The main Sami museum is located in Karasjok which is actually the cultural center of the Sami peoples of Norway. It may have a smaller Sami population than what you will find in Kautokeino but the city is the cultural heart of the Sami people with the Sami parliament of Norway and the Sami national library in addition to this museum of Sami culture.
It turns out this area of northern Norway is actually the central area for the Sami people in the world. There is also significant Sami populations in Finland and Sweden plus minor Sami populations in Russia, Ukraine and USA – but more than half of the total Sami population is located in Norway with the majority in the northern area. The most common of the Sami languages is the Northern Sami language which has around 25,000 native speakers and is found in and around Karasjok in Norway.
So it is only natural the major museum of the culture is right here in Karasjok and we went in to see it. I think it is clearly one of the best Sami museums you can go to only rival by a couple of similar museums in Finland and Sweden.
The museum has both an indoor section and an outdoor museum with ancient Sami buildings. If you go inside you will need to buy a ticket – in principle you need to buy a ticket for the outdoor museum as well but it didn’t seem like anybody controlled the tickets for the outdoor section. We do the honest thing and purchase tickets before we go inside the museum and later to the outdoors section
The museum has a section with different items from the Sami life including the traditional clothing you find in such ethnological collections. There are also traditional items on display like the ancient sledges which used to be pulled by reindeer before the arrival of the snowmobile in later years. There is also a little canoe used to cross rivers in the area and possibly fishing. The museum has these ancient items on display but also a bit of the history of the Sami people indicating where they lived in different parts of the country. There is a display of how many speaks the different Sami languages and it shows only a few people speak most of the ten different languages – the only one with a significant native speaking population is the North Sami language spoken around Karasjok.
After having looked at the inside we go out and look at the old buildings at the outdoor museum. The outdoor museum has a mix of old Sami lodging in the form of turf buildings and tents. In addition to these Sami buildings there are more traditional wooden buildings which were made by the Norwegian settlers. There is an old mountain lodge where you can see how the travelers stayed when moving around in the far north. There is also a price list in Norwegian with the prices which depends on whether or not you want a bed or just want to stay in the main room for a night.
It is fun to walk around the different old houses in the nice sunny weather. We enjoy the old houses in the area.