Celebrate Sámi National Day on Wed, Feb. 6th at PLU

On February 6th, Sámi National Day, or Sámi People’s Day (Sámi Álbmotbeaivi), is celebrated throughout Sápmi, the land of the Indigenous Sámi in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The celebration commemorates the first international, pan-Sámi organizational meeting held in Trondheim in 1917, marking the beginning of the Sámi rights movement. Sámi Álbmotbeaivi has been celebrated since 1993. This year, on its 20th anniversary, Pacific Lutheran University and the Scandinavian Cultural Center will celebrate the day for the first time.

Events are free and open to the public. Several members of our Pacific Sámi Searvi will attend and lead the singing of the Sámi national anthem. Please join us! (Get directions.)


  • 2:30 pm Refreshments and a brief talk by Professor Troy Storfjell
  • 2:40 pm Singing of the Sámi anthem (new English version!)
  • 3 pm The one-hour documentary Herdswoman (in Swedish and Sámi with English subtitles). 
  • 4 pm Panel-led discussion of the film
  • 7 pm Sámi Professor Harald Gaski will present this year’s Bjug Harstad Memorial Lecture, titled “Celebrating the Return of the Sun and the Recognition of a People: The Sami National Day in the Context of Myth and Poetics.” Gaski will explain why the Sámi consider themselves the descendents of the sun, and provide some background for the selection of February 6 for the Sámi National Day. He will also show how myths have played an important role in the work of Sámi multi-media artist Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, setting his work in an international Indigenous context. (Harald Gaski is Associate Professor of Sámi Literature at the University of Tromsø in Norway, and an internationally well-known expert on Sámi literature and culture, and a leading researcher in the emerging field of indigenous methodologies.)

Lapland, From Icy Plunge to Blazing Sky

Check out this love letter to Sapmi in the New York Times. The story is in the travel section so I didn’t have high expectations, but it would have been nice to read more than one sentence about the Sámi: Early excavations suggest that this part of Lapland was inhabited as long as 11,300 years ago by the native ancestors of the Sami indigenous people, who still herd reindeer and eke out a living in the northernmost parts of Finland.”

We entered the hut, which had one changing room with a wood fireplace, and a larger sauna room. Then we set about roasting ourselves, ice-hole bathing, roasting and snow-angel-making in a cycle of extreme temperature change that Finns, and some controlled studies, say is good for the health.

Sitting in a bar that night, one of the men in our group remarked, “This whole country is about being either too hot or too cold.”

The next night, whole swaths of the sky danced with brilliant greens, purples and reds. Inside the curving, billowing, twisting streaks, the action was psychedelic. Tiny ripples, hundreds in parallel, danced like the light of a plasma lamp but with more variations of color and movement. What was green one second flashed to red, translucent and miles long. A streak that ran from horizon to horizon might phase out, then reappear at another location, or bend into the shape of an oxbow and spring back.

Finnish legend says that the lights are formed by a giant arctic fox running so quickly its tail sends plumes of snow from the fells, glittering across the night sky. It’s an unbelievable explanation for an unbelievable phenomenon that somehow smacks of truth

Finnish legend or Sámi legend? The Finnish word for the lights, revontulet, means foxfire, and is said here to come from a Sámi myth.