Northern People of the Year

Northern people of the year

Northern People of the Year 2021: Åarjel-saemieh – The South Saami

The Åarjel-saemieh are a particular group of Sámi people who come from the south of Saepmie. What distinguishes the South Saami from other Sámi groups, first and foremost, is their language, but also their costume, patterns and ornamentation, building traditions and other forms of cultural expression. Fishing, hunting, trapping, gathering, handicraft and reindeer husbandry are traditionally central to South Saami culture.


Today the region considered to be the South Saami region runs from Saltfjellet and Västerbotten in the north down to northern Innlandet and Jämtlands and into parts of Dalarna in the south, from Bottenviken to the Norwegian Sea. Living so widely spread out across such a large region, their connection to the landscape, their ancestors and family history is important to the South Saami, as is their connections to close and extended family and to the reindeer.


The Sámi language region extends across all of the countries that overlap with Saepmie: over parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. In generally, the Sámi language borders do not follow national borders. The Sámi languages are Finno-Ugric languages. Today, there are 10 different Sámi languages. Geographically, South Saami is used in the southernmost part of Saepmie. There is a marked difference between Southern Saami and the other Sámi languages.


In the UNESCO list of endangered languages, the South Saami language is currently classified as “seriously endangered”, as the combination of there being few users spread across large distances makes it difficult to maintain South Saami and use it regularly. There is, therefore, a great need for those with competent Southern Saami language skills. This is particularly true in the areas of teaching, development of teaching aids and in public services and administration.

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