Who are Uralians and Ugrians? We are different peoples with unique cultures and common linguistic roots, stretching from Russia, over Siberia and the Ural mountains, into Scandinavia. Many of us live Arctic lives and livelihoods. Many of us also have lost our traditional cultures and language.
We are Sámis, Kvens, Finns, Karelians, Khantys, Maris, Mansis, Nganasans, Nenets, Komis, Tornedalians, Selkups, and many more. I tried to add a small variety of photos from our community below.
Uralic clothing vary from boys and girls/men and women, and is usually made just to fit the climate. Sewing patterns are often kept within the family and only used by the ethnic group and not outsiders. Summers can get pretty warm, and winters of course get extremely cold, so there are different garments for the seasons. More text and a poem below 😊
Usually, if not always, ethnic European and Eastern/Eurasian (Arctic) clothing has specific designs for women, men, girls and boys. Practical, warm and distinguishable; usually a bit, or vastly, different for each region. Often bright colours and intrinsic details. Made from the immediate surroundings; wool and animals. Sometimes silk. Giving the wearer a place and belonging; need only look at a persons clothes to know where they, or where their parents are from. Sewing patterns are often kept within the family only. Nowadays however, many native outfits are only used a few times a year for special occasions due to many people moving into the city and/or the boarding schools, and designs are evolving with the new creative youth, creating new ideas and identities, which is normal and expected. But traditional sewing skills are sadly not being taught that much from early age.
Clothing is important. No store bought garment sewn by a machine can measure with an outfit that contains your ancestry and history in every stitch. Many nowadays are also lucky to have more than one ancestry and thus more wardrobe options! Many have lost their native language(s) and feel like a “poser” if they use them or sew them, perhaps scared of getting strange looks or be called names, but I will forever argue that we should wear it like our own skin, because it is a birthright of sorts.
Every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker, 50 to 90 percent of them are predicted to disappear by the next century (source for the statistic: National Geographic). For example; 35 out of 38 Uralic languages are endangered or critically endangered due to assimilation and globalisation. Many Uralics live Arctic lives and livelihood in Europe and Eurasia. Herding, fishing and hunting. Linguistics say there used to be at least (!) 31 000 languages in the human history, now we are down to around 6000, and it is declining every fortnight. This makes sewing and using our traditional dresses even more important.
Keep sewing and keep teaching children traditional skills. They will thank you down the line, I am sure of that.
Thank for reading. I will end this post with a poem by Ingrid Mollenkopf from her book ‘Between Sleeps: Uralic Poetry’:
Today, we celebrated the Sámi National Day, Feb 6th. Sámis make up 0,7% of Norway’s population, but 70% of the usage of colours 😅❤💛💙💚
I have Kven/Finnish, Norwegian and Sámi heritage, and choose to celebrate what I can while I can. Life is shockingly short. I am deeply thankful for my connection to nature and my own heart, and wish you all the best 2022 possible.
“People wearing their national dresses symbolise unity. A research conducted on this subject showed that youngsters wearing traditional clothes, irrespective of western pressure, had fewer behavioural and emotional problems. The reason being that they are in touch with their ancestral culture, religion and traditions and thus not confused about their identity or who they are.” Makes sense to me; feeling like you belong and have a community is very important. Nowadays, I think many of us feel a part of many different groups, because we live in a globalised world, and clothing can be changed, thus changing your identity. Maybe that makes our traditional and national dresses even more special? ❤
Here is the link to the study for anyone interested. It also sheds a light on the dangers of not allowing indigenous peoples to use and wear their own clothings, as we have seen happen all over the world.
December went by fast, only a week left of 2021. Today is Christmas eve, and we get to celebrate it with fresh snow, but most importantly; with our son, whose first Christmas it is. Wishing you all a peaceful and magical time, with lots of rest and good meals. Xx
A heart opening guided meditation session led by Kim Rinpoche.
If we know our hearts and our own natural state, we will also simultaneously know how to love and care. Not only for others but for ourselves and our difficult emotions. Life is so full of difficult emotions, as we know. Compassion and forgiveness is always with you, like a silent friend.
Thank you for reading and still following my blog. It is most appreciated. My posts are very sporadic, as time flies by with the new baby. Long days but short weeks. Not enough hours to get it all done, and not enough hours to just enjoy him – this new little person that runs our lives now. Motherhood is equally hard as it is wonderful. I hope to get more painting and other artsy projects into my days again.
“Practice being here until ‘now’ disappears. Dwell nowhere. Be beneficial to others, and you will lack nothing. Flash open your heart. Be a child of wonder, playing with generosity. Floating in a sea of billions of universes, whatever that is, “That” is all we are. It is as much out there, as it is in here. How amazing. Trade in all your wrongs, injustices, hurts, and fears for mercy, hope, compassion, and kindness. An open heart is the best medicine, open it a little more with every breath. Be like a little kid, running with Wonder, “What is this?” – words by Tilopa, the mahasiddha.
Photo from way back when. I used to love horses but now I must admit being a bit scared of them 😄🙈
How is your spring going?🌻 Myself, I am very busy with the new mama life. Barely time to write this post 😄🙏🏻 It’s hard, wonderful and all worth it.
Will be back with more photographies and updates soon. xx Monica
Being a mama has really opened my heart, not just for our child, but for all children. I have always loved the little new humans obviously, but being a parent takes it to another level somehow. Truly an automatic bodhicitta practice; infinite love and boundless compassion – our true nature.
Here are some beautiful motherhood art pieces I really like. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! 🥰
How has motherhood changed you? Has it opened your heart (more)?
