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Sameland

Sleeping on Birch Branches in Samiland

July, 2015
This month I traveled to Northern Sweden and joined my friend Fredrik Prost's community for the annual marking of their reindeer calves. It was an amazing experience I will never forget. Though the Sami have given up many of their traditional ways, many persist and in the coming months, I will share aspects I found inspiring or educational. Traditional Sami housing is a tepee or lavoo, with long birch poles forming the main structure (these used to be transported from place to place by domesticated reindeer), and stitched reindeer skin providing the cover. The top of the lavoo is open to let smoke from a fire escape. Read more

Beauty, Art, and Posture

August, 2015
I came home from my visit with the Sami with a treasured possession, my new Sami knife and sheath. I had commissioned my student and friend, Fredrik Prost, a Sami handicraftsman, to make a knife for me and he had it ready for me on my arrival in Sweden. Fredrik encouraged me to put it into use right away when we cut birch branches to make our “mattresses" in the lavoo (traditional tepee). I would have balked at using a thing so fine and beautiful for an activity so rough and pedestrian, but he insisted - the knife was made to be a working knife. Since my return to California, the knife has harvested okra and zucchini from my garden, trimmed apples from our tree, and cut thin slices of the dried reindeer meat Fredrik sent me home with. Read more

How to Sit on the Floor, Part 3: Sitting with Legs Outstretched

September, 2019

This is the third post in our multi-part series on floor-sitting. Read Part 1 on floor sitting and Part 2 on squatting!

It’s very common for women in Africa to sit with their legs outstretched. I’ve seen rows of women use this position to spin yarn, engage in idle chatter, sort items, and more. I’ve seen babies massaged by women using this position both in Burkina Faso and in the U.S. by a visiting Indian masseuse who does traditional baby massage in Surat, India. In Samiland I saw this position used to bake bread in a lavoo (a Sami structure very similar to a teepee).

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