In this vast area without borders, the Sami moved along the river systems and valleys, hunting, fishing, following the reindeer which are migratory animals.
The Sami people are probably not only the indigenous people of Scandinavia. Modern genetic and archaeological research indicates that today's Sami are even the last remnants of the indigenous people of Europe; the oldest people group still alive, with a unique combination of genes, descending from the hunters and gatherers who followed the melting ice to Scandinavia. From a life in the Scandinavian coastal regions and in the taiga forests, the Sami were pushed to the mountain areas by germanic and finno-ugric tribes.
During the 20th century Scandinavian researchers often claimed that the Sami is a people group that came into Scandinavia from the north and the east in late medieval times. The research on the origin of the Sami was in many cases a way to conceal that the Sami were the indigenous people of the lands. The ruling majority wanted to prove their own supremacy and legalize the colonization of Sami lands. Even today there are voices questioning if "the Sami were really first?" But the UN definition of an indigenous people does not pay attention to that.
An indigenous people:
● descend from the pre-colonial/pre-invasion inhabitants of the actual region
● maintain a close tie to the lands in both their cultural and economic practices
● suffer from economic and political marginalization as a minority group
● is considered indigenous if it defines itself that way
Important places in Sápmi are:
- Lujávri/Lovozero: Center for the Sami of Russia.
- Enare/Anár: Here you can find the Cultural Centre Sájos and the Finnish Sami Parliament.
- Karasjok/Káráśjohka: Here you can find the Norwegian Sami Parliament and the NRK Sámi Radio.
- Kautokeino/Guovdageaidnu: There are several Sami institutions here, for example Diehtosiida with the Sami University/Sámi Allaskuvla, the Nordic Sami Institute, the Indigenous Peoples' Centre Gáldu and an office for the Sami parliament. The national Sami theatre Beaivváš has a building here. The Easter festival always attracts a lot of people to Kautokeino.
- Kiruna/Giron: Here you will find the main office for the Swedish Sami Parliament, the Giron Sámi Theatre, SR Sámi Radio och Swedish Television Sápmi.
- Jokkmokk/Jåhkåmåhkke: Here there is an office for the Sami parliament, a Sami Education Centre for adults and a museum called Ájtte - Swedish Mountain- and Sami Museum. The Jokkmokk Winter market always attracts a lot of people in February.
- Östersund/Staare: The Southern Sami Culture and Information Centre Gaaltije, is situated here, as well as an office for the Swedish Sami Parliament and the Sami Information Centre.
- Umeå/Ubmeje: In Umeå there is an annual Sami week in March and Trahppie, a Sami café and cultural meeting point.