“We should try to avoid thinking of ourselves as worthless persons – we are naturally free and unconditioned. We are intrinsically enlightened and lack nothing. When engaging in meditation practice, we should feel it to be as natural as eating, breathing and defecating. It should not become a specialized or formal event, bloated with seriousness and solemnity.”
– Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche 🧡📿
(The buddhist shawl I am wearing is an outer sign of my inner commitment to the vajrayana buddhist path)
The nine remaining Sámi languages are spoken in the north of Europe (see map and gallery below) in a cross-border region which includes Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. This region is generally called Sápmi – mostly by sámis, and is sometimes referred to as Lapland. Laponia in swedish Lapland is the World’s largest unmodified UNESCO nature area still cultured by natives.
Sámi languages speakers estimate:
Southern Sámi 300 – 500 speakers
Ume Sámi – less than 20 speakers
Lule Sámi 2 000 – 3 000 speakers
Pite Sámi – less than 20 speakers
Northern Sámi – 20-30 000 speakers. There are three main North Sámi dialects. Northern Sámi is the most accessible language, both in terms of literature, news broadcasts, and other material for those who want to learn a Sámi language as a foreign language.*
Kemi Sámi – extinct
Inari Sámi 300 – 500 speakers
Akkala Sámi – considered mostly extinct since 2003*
Kildin Sámi 300 – 700 speakers
Skolt Sámi 300 – 500 speakers in Finland, fewer than 20 speakers in Russia
Ter Sámi – less than 5 speakers left, all elderly
Out of the 11 historically attested Sámi languages, 9 are still spoken/used.
Today there are around 90 000 Sámis, but as you can see from the numbers they do not match up to speakers of Sámi languages. Roughly 4/10 Sámis speak and use Sámi today.
Why is this so?
To avoid humiliation and to give their children “better chances in life”, indigenous and minority parents often decide to speak a dominant or official language with their children. Sámi parents have not been an exception to this rule, especially in the very near past.
For the sake of how long this post would be in order to include all four countries’ history with the Sámi people, I will mainly focus on Norway.
Up to the 17th century, Sámi society lived pretty much its own life, with little interference from the outside. But with the new borders of the Nordic countries, interference was inevitable. Historically, the language situation can be divided into three distinct periods: a missionary phase; a harsh assimilation phase; and the present phase, with potential for integration and revitalisation.
The 17th and 18th centuries characterise the beginning of missionary activities, with some very positive projects for the benefit of the Sámi languages: teaching was conducted through the medium of Sámi and religious texts were translated into Sámi. From the middle of the 19th century however, a new policy based on national romanticism and ‘vulgar Darwinist ideas’ led to a harsh suppression of Sámi and the languages. The Norwegian Parliament and government pursued overtly a policy aiming at assimilating the whole Sámi population in Norway in the course of one generation.
The “dark century,” 1870 to 1970 ca, had detrimental effects which can still be felt on both the languages themselves and on their status and speakers. In the coastal areas of Norway (and elsewhere), negative attitudes were transmitted by the Sámi themselves as a result of the policies, and inter-generational transfer of the language ceased in only a few generations.
New efforts in maintaining the languages were revived in the 1970s and still continues to this day. However, one of the most striking failures of the Sámi strategies is that the smaller Sámi languages (in numbers of speakers as listed above) have not seen success in improving their situation or even in defending their previous position. This failure is partly due to the fact that most speakers live apart from the larger Sámi groups. Dispersed among Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, and Russians, they do not have the demographic concentration that would enable them to use their language in the workplace and in official situations, including schools.
A language’s development, aging, and dying was considered “natural,” out of human reach. Languages were not killed, they “died of old age.” This agentless “model” for the prediction of the future of languages is still found among politicians, and legitimates their way of treating minority languages.
