Reindeer and language revitalization: Inuit students visit Finland's Sami people

Nunavut Sivuniksavut students learned that there are many similarities between Inuit and the Indigenous group of people living in Northern Finland.

'We still have our culture going, and Inuit and Sami are working to strengthen [it]'

Nunavut Sivuniksavut students enjoying their time with a reindeer herd in a Sami community. (Nunavut Sivuniksavut/Facebook)

It was the first time college student Trudy Tulugarjuk travelled outside of Canada.

"It was cool to see the outside world for the first time," said Tulugarjuk, a first-year student at Nunavut Sivuniksavut, an Ottawa-based college for Inuit studies.

Fourteen first-year students flew across the Atlantic this month for a cultural exchange with Finland's Indigenous Sami people, as a part of the school's program. 

"We got to meet a lot of people and perform and share our stories," said student Emmeline Ipeelie.
Fourteen first year students visited Finland this past month for a cultural exchange with Indigenous people living in Europe. (Nunavut Sivuniksavut/Facebook)

The students started their trip in the capital Helsinki, visiting the parliament and the University of Helsinki where they met with professors of Indigenous studies and languages. They got to tease their taste buds with Finnish foods, stay with local families, and hold performances to share Inuit and Sami culture.

But the most memorable was their visit to Inari Village, a small community that's home to many Sami, the Indigenous people who live throughout Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia.

"The highlight was when we went to see a reindeer herder and we got to pet some reindeer and just hang out with them," said Tulugarjuk.

"[It's] kinda like a once in a lifetime," said Ipeelie, who also enjoyed visiting the home of a Sami reindeer herder.

Students say it was the similarities between the two Indigenous groups that left an impression.

Seeing the reindeer herd was one of the highlights of the trip, says student Tulugarjuk. (Nunavut Sivuniksavut/Facebook)

"Sami people are very similar to us, even their land is very similar, except the fact that they have trees," said Tulugarjuk. "Our languages are very important."

Students learned about Sami governance, broadcasting, and language revitalization because a few of the 10 Sami dialects are considered endangered.

The Inuit and Sami shared cultural performances. (Nunavut Sivuniksavut/Facebook)

"Sometimes Inuit are made out to be that we're the only ones that are struggling," said Ipeelie.

"We still have our culture going, and Inuit and Sami are working to strengthen [it]. It's still alive."

With files from Angela Hill