Saturday, February 6 is Sámi National Day. Though, to be honest, it should be Sámi International Day because the Sámi people and their homeland, Sápmi, stretch across Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia. You may know the area as Lapland, famous for Santa’s workshop. It is so much more than that. Geeks certainly have more in common with the Sámi than that.
Traditionally, the Sámi were big fans of board games and card games, such as Sáhkku. And if you are a fan of the fantasy genre, you have been touched by Sámi culture. A big part of Sámi belief includes the idea of all-natural objects (including rocks, water, and animals) possessing a soul. One more commonality: the Sámi have been actively discriminated against for many, many years. Sámi National Day only started as recently as 1992, despite the first Sámi congress in 1917 and their history dating back to 1600 BCE. While geeks have definitely not been discriminated against for being “geeks” to the same extent as the Sámi people for their cultural identity, we do know how important it is to speak up and support the underdog. So let’s celebrate this amazing culture with a bit of Make/Play/Watch/Read.
Make: Reindeer Masks
This is a short one because GeekMom Ruth has already done the awesome work for me: Reindeer Masks.
The Sámi People are connected to reindeer in the Arctic Circle. Their best known, albeit not sole, livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding. About 10% of the known Sámi population is involved in reindeer herding and some regions have legally reserved this for only Sámi people in recognition of the historical, cultural, and economical significance to them.
To celebrate Sámi National Day, why not have the kids herd reindeer? Okay, so maybe not the real wild creatures outside (unless you live in a cold arctic area). There are plenty of ideas available on the internet to make your own reindeer antlers from cardboard. You may even have some stuff left over from the holidays. No matter what you do, have a bit of fun playing chase or hide-n-seek the reindeer.
Bonus points go to GeekMom Ruth who has shared her details for making a Rudolph Face Mask with a flashing nose. Not only is the mask perfect in both cuteness and modern appropriateness during a global pandemic, but it also has the bonus geek feature of a flashy red nose. You can find all of the details in her article here.
Play: Sámi Jam on Itch.io
I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, I’m already playing Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.” Bad news for you, gamer geeks. AC: Valhalla has nothing to do with the Sámi people and their culture. The Vikings are unrelated to the Sámi people, keeping mostly to the water and ports while the Sámi traveled with reindeer inland. You can continue playing AC: Valhalla, but for Sámi National Day, let’s look at some more appropriate examples.
I mentioned earlier how the Sámi loved board games, but unfortunately, due to the oppression and attempts to eliminate the Sámi culture, there are only three board games to survive with the rules intact: Sáhkku, Tablut, and Dablot Prejjesne. Alas, I have neither played nor seen these games in person and would love to hear from anyone who has. (Leave us a comment below.)
At the other end of my desk is Sámi Game Jam, an event in 2018 with local jammers, participants, developers, and students. The idea was to create a platform for the creation of indigenous game development and education within the Sámi culture. The results were amazing, in both community interaction and developing six games in a 48-hour period, all available on itch.io for you to check out. Some of the games require VR or other specific hardware; I have not been able to try all of them and would love to know what you think. I can note, Mu Luodda has a beautiful narrative about Sámi life and I love the look of Rievssat. It gives me the same vibe as Feather, in both art and atmosphere. (I mentioned Feather in a previous article.)
Watch: Frozen 2
This is an easy one. Frozen 2 came out in 2019 and was as big a hit as its predecessor. For a brief rundown and notice for parents, check out GeekDad Matt and his article “7 Things Parents Need to Know About ‘Frozen 2.’”
One element of the movie which received a lot of praise was the depiction of indigenous people in the movie and the story acknowledging the abuse and displacement of Sámi people in Norway. Disney studios reportedly worked with the Sámi people to ensure everything in the movie was accurate and considerate to their cultural identity. Not only is the movie super popular with audiences everywhere but the inclusion of the Sámi people as Northuldra people is really obvious through their connection with the elemental spirits (along with many other features). If Saturday is your pizza-and-movie night, Frozen 2 would be a great choice for Sámi National Day.
Read: Hilda by Luke Pearson
My best (and favorite) suggestion for reading about the Sámi is the Hilda comic-book series from Luke Pearson. The comic books have become a TV series on Netflix, but I prefer the absolutely gorgeous quality in the printed books. It is pure pleasure to feel the texture of the pages and the sturdy cover. The colors just warm your soul as they blend with each illustrated cell—the ever-so-slightly muted colors of fall. Mostly terracotta reds and muted sea-green-blue. It is simply lovely.
Now the story: Hilda is a young girl who lives with her mother. They have recently moved from the enchanted forests and fjords to live in the city of Trolberg. The move has not stifled her imagination, nor her connection with the magical world around her. It is very similar to the belief system of the Sámi: Hilda sees every natural object as having a soul. It’s not just the animals—the rocks, sticks, everything. She even has a connection with her pet deer fox, Twig (half reindeer, half fox).
Hilda’s core story arc relates to her move to the big city. It doesn’t start off very well, but it does encourage sweet growth in the relationship with her mother. As Hilda learns new ways to explore the city and maintain her connection with the land, she slowly opens herself to friendships and opportunities. Hilda learns to bring the best from both worlds together. I don’t know how much of it was intended, but I have heard this whole story resonates with displaced Sámi in Norway.
Sámi National Day is not only a celebration. It is also a day to remember the hardship experienced by the Sámi to reach this point. It is important to acknowledge the trauma of the past to be able to move forward into the future—for the Sámi and many indigenous communities around the world. Those privileged enough to be in the majority of their community do not lose anything by acknowledging the contributions and heritage of minorities, especially those with such an amazing history of the land we now live on. Instead, we can have an opportunity to learn from and become better.
For the Sámi people, it is important to recognize their cultural heritage and identity. February 6 is a great day to see them and let them know they have been seen.