In Norway, many municipalities with a Sámi population had developed procedures to give the Sámi some local linguistic rights. Yet, when the Sámi language law (in force since 1992) designated certain areas as belonging to the Sámi administrative districts, many of the municipalities left outside these official districts – often municipalities where the speakers of the smaller Sámi languages lived – withdrew services in Sámi, claiming that the law did not require them. Even today, there is strong resilience towards using official Sámi names in for example Norwegian towns and municipalities.
*Currently, education, official documents and the media use Northern Sámi almost exclusively. This variant is used as a de facto “official language” and the most significant efforts have gone into the development of this particular language, to the detriment of other Sámi languages.
Opinions also differ on whether the different versions of Sámi are actual languages or dialects, and how to designate their speakers. “The Song of the Sámi Family” is the official Sámi anthem. To demonstrate the differences among the Sámi languages, here is how the Sámi anthem titles look in Northern Sámi: “Sámi Soga Lávlla,” in Inari Sámi: “Säämi suuvâ laavlâ,” and in Skolt Sámi: “Sää´msooǥǥ laull.” In Finnish, the title would be the somewhat similar; “Saamen suvun laulu.”
Most Sámis today speak either Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, or even English as their everyday tongue (some migrated to the USA). Many are bilingual as well. Another factor is that some Sámis do not identify as Sámi or even know that they are due to the assimilation in the past. They do not have any relationship with the language(s).
**Akkala Sámi is the most endangered Eastern Sámi language. On December 29, 2003, Maria Sergina – the last remaining fluent native speaker of Akkala Sámi – died. However, as of 2011 there were at least two people, both aged 70, with some minor knowledge of Akkala Sámi.
Norway, Sweden and Finland was in 2019 urged by the UN to increase public funding of Sámi parliaments as a response to the dire state of the disappearing languages. But even if the situation seems dire for many languages, it is still possible to revitalise them and start using them more often. Which languages survive and which do not ultimately seems to be a question of human will, not of any rules of nature.
I know that languages and cultures come and go, but I do feel it a great loss to lose what has been native for Sápmi and Lapland for literally thousands of years, in only a few generations, when it can be perserved. I am happy that some schools and institutions are giving sámi language courses to anyone who wishes to learn it (although this is mostly in Northern sámi), and I do also secretly wish that my children will learn it, which I never did due to the Norwegianization process in Finnmark. Language is a huge part of culture and when it’s taken away, people get confused about their own community and sense of belonging, and even turn on each other as a result of feeling alienated.
“Stuttering or stammering, in its simplest form, is any disruption to speech fluency. This could be repetitions, prolongations, or blocks and may occur anywhere in the word or phrase. Nerves or anxiety does not cause stuttering. Stuttering is a neurophysiological disorder. Oftentimes, it is the stuttering that causes anxiety.”
“Stuttering is believed to occur due to dysfunctional blood flow in certain areas of the brain.”
How stuttering has manifested for me:
Blockages; going mute. Also known as stutter blocks. I’ll know exactly what I want to say, but I physically cannot get the words out. They are stuck in my chest, head or throat/jaw. This has made it quite hard to communicate a lot of the time, and to make friends or be social in general. I often rehearse sentences in my head, and get overjoyed if I manage to say it out loud with fluency. This takes a lot of effort, and is why I prefer writing or any other form of communication. I also struggle some with phone calls.
The blocks makes me say “Uummm” a lot too, to kind of fill in the time because I really want to get the next word out, which is quite stressful. I do fear it makes me sound dumb or slow, and it does kill my confidence, especially if I am with people I want to talk a lot with or I know I have a lot to say on the topic we are discussing. I usually have no problem talking to animals, close old friends, chant buddhist mantras or in certain situations where I don’t feel a pressure to say anything. But those situations are rare, and I would love to learn how to “unblock” my speech, which is why I am doing speech therapy too,
Do you have a speech problem, and/or something similar? Let me know how you deal with it.
“The first study on the DNA of the ancient inhabitants of Finland has been published, with results indicating that an abundance of genes reached Finland all the way from Siberia.
