to success for his people.
February 6th, 1917 in Trondheim: many representatives of Sámi communities in Norway and Sweden met. This regroupement was a great success. But let’s not forget that during that time a part of Europe is at war. Sámis were very affected by the consequences of this war and the recession it implied. In the late 70′s, activism took shape again. During the ’80s and ’90s, they got prommesses from Fenno-Scandinavian states. In 1992, Sámis chose that date of February 6th to celebrate their National Day.
Tromsø is a city where the Sámi community is very well established. Therefore, many activities have taken place these days and will take place in the coming days: markets, language courses, reindeer race, … We have therefore taken the opportunity to see these famous northern hairy beasts… Not Sámis, reindeers! ;)
We are barely arrived that we are already rejected: The price to see the race is 100 Kr (approx. 13 €) per person! As good old French people, we try to find a discrete way to see this race without paying. But all the streets are monitored by these guys with their fluorescent coat … Argh! Nevertheless, we are not the only ones not wanting to pay this astronomical sum to see a couple of guys in slinky outfits on skis being pulled by reindeers. We therefore find a nice little spot where we can see the show, even if it is a little further. Well, it was totally not worth the price and it was freezing (-15°C + wind = Brrrrr). The only interest that we found was to be able to see reindeers, and I can assure you that they really look very sweet!