Northern indigenous herders fete national day

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Associated Press

Posted on February 6, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 6 at 1:04 PM

HELSINKI (AP) — The indigenous Sami people of Europe's Arctic region are celebrating their national day amid worries that their ancient traditions based on reindeer herding will disappear.

Once oppressed, most Sami now live modern lifestyles, and few still herd reindeer. But many wore their traditional brightly colored costumes Wednesday as they celebrated their ancient culture at song and dance events across the Nordic countries.

In Helsinki, a few dozen demonstrators gathered outside the Finnish Parliament to promote Sami land rights, which remains a divisive issue for reindeer herders and landowners.

The celebrations come nearly 100 years after the Sami — formerly known as Lapps — met at their first national congress of about 100 herders in Trondheim, Norway. Numbering 75,000, many today have semiautonomous status with regional parliaments.

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