The genetic samples compared in the study were collected from human bones found in a 3,500-year-old burial place in the Kola Peninsula and the 1,500-year-old lake burial site at Levänluhta in South Ostrobothnia, Finland. All of the samples contained identical Siberian genes.
Siberian origin remains perceptible
The ancient DNA has also been compared to modern populations. Siberian origins are still visible in the Sámi, Finns and other populations of the Finno-Ugric language family.
“However, it has been mixed up with the European genome. Of all European populations, modern Sámi are the most evident representatives of the Siberian genome. As for the title of the modern people with the largest Siberian genetic component, that privilege goes to the Nganasan people living in northern Siberia,” says Päivi Onkamo, head of the SUGRIGE project at the Universities of Helsinki and Turku.
The project succeeded in mapping out the entire genome from the bones of eleven individuals. From the Kola Peninsula, the bones of six individuals were collected from a 3,500-year-old burial place, while those of two individuals were found from another location dating back to the 18th and 19th century. In the case of the bones found in the Levänluhta site in South Ostrobothnia, the entire genome was mapped for three individuals.”
These findings are very interesting to me, as I am very much into geneaology and learning about my family history. Different cultures and people fascinate me in general, and although this is just trivial information, it does shed light on why we look so different from other Europeans, for example.
Some other uralic/finno-ugric peoples with same roots and ties to Siberian regions are the Nenets (previously called the Samoyeds), the Khanty people, the Mansi and the Mari.
Are you into geneaology and/or anthropology? What is your favourite subject? 🙏🏼
I have been practicing vajrayana buddhist meditation for about four years. What I like about this specific style of mind training or dharma as it’s also called, is that with certain techniques you access your natural, empty alive state of being. Buddhists talk alot about emptiness, but it’s not flat, it’s luminous, like light! Anyone can do it, because it is already there. What’s known as buddhanature. You just need the techniques. And from there work with all arising phenomena of the mind. All sense perceptions. All emotions. Transforming illusions into wisdom energy. And compassion of course. We all have dark stuff in the mind. Part of the practice is to not let that scare you. But i think the more you rest and stabilize in your own buddhanature, the more simple innate qualities like beauty, creativity and spontaneity arises. And paradoxically somehow the less of you, or an “I” there is, the happier you’ll be because it’s not about you anymore. You merge.
Did you know only around 30% of the whole sámi population speaks/write one of the sámi languages today? The longlasting banning of the languages caused identity crisis for many, but I am happy it is changing slowly 🐢 I feel proud to be part of the generation that is reviving our own culture, with not only language but art, clothing and music too 💚
Pro tip from a veteran 😸 a lot of chronically ill people have to self isolate every year, sometimes for months, myself included. Especially in flu season or during a flare up in symptoms. So, my pro tip is to find something specific to concentrate on. For me it has been art and mahayana buddhist yoga. I am not exaggerating when I say it has saved me and given me so much out of life. Also, rest a lot. Don’t feel like you have to do something all the time. No one really cares what you do with your time and energy, so make yourself comfortable in the uncertainty. 🙏🏼🍀🤓
If someone asked you ‘why’ you love your SO, partner or a crush, you could probably list a bunch if their nice qualities and things about them that you appreciate. But that is not WHY you love someone, because you can list the same qualities in a bunch of other people you don’t love. In fact, someone you hate can be extremely talented or compassionate. Your feelings towards or for someone does not change them.
These qualities and traits is probably something you noticed *after* getting feelings of love and affection. Love is funny and amazing like that; it will open your eyes and heart, and is not something you can ever control with your will or thoughts. It will also make one go the extra mile.
As far as I can tell, love just happens based on factors I do not understand entirely. Also, I think love and compassion is our basic nature. Humans are complicated, relationships are usually difficult, not always compatible, but often worth it.
Love is love. Not in a naïve way where everything goes, but in a very basic human way, and there are as many ways of expressing it as there are people.