Relationship with Nature

In the Sámi world-view, humans are part of nature. For them, nature is a source of strength and health. Therefore, the Sámi try to have a good relationship with nature and its forces. If the connection with nature is weakened, people will lose their strength. In the Sámi heritage, nature’s riches were to be used according to certain customs and rules. You could only take what you needed from nature; excessive utilization was to be avoided. According to the old custom, you even had to ask for permission to use the riches of nature.

Even today, many Sámi follow these rules. However, not everyone has enough knowledge or time to follow the signs of the moon, for example, because people’s lives can be tied to the clock and fixed working hours. The cycle of the moon has an impact on plants; the moon tells when it is the best time to gather timber. Firewood should be felled when the moon is waxing; the same applies to cutting one’s hair, shearing the sheep and slaughtering animals. Earlier, people burnt much more wood than today, but there was always enough wood in the forest, as people knew which trees to fell. Taking the firewood at the right time will guarantee that the trees will go on growing and the quality of wood will be as good as possible. Great quantities of branches are needed when snaring willow grouse, so the hunting grounds should be kept forested.


Sámi hut is called goahti

Timber can also be used for other purposes than just as handicraft material or firewood. The bark can be made into dyes, tans and medicines. Trees are people’s friends and providers of protection. They have their own micro and macro climates, scents and colours. All in all, trees are part of the environment and landscape: they make the scenery bright green in summer and white with frost in winter.
This applies to other plants, too: all things are connected, and no living thing can be an absolute ruler.

To quote the words of Áillohaš, or Nils-Aslak Valkeapää:

“The sun
the world’s father
The earth
spring’s daughter
the horizon’s gold flower
the holy grass
I converse with the earth
and hear the creeks answer
their voices the sounds of silver
I converse with the earth
beyond time

The sun,
my father
The earth,
my mother”

The Sun My Father (Beaivi, Áhčážan, 1992, DAT; käännös Pekka Sammallahti)