Knife (226/365)

by Lee Santiva August. 14, 2019 175 views
Handmade Sami hunting knife

Handmade Sami hunting knife

This knife has special significance to me.

In the mid-1980's I visited some distant relatives who lived in the northernmost part of Sweden called Lappland, which is in the Arctic Circle. At the end of my visit, they gave me this priceless present of a handmade Sámi hunting knife.

Handmade Sámi knife in sheath

Handmade Sámi knife in sheath

The knife was handmade by a Sámi, whom they knew very well and they had been using for years everytime for fishing.

The Sámi are an indigenous people of reindeer herders with a population of roughly 80,000. They live throughout the Arctic and subarctic regions of Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland) as well as on the Russian Kola Peninsula – a land area collectively known as Sápmi.

The shaft of the knife and part of the sheath are made from reindeer bone, usually the antler.

The shaft of the knife and part of the sheath are made from reindeer bone, usually the antler.

The wood from the birch tree, the leather from the reindeer hide and the bones from the antlers are the main components of the Sami hunting knife in addition to the steel for the blade. At the end of this blog there's a link to a blogpost describing how such knives are made.

Sami symbols carved into the reindeer bone

Sami symbols carved into the reindeer bone

There are roughly 20,000 Sámi living in Sweden. There are about 4000 Sámi who live in the 100,000 square kilometer region around Jokkmokk Sweden which is where my relatives had lived.

The Sámi take their reindeer to spend the summer in the mountains and descend to the forests in the autumn. The forests are now being harvested industrially which is threatening the habitat for their reindeer herds.

Knife blade of forged steel

Knife blade of forged steel

However, an even bigger threat to their nomadic existence is the climate change. It is not so much the global warming that is the problem, as much as the consequences of the instability of the temperature in winter. The snow melts and then freezes creating a layer of ice and the reindeer can no longer dig for food.*

When reindeer can no longer feed themselves, the Sami herders are forced to buy bags of lichen, hay or dry food pellets (which are expensive and not always tolerated by the animals). Sometimes they gather lichen in areas where the reindeer cannot go, such as around an airport, for example.*

Handmade Sami hunting knife and sheath

Handmade Sami hunting knife and sheath

To survive, the Sami also work as tourist guides or sell their traditional foods made from reindeer meat as well as their handicrafts such as clothing and knives on the Internet. Others have given up their traditional life and moved south.

*Sources:

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Russell Smith 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Beautiful knife and the history is quite interesting.

7 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Very beautiful knife and interesting read.

7 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Lynn F Medley 7 months, 3 weeks ago

A beautiful gift,, and interesting narrative on the Sami people,,

7 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Lee Santiva Replied to Lynn F Medley 7 months, 1 week ago

Thanks Lynn, you wouldn't think that after 1000s of years of civilization, that Europe would still have indigenous people

7 months, 1 week ago Edited
Berckmans Peter 7 months, 3 weeks ago

A very precious gift. Very well presented here. Many of these cultures have it hard to survive. I hope they do. Nice post

7 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Lee Santiva Replied to Berckmans Peter 7 months, 1 week ago

Thank you very much Peter. Indeed, its difficult for indigenous people all over the world to survive with their traditions but as the Unesco article states: they must adapt to survive even if it means a reindeer herder is using the Internet...

7 months, 1 week ago Edited
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