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Finnmark 2007 Diary » Blog Archive » Passing thoughts on Sámi women

Passing thoughts on Sámi women


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It seems to me (Euan) that it is the Sámi women in Finnmark who tend to be more cultivated and are often better educated than their spouses - at least those in the middle-aged range. This would seem to be the case among the Sámi families we have encountered along our route, into whose homes we have been invited and whose hospitality we have enjoyed. Dr Dess tells me that this is certainly the case among Sámis on the Kola Peninsula.

The man sees his responsibility as being primarily towards his herd, his reindeer being his wealth and status (indeed it is considered very discourteous to ask a herder how many head of reindeer he owns; it would be like asking a banker what his salary is!). He is happy to take up the rigorous demands of a job that has been handed down by generations of forebears, while relinquishing the education of his children, freedom to consider working alternatives, and cultural considerations to his wife. An example of this would be Laila Smuk, whom we first met in Kirkenes, and later in her and herder-husband Ragnar’s home in Varangerbotn. Originally from Lillehammer, she is presently the headmistress of the local school, and as a young woman had always felt the lure of the North and took her first teaching job in Finnmark. The mother of two children, she spoke warmly and wisely about them and the children she teaches (whom she was about to take to the Sámi Museum that morning) and feels they are very fortunate to be growing up in communities where they are free of the pressures experienced in most of the rest of Europe: principally the privilege of growing up in an environment that is so far unpolluted, and in which they are taught to live and to feel at home.

I spoke to Laila for half an hour or so while Adam and Dr Dess were feeding reindeer questions to Ragnar, her husband, and felt an immediate affinity with her and with her clear, positive and well informed vision of how life should be lived in an isolated part of the world. May all her dreams for her children be fulfilled!

2 Responses to “Passing thoughts on Sámi women”

  1. Prish Hawkes Says:

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    I am finding the diary facinating and will continue to log on to see how the expedition progresses over the next few weeks.

  2. Tim Heald Says:

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    Bumped in to Jane and your other team, Euan, at the Old Vic (The Entertainer) and later at Tas the Turkish restaurant in the Cut. It all seemed a long way from your Arctic adventure which I’m loving. Fascinated by this morning’s posts on the academic and other qualifications of men and women in the far north. We have minus zero temperatures here too. Keep posting away. It’s fascinating and very envy-making!

    All best,

    Tim

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