The Sami have never created a state system, but nevertheless they had a well-organized society, with the siida as the fundamental unit. A siida was an area along a river, a lake or a fjord. Up to twelve families shared each siida, where they had different living places for each season. A siida council decided how the resources should be harvested through the year. This was a very democratic system which at it’s core meant that it didn’t threaten its resource base but worked with it.
When the Sami people arrived on the Kola peninsula some 5,000 years ago they began to harvest the riches of this region. Then about 800 years ago this began to change as other people groups migrated here and began to exploit these same riches. The Sami people since this time have suffered at the hands of many oppressors including the powers of the former soviet union. Even the fall of the USSR hasn’t stopped the onslaught against their culture and way of life. The Sami people’s traditional way of life has been under assault for decades as they have been gradually forced off arctic Russia’s fertile tundra grazing-land and into artificially created towns.
But unlike other cultures that have succumbed to the pressure of modern society the Sami have made a braver choice. The indigenous Sami people who live in four countries, which had never before gathered together joined in a common church meeting in Jokkmokk, Sweden in 2004.
The meetings showed a growing self-esteem among Christian Samis. A long history of political, cultural and religious oppression still leaves many of the northern European indigenous people in a vulnerable and solitary situation relative to the majority societies.
In the past Samis had no place to go with their troubled feeling regarding their identity and their church, they were able to find this at the Sami Church Days which gave an opening to talk about things they never earlier had talked about. This was perhaps the most important that happened in the first event in Jokkmokk.
The conclusion of the tenth annul event took place this last summer. Some of the highlights were: South Sami priest Bierna Bientie is, together with the Bible Society in Norway, working on translating the Bible into South Sami. So far only the Gospel of Mark has been available in South Sami, but during the Sami Church Days there was a launch of a little book with text from Genesis, The Psalms and the Gospel of John. The little book is called Jupmele sjugnede, God creates.