The Sami are Europe’s only Indigenous Peoples. The official number of inhabitants of Sami in Sweden has for a long time been estimated to be about 20,000; however new research is pointing towards a number closer to 70,000. Although most of the Sami live in cities, there are still about 4,600 reindeer herders and about 260,000 reindeers, with reindeer husbandry representing an important and culturally significant livelihood.
Geographically, the Sápmi (the land of Sami) is located in the northern parts of Scandinavia and parts of Russia. The land of Sápmi follows the natural behavior and grazing land of the reindeers. However, the governments in respective countries and Sami do not fully agree on borders of reindeer pastureland.
The Sami speak dialects of the indigenous Sami language and their culture has been shaped by the extreme cold and isolation. Here, winter lasts 200 days a year, during which temperatures sometimes dip below –30°C.
Slow Food Sápmi
Founded in 2009, Slow Food Sápmi works in Sami areas in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. Together with other Sami organizations we implement local projects to support Sami producers and encourage restaurants and consumers to use organic, traditional and local Sami products.
The Slow Food philosophy of good, clean and fair works well with Sami and Indigenous Peoples’ values, in which the clean nature is a prerequisite for a healthy life. We work with a holistic perspective, where culture, a clean environment, traditional knowledge, entrepreneurship and food sovereignty are our key concepts.
The Sami have in fact collaborated with Slow Food International since 2003 with the development of the Reindeer Suovas Presidium (the cold-smoked reindeer meat), which became known worldwide as a traditionally produced product that is both tasty and nutritious. At Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre 2014, we presented our next Presidia product, Gurpi, (traditionally made sausage), currently listed on the Ark of Taste, and there are more traditional products from Sápmi to come.
Development of Sami food provides a feeling of closeness to nature and to each other. With good food comes good friends. Sami food reminds us that we are different, but also very similar. We are part of a context that has given us our identity. Food is what grounds us, but also what shows us the enriching diversity that exists among the people in the world.
Future and Food Sovereignty
Food sovereignty is the right of self-determination for people to support themselves through production that develops their own culture and economy. Food is part of society, family, health, language, culture, spirituality and wellness. In a Sami context, it means that Sami food producers must have increased control over the entire food chain and the national policy of natural assets. Gastronomy and culture create new systems and provide attractive food regions to visit. Everyone can contribute to food sovereignty – by working for better laws and structures, or by choosing locally. If we are successful, we all get a cleaner, better and fairer world.
Slow Food Sápmi is now looking forward to attending Indigenous Terra Madre in India this November 2015 where we will share our traditional knowledge needed to face our future among our friends.
Taste of Sápmi is our own book that was released in 2014 and it had a significant impact. The book has so far won two literary prices, which has given our Sami cuisine attention in the media. In June 2015 our historical food book represented Sweden in the category “Best Historical Recips Books” at “Gourmand Best in the World” in Yantai, China.
This article was kindly provided and written by Anneli Jonsson, coordinator of Slow Food Sapmi