Inari, Finland

The Guardians of Boreal Europe

Altar of Pielpajarvi
Austere altar of the Lutheran Church of Pielpajarvi, one of the temples of the new faith of the Sami people.
Sami woman
Armi Palonoja next to his restaurant-house, located north of Saariselka, where he welcomes visitors for reindeer rides guided by his son-in-law Maksim.
Inari frozen lake
View of Lake Inari from the top of the island of Ukonsaari.
Mrs Sami
Armi Palonoja leans on the porch railing of his restaurant-house, dressed in traditional Sami clothing and jewelry.
Virsi Kirja
Bible placed next to the altar of the Lutheran church of Pielpajarvi.
Red Squirrel, Pielpajarvi
A furry squirrel surveys the surrounding landscape in a forest around the Lutheran church of Pielpajarvi.
Lutheran Church of Pielpajarvi
The Lutheran Church of Pielpajarvi, behind its pink fence.
Church of Pielpajarvi
Detached pulpit in the Painted Wooden Interior of the Lutheran Church of Pielpajarvi.
Ukonsaari Island
The island of Ukonsaari, located in the middle of Lake Inari and sacred to the Sami of Finnish Lapland.
Ukonkivi island staircase
Completely frozen lake Inari scenery, as seen from the top of Ukonkivi Island.
Note to the faithful
A note welcomes and explains part of the history of the Lutheran church of Pielpajarvi, built in 1760.
Sami and reindeer
Russian-born Sami Maksim leads a reindeer ride north of Inari.
Sami Maksim
Portrait of the Russian Maksim, protected by the traditional Sami costumes he wears in his professional daily life.
Church of Pielpajarvi
The Lutheran Church of Pielpajarvi on the shore of Lake Inari.
Slate of the church of Pielpajarvi
Slate painting in the old Lutheran church of Pielpajarvi, which many visitors come by snowmobile but faith continues to be renewed in the old-fashioned way.
Footprints towards Ukonsaari.
A trail leads to the sacred island of Ukonsaari, in the heart of Lake Inari and surrounded by ice for most of the long northern winter of Lapland.
Long discriminated against by Scandinavian, Finnish and Russian settlers, the Sami people regain their autonomy and pride themselves on their nationality.

Ten in the morning arrives.

It is another inspiring arctic day of clear skies and radiant sun which, with its reflection in the prevailing snow, generates a pleasant winter light. The first contact with Maksim doesn't seem to match.

The folk costumes he wears are typical of the natives of the Sapmi land, with the pattern of the bright colors of the national flag, placed on the deep blue that serves as its base. Their expressions, on the contrary, are rigid and serious.

We got into the van. The host organizes himself. Prepare your mind for another one of your missions.

As soon as you activate the conformative mode, you ask question after question about these guests and their origins. Gradually, our answers amused him and provoked humorous comments.

Maksim, the Heat-averse Sami Guide

The almost turquoise eyes soften like the character itself that immediately begins to enchant us. "They're almost 20th in Portugal? What a horror, I couldn't bear it! I just like it cold.

I'm Sami but from the coldest part of the Russia. I remember our childhood back in the village. They closed the school from negative 30th down. When it was about to happen, we would gather around the inlet thermometer, praying that the temperature would drop a little more. At -31st, the party began.

We grabbed sledges and played like crazy. They thought it was too cold for us to stand at school, but out there, none of us complained!”

Maksim takes us to the family's operational base, a huge wooden house darkened by smoke, lost in the middle of the tundra and endowed with fences that keep reindeer.

The sami equips some of the animals and invites us and other visitors to climb into the sliding carts.

Maksim, Sami people, Inari, Finland-2

Russian-born Sami Maksim leads a reindeer ride north of Inari.

The Finnish Miss Universe, the Salmon Soup and the Praise of Finland

There begins a panoramic route along already marked trails that, without realizing how, return to the starting point. On the way back, a lunch of succulent salmon soup and a dessert of crepe with jam and wild berries made by mother-in-law Armi Palonoja await us.

Maksim seems relieved that the punishment is over. Outside, the sun hurts the irises of husky.

As soon as the discomfort is over, he informs us that Armi was a name popularized by the famous Finnish Miss Universe of 1952 (Armi Kuusela, the first Miss Universe ever), who had traveled the country and abroad in a kind of railway tour, in the company of her husband and before settling in the Philippines with her husband, the businessman Virgílio Hilário.

We did not detect in the wife's mother, who was also dressed in traditional Sami clothes, any wonder of beauty. To compensate, the food he offered customers at his Joiku-Kotsamu restaurant deserved all the acclaim.

Armi Palonoja, Sami people, Inari, Finland

Armi Palonoja next to his restaurant-house, located north of Saariselka, where he welcomes visitors for reindeer rides guided by his son-in-law Maksim.

The host resumes the conversation and takes the opportunity to unburden himself: “the truth is that I'm tired of having to walk around with these clothes for tourists to see. In Russia, I don't wear a costume. Sami but this job makes good money. We are not exactly in Helsinki but of course they have much better conditions here in Finland than on the other side of the border.

