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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.