Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2024

Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Klaus J. Milich

Second Advisor

Regine Rosenthal

Third Advisor

Barbara S. Kreiger


Indigenous people around the world have gained more attention than ever before. One such group is the Sami people, an indigenous ethnic minority in the Fennoscandia region, who have experienced the tension between their sustainable lifestyle that respects nature and the Western world’s way of living. Reindeer herding, a part of their traditional way of life, is at the heart of Saminess and their identities. However, current research on indigenous issues often focuses on land rights, resource management, and other aspects that overlook the diversity and complexity of the Sami culture. This thesis aims to explore the sustainability of the Sami people’s semi-nomadic lifestyle in the highly modern countries of Finland, Sweden, and Norway. This thesis reviewed relevant research articles and books to understand different aspects of Sami people and their sustainable way of living. This research revealed that the Sami people find themselves at a crossroads between maintaining their traditional way of life and adapting to the demands of modern society, with their identity and the political, economic, and cultural aspects of their lives at the center of it all. Despite the challenges, their resilience is a testament to their survival in these modern countries that do not fully support them. Interestingly, while previous generations have felt the weight of their Sami heritage, the new generation of Sami take pride in their language and traditions. It is important to note that the Sami people do not seek statehood, but rather hope for respect for their culture and involvement in decisions that impact their lives. However, they face new challenges, such as climate change, which threatens the sustainability of reindeer herding. Consequently, the future of this traditional way of life remains uncertain, and its loss would be devastating to both the Sami people and the cultural diversity of Finland, Sweden, and Norway.