Sámi Identity and Visions of Preferred Futures: Experiences among Youth in Finnmark and Trøndelag, Norway


  • Line Mathisen Northern Research Institute
  • Espen Carlsson Trøndelag R&D Institute
  • Niels Arvid Sletterød Trøndelag R&D Institute


Life-modes, identity, domicile, education, work, Sámi youth


The Northern Review 45 (2017): 113–139

Depopulation is a growing concern in core Sami areas in Norway, and the loss of productive young people is a particular concern for rural regions. Yet new industrial developments are debated due to the impact on traditional identity-developing practices such as reindeer herding. The objective of this article is to gain knowledge about how Sami youth identity shape their decisions to stay or return to their home place and how they envision their opportunities for employment. This qualitative study investigated how Sami youth experience Sami identity as a determinant of educational, occupational, and housing preferences. Data was collected through interviews with fourteen Sami youth from three different types of Sami communities in Norway—Guovdageaidnu (Kautokeino), located in the core Sami area in Inner Finnmark, with a strong reindeer based economy and Sami as the first language; Mátta-Várjjat (Sør-Varanger) and Porsáŋgu (Porsanger) in coastal Finnmark; and the southern Sami areas based around Snåase (Snåsa) in North Trøndelag. The informants from the three communities were university and college students, high school pupils, and apprentices. The study’s theoretical framework and analysis is inspired by the theories and applications of the life mode perspective, combined with perspectives of cultural identity, locale, landscape, and global “sense of place.” The findings suggests that life modes that signify or enable salient Sami values influence how Sami youth reflect on their Sami identity and envision opportunities. Furthermore, the findings show that different life modes influence Sami youth identity development through providing opportunities for new expressions of a Sami identity.

Author Biographies

Line Mathisen, Northern Research Institute

Senior researcher, Innovation, Industry and Regional Development

Espen Carlsson, Trøndelag R&D Institute

Senior Researcher

Niels Arvid Sletterød, Trøndelag R&D Institute

Senior Researcher






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