Women of Vision National Geographic Photographers on Assignment
Sami - The People Who Walk With Reindeer, 2011
Erika LarsenErika Larsen

Sami - The People Who Walk With Reindeer, 2011

Laila Spik Skaltjie (right) was the first Sámi who replied positively to Erika Larsen’s request to come live with her family without a translator. In discussing her intentions, Larsen told Spik that she wanted to learn about the Sámi, a traditional reindeer herding culture in northern Scandinavia and Russia. As Larsen recollects, Spik replied that the culture is quite deep and intensive.

The project unfolded into a nearly four year endeavor, two years of which Larsen lived with the family and worked as a beaga, or housekeeper. “They allowed me to learn by being a working part of the family,” she says. Here Laila and her daughter Sunna Kati Skaltjie wear gahkti. This style of traditional dress is an important part of Sámi identity. The details of the fringed and appliqued design indicate a person’s family and the specific area in which they live.



Nov 2011 Cover  Read more Sami coverage.

Other Photos by Erika Larsen