Uula Morottaja and T.I. Itkonen at a house at Talvitupalompolo. Photographer Frans Äimä. Siida, Matti Valle's archives.



On June 21, 1947, a son was born to Helsinki-born goldsmith Lars Sammallahti and office employee Maire Sammallahti (formerly Halén), who was baptized his father’s namesake. Pekka Lars Kalervo Sammallahti went to primary school one year only after which he studied for ten years at the Helsinki Finnish Coeducational School. It was such a good school that he was able to graduate with six superior degrees in 1965 which was the best accomplishment at that time. Pekka still greatly appreciates that school to this day.

He then began studies at the University of Helsinki from which he received the Master of Arts degree in 1971, Licentiate in Philosophy in1975 and wrote his doctoral thesis in 1977, but he did not receive his doctoral nomination until 2002 when he was conferrer of degrees for an Oulu professorship conferral association. It was then that he was himself conferred the title, after which he could then confer degrees to others. His mother was delighted over the event because her oldest child at last received his doctorate, to be a professor for a quarter of a century.

He served as assistant at the University of Helsinki 1968-1971, as researcher at the same university 1972-1977, Assistant Professor at the University of Oulu 1977-1982 and currently Professor of the Sámi Language and Sámi Culture from 1982 on. In addition, he has served as second Professor at the Sámi College in Kautokeino 1989-1996 and at the University of Troms from 1993 to this day. As well as in many different official positions, he has worked as a member of the Board of the Research Institute for the Finnish Language1985-1997 after which he has been chairman of the Board from 1997. He was awarded the national literary award already in 1977 and the national scientific publication award the next year.

Pekka Sammallahti came to Lapland the first time with his father and sister in 1958 when they visited Inari and Utsjoki. He was then 11 years old and already could speak a few words of North Sámi. A few years later in the summers of 1960 and 1961, he was near Vuotso in Siikaselkä at Siika-Uula’s place as well as working with reindeer with his family at Saariselkä and other places. He then learned North Sámi a bit better mostly from Uula, and after that he has been here every summer in Lapland. In the summers of 1962-1963 he was hired by Oula Näkkäläjärvi to do geodetic surveying work in Kittilä, Sodankylä, Savukoski and Salla. It was then that he really learned to speak North Sámi well. Oula Näkkäläjärvi and Heijan-Antti were his teachers.

He had heard Inari Sámi as early as 1958 on the shores of Muddusjärvi, but did not begin to understand it at all until 1965 when Karhu-Sammeli’s Matti (Matti Morottaja) helped him on his way. They intended to write a course in Inari Sámi, but they only completed five lessons and those papers were evidently lost. In 1965 he collected place names from the northwestern arm of Lapland nearly the whole summer, then in the directions of Nunnanen and Lisma in 1966. He was in Lisma a week or two. It was then cloudberry season and he spent some of his time picking with various people. He began to work more with the Inari Sámi language in 1982 when he became Professor of the Sámi language and Sámi culture at the University of Oulu. In the same year he held, together with Karhu-Sammeli’s Matti, an Inari Sámi course in Ivalo which was attended by over ten participants. That course created a good basis for writing the language even today and many wrote it then for the first time as their mother tongue.

Sammal-Pekka, who we now know so well, speaks Inari Sámi whenever he gets the chance and is always eager to help in the development of the language. He considers Inari Sámi to be so complicated that one often has to ponder how to inflect correctly this word or that. Sammal-Pekka believes that the complicated nature of Inari Sámi is a good cure against dementia because the brain has to work in order to talk.

Pekka Sammallahti now lives on the shore of Tana River at Vetsikko. His list of literary achievements is very long: 104 different publications, of which those pertaining to the Inari Sámi language are Säämi-suoma-säämi škovlasänikirje, which he produced with Matti Morottaja in 1983.
Säämi-suomâ sänikirje, which he produced with Matti Morottaja in 1993.

He spends his free time wandering in nature hunting and fishing.

Kove: Inga Guttorm

Professor Pekka Sammallahti on a hiking trip.










Back to Top


  © 2006 Sámi musea Siida & Anarâškielâ servi siida@samimuseum.fi