At first, I was scared by what went from pay to taxes, but here the state participates and takes care of everything. In fact, in suomi there aren't even future tense verbs. Everything is resolved immediately. When you want to leave something for later, you say, in the worst case, I'll do it tomorrow!”

The People of Boreal Europe, in Times without Borders, Sami

Maksim has a child from another marriage in Russia that you only see from time to time. A month and a half ago, the bosses' daughter had gifted him with the second. But the birth was shaky: “we had to travel 250 km from here to Rovaniemi and it was -40º. Fortunately it went well.

Maksim, man Sami, Inari, Finland

Portrait of the Russian Maksim, protected by the traditional Sami costumes he wears in his professional daily life.

In Russia it would have been much worse. I think I'll stick around. I want my children to live an easier life.”

not always the people Sami he was able to count on the additional security granted by governments, mainly the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish.

In ancient times, the Sami they roamed freely across the icy steppes at the top of Europe for the best pastures for reindeer herds or for fishing, in the case of tribes living in coastal areas.

Their adaptation to the demanding arctic climate ensured them a enviable prosperity in the south and frequent trade meetings with their neighbours.

red squirrel-inari-Finland, Inari, Finland

A furry squirrel surveys the surrounding landscape in a forest around the Lutheran church of Pielpajarvi.

The Inevitable Imposition of the Dominant Nations to the South

In the XNUMXth century, these most powerful nations began to impose their cultures on them and, through the action of the missionaries, the acceptance of the Lutheran religion at the expense of the millenary shamanist. The use of dialects of sapmi was discouraged and banned.

The acquisition and exploration of attached lands was only allowed to Sami that mastered the languages ​​of the colonists. These, in turn, received incentives to move to lands of sapmi.

Bible, church of Pielpajarvi, Inari, Finland

Bible placed next to the altar of the Lutheran church of Pielpajarvi.

In the far north of Finland, and around, many Sami were at one point ashamed of themselves.

Centuries passed and the occupying powers evolved in civilizational terms like few others in Europe. This fact, together with an emerging awareness of indigenous identity, reversed the different destructive processes of their various sub-ethnic groups.

As in so many other communities in the pan-nation, there are many setbacks to overcome. But now the indigenous people are taking on the challenge with strong political mobilization and a combination of determination and dignity never before dreamed of.

Motorized Excursion to the Holy Island of Ukonsaari, Lake Inari

The next morning, Jarmo Sirvio, another resident, is waiting to guide us on a snowmobile ride across Lake Inari – then under a three-foot-thick icy layer – and to Ukonsaari, an island in the shape of a Tyrannosaurus which is sacred to the sami.

Ukonkivi, Lake Inari, Finland

A trail leads to the sacred island of Ukonsaari, in the heart of Lake Inari and surrounded by ice for most of the long northern winter of Lapland.

We stopped first at the Lutheran church of Pielpajarvi, made of old wood (built in 1760) and lost among the trees on the banks in a surprisingly picturesque way.

Jarmo has a special affection for that place: “My mother was born in 1954 or 1955, I'm not sure anymore.

Church of Pielpajarvi, Lake Inari, Finance

The Lutheran Church of Pielpajarvi on the shore of Lake Inari.

I know she walked for hours here to come to Mass and sell Sami products. Amazing isn't it? We are now going to do much more than the 8 km she did in a few minutes.”

Altar of the church of Pielpajarvi, Inari, Finland

Austere altar of the Lutheran Church of Pielpajarvi, one of the temples of the new faith of the Sami people.

We return to the bikes and take off to cross the lake. At 80 or 90 km/h, extreme cold quickly neutralizes the camcorder, penetrates our gloves and hurts our hands.

In good time, we remember the instructor's tip and save ourselves from suffering when we turn on the powerful wrist warmers.

Ukonkivi Island, Lake Inari, Finland

Completely frozen lake Inari scenery, as seen from the top of the island of Ukonsaari.

Earlier than we expected, we arrived at the base of the island that the Samis ancestors used it to perform sacrificial and burial rituals in honor of their heavenly gods.

We went up the long wooden staircase. Still panting, we sucked in the thick, frigid air greedily through our masks.

We catch our breath and are delighted to contemplate the vast territory Sami white all around.

View from Ukonkivi, Lake Inari, Finland

View of Lake Inari from the top of the island of Ukonsaari.

Inari, Finland

The Babel Parliament of the Sami Nation

The Sami Nation comprises four countries, which ingest into the lives of their peoples. In the parliament of Inari, in various dialects, the Sami govern themselves as they can.
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A Slightly Lonesome Wolf

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A Refuge in the Gulf of Bothnia

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It is No "Love Boat". Icebreaker since 1961

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Fishing for Truly Fresh Fish

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Under the Arctic's Icy Spell

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The Delightful Arctic Heat

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The Wackiest Race on the Top of the World

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