Båatsoe – Living with reindeers

Gamme i Saanti Sijte

I have visited the reindeer herders in Norway for years, trying to document some of their uniqe traditions and way of life. The Sámi people of Northern Scandinavia are the only remaining indigenous people of Europe. There are other minorities in Europe, and the ethnic groups inhabiting the European countries are considered to be indigenous to Europe, including the majority populations. But in Europe only the Sámi is internationally recognised as indigenous.

This year I am having three exhibitions with pictures from my work the last 10-15 years. That is, my pictures are from the tiny minority within the minority; the South Sámi. They are few, maybe only around 2000 persons, living in central part of Norway and Sweden. And they are trying to preserve their traditional way of life and their land rights in an environment often not so interested.

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The Sámi is one nation, Sápmi, living in four countries; in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. There are is no exact population estimates, but they are few. There are between 40,000 and 60,000 Saami in Norway; up to 20,000 in Sweden; around 8,000 in Finland; and 2000 on the Kola Peninsula, Russia. They encompass different language groups, and the South Sámi language is among the severly endangered languages according to Unesco, spoken by only a few hundred people.

2017 is a great year for the Sámi people. It is 100 years since they started their political work for rights and a community across borders. It happened in my home town, Trondheim (Tråante, in the South Sámi language) were on 6th February 1917 Sámi from all over Sápmi met to agree on a way forward. Since 1993, 6th Februar have been the Sámi National Day. And this year it will be like a big festival all week in Trondheim, Tråante2017, with music, theatre, lectures, and reindeer food all over town, and with my exhibition as one small part of it. Later on there will be celebrations all over Sápmi.

My impression is that people in other countries and tourists are generally more interested in the Sámi people than Norwegians. As some researchers write in an Australian paper: “Despite gains, Europe’s indigenous people still struggle for recognition.” I have a feeling that lack of interest will change this year. At least I hope so.

My first of the three exhibitions is in a cáfe cooperating with a gallery, which is exactly what I like. The more people, the better. There are more pictures of the Sámi reindeer herders in my galleries, on this link.

I am very lucky and got a grant from the Fritt Ord Foundation, an organization to promote freedom of expression. Not only on my behalf, even if that meant I could spend time preparing the exhibitions. But because they saw that this unique group of people deserves some more attention. On the 9th February there will be a meeting at the exhibition where some of the reindeer leaders will tell about their way of life, both the joys and challenges.

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50 thoughts on “Båatsoe – Living with reindeers

  1. wow! I relate, resonate deeply with the Sami people; the first time I ever read about them I cried with tears of recognition…
    not sure why!
    thank you so much for the wonderful work you are doing Bente!

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  2. I think I remember some of your photos on the wall was in your blog. Good work !
    Are those Sami people related to any other ethnic geoup or are they totally unique isolated group ?
    (from the study of Gene kind — you know, all the europians said to be originated from 7 persons
    came from north Africa.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations Bente, wishing you a lot of succes with your excellent work. Your photos are beautiful as Always, I like the little house on the first photo so much, it looks like a Hobbit house, and also the Sami people.

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  4. I first learned about the Sámi people when an article on them was published on National Geographic quite a few years ago. Their way of life really captivated me, and made me wish someday to have the chance to meet them. This post of yours is a nice reminder of that, and congratulations for the exhibition, Bente!

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    1. Thank you Bama, and maybe one day you’ll put on warm clothes and travel for a visit. And I might travel the other way, since you are also making your part of the world very captivating.

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  5. In the eighties (1986 I believe) I spoke with the then prince Harold in The Hague (Netherlands) and I recall that he mentioned to me the Sámi people and told me about their traditions. Unfortunately I never got the time on my working trip to Norway the month after but except for fish farms and offshore activities I do remember to have withdrawn some cash from the world’s first ATM in a small town a bit North of Oslo. Thanks for this document and I see that you use the same (or virtually the same) frames as I do for my photographs.

    Greetings from Napier in South Africa,

    Herman van Bon

    P.S. If by any chance you visit Arendal bring my personal greetings to Asbjorn and Bente Anderson (they are well known over there) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The setting for your photos seems somehow perfect. They belong with people in a way more intimate than a gallery. They’re beautiful, and I’m so pleased for you that such an exhibition has come to fruition.

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  7. I have seen and appreciated many of your reindeer and cultural photos over the past few years on your blog. It’s wonderful to see them gathered in an exhibition for such a good cause. I hope it helps this small culture keep its identity, language and land.

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  8. Congratulations for Your work in bringing culture and Identity to light…Very informative and richly educational…Please continue Your good work !!!

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  9. Hi Bente,
    I read your pets post and I am looking for a Gordon setter breeder. We moved to Oslo last year and are looking into getting a dog. Every time we are on a hike or cross country skiing I see the Gordon setter and I just feel this is the type of breed for us. Could you maybe help me find a breeder in the bærum area?

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