Poulsbo celebrates first official Day of the Sámi People

Poulsbo officially celebrated Scandinavia’s indigenous people, after mayor Becky Erickson declared Feb. 6 Poulsbo’s Day of the Sámi People.

The Sámi homeland encompasses large parts of what is now known as Norway, Sweden, northern Finland and Russia’s Murmansk Oblast.

The proclamation declaring the day of recognition reads: “The City of Poulsbo recognizes that in order to fully honor and embrace its rich Scandinavian history and traditions, it is necessary to recognize the history, traditions, customs, and culture of the indigenous people from whence they came.”

According to the proclamation, Poulsbo’s Day of the Sámi People coincides with the first Sámi congress, held in Trondheim, Norway in 1917. Poulsbo joins the ranks of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia in recognizing the contributions of the Sámi people on the sixth day of February.

The Poulsbo Municipal Cemetery happens to be the final resting place of the renowned Sámi reindeer herder, Anders Bahr, who helped save the lives of countless Alaska Natives in the 1920s.

In 1929, the Canadian government initiated a project to deliver reindeer to the Inuvialuit people to bolster their subsistence economy. The Canadian government bought 3,442 Alaskan reindeer from the Lomen Corporation, Bahr’s former employer. The company asked Bahr, then 60 and living in Seattle, to take the reindeer from Nabaktoolik, Alaska to Kittigazuit, Northwest Territories.

“The Canadian Reindeer Project is to take 18 months, but it becomes known as ‘The Great Trek’ when the 1,200-mile reindeer drive stretches into a perilous five-year journey,” according to the International Sámi Journal. “Severe weather, high mountain ranges, ravenous wolves, and supply shortages contribute to constant delays and the death of many reindeer.”

Despite the challenges, Bahr accomplished the journey.

The City of Poulsbo recognized the contributions of the Sámi people on other Scandinavian cultures in its proclamation.

“The City of Poulsbo values the many contributions the Sámi people have made to the communities of our ancestors, with their knowledge, labor, technology, science, philosophy, arts and the deep cultural influences which have helped shape the character of our city.”

In the proclamation Erickson also called upon the citizens of Poulsbo and the surrounding area to celebrate the cultures and values of the Sámi and encouraged people to learn more about the history of the indigenous group.

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