Born & Bred Among Herders & Healers
I’m ViviAnn and I’m an indigenous Sami woman living in Sweden.
Have you ever heard about the Sami people? If not, maybe you have heard about the Laplanders? I am one of them. I am Sami.
I live in what we call Sapmi. It is the land of the Sami population in the northern part of Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Cola Peninsula, Russia. We, the Samis, are the northernmost indigenous people of Europe.
My story goes all the way back to when I was a child. I was brought up in a family and clan of reindeer herders, healers and yoikers (singing the Sami way) in the very north of Sweden. As a little girl, I told my father that I wanted to help the starving children in Ethiopia when I saw the devastation there on the TV. I felt an urge to help people but did not know how to do it, and being small, there really wasn’t anything I could do. Time went by. My interest got even bigger when my older brother passed in a motorcycle accident in 2004 and left a 7-year old daughter behind. That’s when I realized my longing to help was meant for the children and adolescents of my own indigenous people. These are the people I was destined to help.
As a little girl, I knew about reindeer. But for a girl to work with reindeer herding was more or less unheard of in the community. I was never asked if I wanted to be a herder. The older people said that the work was meant for the boys who were stronger. The girls were instead encouraged to study. So I left my reindeer herding family and pursued a career as a journalist and a marketing coach. But all that time, I longed to contribute and give back to my Sami community.
Now I want to help girls (and boys) to choose, to challenge the rules and make it possible for them to live a life connected to the Sami culture and traditions. I want them to see the possibilities they possess and the impact they all can make if they chose to.
There is barely any support for the indigenous Sami people in Sweden or the indigenous Sami people as a whole. The Swedish government has been severely criticized by the international community (UN/EU) for not treating the Sami people well. There are also very few nonprofit organizations who support the Sami culture. As you can imagine, there are fewer Sami children staying to participate in the Sami way of life, and few resources to support the people.
So… I am taking the biggest risk I have ever taken in my entire life. All to help and create change in my community and to leave a legacy which can contribute to changing the rules, strengthening identities and empower indigenous Sami girls and boys to follow their dreams.
Our vision is to help preserve the indigenous Sami culture by protecting native reindeer that are essential to the Sami way of life. You can adopt a reindeer or a herd and the donations will go back to save that reindeer’s life as well as supporting the indigenous Sami community with the focus on children and adolescents.
“If the reindeer vanish, so does an entire way of life”
Your help would mean the world to me.
Greetings from a sister from another mother.
ViviAnn Labba Klemensson