The Lapps

The Lapp, or Sami, people have inhabited Swedish Lapland since ancient times. Their area of settlement, known as "Sapmi," extends over the entire Scandinavian Arctic region and stretches along the mountain districts on both sides of the Swedish-Norwegian border down to the northernmost part of Dalarna. Approximately 15,000 to 17,000 Lapps live in Sweden alone.

Many Lapps maintain links to their ancient culture, whereas others have completely assimilated. Some 2,500 still lead the nomadic life of their ancestors, herding reindeer and wearing traditional multicolored dress.

The language of the Lapps belongs to the Finno-Ugric group. Approximately 75% of Lapps speak northern Sami, and a large part of their literature has been published in that language. (One of the classic works of Lapp literature is Johan Turi's Tale of the Lapps, first published in 1910.) As with all Arctic societies, oral storytelling has also played a prominent role in Lapp culture. Among Lapps, this oral tradition takes the form of yoiking, a type of singing. Scandinavian governments tried to suppress yoiking in the past, but it is now enjoying a renaissance.

Handicrafts are important in the Lapp economy. Several craft designers have developed new forms of decorative art, producing a revival in Lapp handicraft tradition.


Many members of the Sami community feel that the term Lapp has negative connotations; as a result, it's gradually being replaced by the indigenous minority's own name for itself, Sábme, or with other dialect variations. Sami seems to be the most favored English translation of Lapp, and the word is used increasingly.

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