Was so lucky to receive this traditional Sámi bracelet from my partner’s mum as a gift “for giving her the greatest gift” (our son, her grandson) 🖤
It is made from black leather, reindeer antler button and decoration, and the braids are traditional tinwire used in duodji/daidda. It is made by @tinntraadfruen on instagram if you want to see her work 💫
What was a gift you received that had a nice meaning behind it?
Excellent talk/discussion on the topic of “dark nights”. Very nice to know how to handle, especially if you are a yoga/meditation practitioner or just prone to experience them, and how to get out of it. (Trigger warning: anxiety, depression, negative mind states).
I think it’s great when spiritual teachers talk openly about these matters. Many meditators get into spiritual practice because they want answers to their discontentment with life, to get happy. And often with practice we will hit spots in our minds that makes waves into daily life, for example if you have anxiety, it can momentarily get amplified when it is uncovered with practice. So it’s good to know that the goal is not to bypass all our problems, but to face them and to “cut through” them so that our natural state gets revealed. Over and over until all karmas are erased ❤
The buddhist path was never about feeling good and calm all the time, but to unravel and reveal our true selves, our buddha nature, to understand ourself and how the mind works. 📿
It’s the last day of a very eventful January, and I am spending it curled up on our big sleeping couch with our newborn baby boy who is about 2 weeks old now, in his little baby nest and my partner who is sitting on the other end writing away on the computer. Outside, it’s already dark again. Polar night is officially over here but I have not seen the Sun yet. I am not outside so much, hardly at all as all time and energy is spent adjusting and taking care of this new amazing creation. I did however manage our first little walk with the pram!
Life is new and different and surreal as parents. Giving birth was intense and hard work, and unfortunately not how I envisioned, but nontheless a very powerful experience. A rite of passage of sorts.. At one point during delivery I felt like I connected with all other Mothers giving birth naturally, experiencing the same pain at the exact same time. When he was born, there was an incredible silence and love that I have not experienced before 🤱🏻
January is also my birthday month, and this year I celebrated at home with my little family and my friend Katharina. 29; last year in my twenties, first year as a mama! 🎉✨
Visited the beach in Sandvika twice in oct and nov before polar night; once to take the photograph and once to try and paint outdoors, but it started raining so finished it finally now in the first day of January 😁
Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 cm 🌅 Colours used: blue, yellow, orange, purple, gold and white. Varnished with waterproof UV protection spray.
“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 here 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. Sámis are indigenous to Sápmi and Northern Europe, our heritage and ancestry traces back to Ural mountains, Siberia.
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 we 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.
You know how you need to pretend to sleep in order to fall asleep? And at some point it just happens. Maybe it’s the same with other areas of life. Fake it till you make it, kind of, not in a bad way – just a dedicated one. I have noticed at least that the same applies to yoga and meditation sometimes. If I feel stressed, anxious and restless, I force myself to do the practice anyway. And at some level it still does its magic, of that I am 100% sure. In between the sleepless thoughts and rough emotions – they become like clouds in the pastel coloured sky.
Wishing all a lovely calm Polar night, and remember that it’s in darkness you shine the brightest 🌌✨🎆
Come see my little exhibition of 13 paintings at Magic Ice Tromsø ❄ Most paintings are for sale 🙏🏻 They also have the cosiest tiny coffee place there, an impressive ice sculpture gallery by Lithuanian artists and a cocktail bar – all ice, even the glasses ☃️🥂🌌
“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.”
Some other Uralic/Finno-ugric peoples with roots from Ural mountains, Siberia are the Nenets (previously called the Samoyeds), the Khanty, the Mansi, the Selkup and the Mari people. We also have very similar traditional costumes and of course traditionally being nomadic, following the reindeers, and sharing same langauge family. Maybe I will write a post on our traditional dresses.
These findings also makes sense with my own FamilyTreeDNA results, although commercial DNA test kits are not super accurate:
Some things I truly believe are yours to keep, that no one can take from you:
Your spiritual practice. In my case, it is vajrayana buddhism. It has saved my life in many ways – both in dealing with chronic illness, but also the normal existential stuff like finding purpose and joy 🙂🙏🏼📿
Your ambitions and dreams (if they come from a place of pure motivation and love). In my case now, it has been starting a little family with children 💜🤱
Your ethnicity and ancestry, no matter how lost or scattered it is in this modern world. In my case from my personal experience, I feel very connected to my home in the Arctic and being uralic/finno-ugric. I didn’t as a kid and teenager, at all, but now as I am older, I feel like I can “own” it more. I don’t speak any of the uralic languages, and feel a sadness about this. A disconnection from my own culture. And a feeling of not belonging to a community, when they can’t speak to me. I hope my son will not feel as disconnected. But I have found other ways to express this – primarily through art and duodji. Not all languages are of verbal nature, but are equally important, I think. 🎨
Your creativity. Not necessarily arts, but anything you find a solution to that involves stepping out of the habitual intellectual mind and into a state of spontaneity and flow.🌊
Your struggles. This sounds negative, but for me I mean that my struggles are valid. I have a body that has its big share of physical problems, and I don’t mean to whine. At all! 🙂 Just to express that this is my reality, and that chronic (perhaps invisible to others) illness can happen to anyone, any time in life.💙
Your love. This one sounds cheesy but I think we all can feel love and that we have love as a basic human need. To receive it and give it. And we all have different ways of showing it. I like giving gifts for example.. but am not so good verbally expressing how I feel. I like receiving kind loving deeds, but not to be smothered. So understanding how we show it differently is important too. I also believe that as humans we have the capacity to love many at the same time. Whether it is friends or partners, plural. Romantic, familial or platonic.❤