Sami traditional joiking and the story of Akanidi, the daughter of the sun

joik (also spelled yoik), is a traditional Sami form of song. Originally, joik referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing. According to music researchers, joik is one of the longest living music traditions in Europe, and is the folk music of the Sami people. Joiking is the Sami way of singing. The Samis call the western way of singing lavlodh. Here is a link where you can find a lot of interesting information about Samis and joiks among other things. 

Here a map illustrating the Sami areas in the Nordic countries. There are Samis in both Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. They all feel related, even if they speak different Sami languages, and they have never consider borders to be anything more than some lines drawn on paper.


The sound of a joik is comparable to the traditional chanting of some Native American cultures. With the Christianization of the Sami, joiking was condemned as sinful. Today joiking is still alive and is also used as a source of inspiration and an element in contemporary Sami music. Joik is traditionally chanted a cappella, but joiks today may be accompanied by a drum (though not a Sami drum which is used for ceremonial purposes only!) or other musical instruments. 

Joiking has not always been appreciated as a form of music, however. At one time it was not even called music. As early as 1609, the king of Denmark and Norway, Christian IV, announced that anyone practising Sami witchcraft would be sentenced to death. The Church viewed joiking as witchcraft, right up until recently. There are still people living who consider that you should not chant a joik in a church. 

The Sami world view is based on shamanism. The joik creates an emotional bond between people, animals and nature. The Samis explain: “We don’t joik about something, as you do when you sing. We say that we joik something. Then we become a part of what we are joiking.” 

Inga-MaaritNowadays the Sami joik is not condemned anymore by the royalties of Norway and Sweden. A young musician, Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso even got an invitation to perform joiks on the National Day celebration of Sweden in Stockholm this year 2014 on June 6th. That was a great honor to Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso, but also a way for the royalties to show their approval of Sami joiks these days. You can look at her performance together with the Swedish singer Loreen here. Loreen, the dark-haired Swedish singer was the winner of European Song Contest in 2013. Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso was born in Enontekiö, Lapland. Her mother comes from Kautokeino in Norway and her father from Enontekiö in Finland. Inga-Maarit has performed joiks to the royalties of Norway and Monaco some years ago during their visits to Lapland, Finland. 

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was a well-known modern Sami writer, poet, musician, and artist using joik in his work. He performed at the opening ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.


Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was born in Enontekiö in Finnish Lapland and he died in 2001. Valkeapää was born to a family of traditional reindeer herders, but was trained as a school teacher. He lived at the Finnish border to Norway in the upper-North of Finland. 

The story of Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun

Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun flew through the skies and watched the Earth from above. There was a warm sunbeam coming from her to reindeer on the pastures, to the animals in the deep forests and to the fish in the seas and oceans. Akanidi understood all the animals, but she was not acquainted with people yet. She just observed the people; that they sometimes were really happy, but sometimes they looked so unhappy. And sometimes people were really nasty to each other. Akanidi was wondering how the humans could become happy all the time.

As Akanidi went home to have a good night’s sleep she asked her mother, the Sun, for permission to go down to earth and live among people. But the Sun said; “Don’t you have enough space here? What would there be to see down there? Here you have the clouds to play among and you can dance with the sunbeams and  you are even allowed to sing beautiful melodies together with the winds.” Akanidi answered, she was tired of living up in the skies and now she wanted to move down to Earth.

The next morning Akanidi was sent to live on the Earth in a hut together with an old man and his wife. The Sun had sent her daughter to an isolated little island. Akanidi could not see anything but the old man and his wife and their modest hut. The old couple did not have any children of their own.

Times went by and Akanidi grew up to a young woman. Her parents gave her beautiful clothes to wear. When Akanidi looked at herself in the mirror, she started to sing happily. Akanidi just danced and sang happily. The old couple listened to her song and watched her dancing and their hearts were filled with great love.

One day the white-haired parents of Akanidi said to her: “Your time has come, my child. You have to go and live together with other people. Let your heart be helpful and loving, let it warm other people’s hearts.”

And the old man took Akanidi with him and travelled to the nearest Sami village and left her in the first hut. Akanidi entered the hut and the people immediately paid attention to her coming. Everyone was drawn to Akanidi.

Akanidi spent some time with the people in this village and she taught people of the village to decorate their clothes with pearls, interesting colors and spectacular patterns. Akanidi showed them the pictures of stars, circles, birds’ footsteps and beautiful stones sparkling in the sun. She moved from hut to hut singing and dancing and telling stories. She taught the people of the village to sing hunting-joiks, sea songs and sun melodies.


But there was also envy among the people of the village. Everyone did not like happiness to spread among the people of the village. And they wanted to get rid of Akanidi, but the Sun was all the time watching over her daughter protecting her.

Some elderly people thought that they could get rid of Akanidi by throwing a big stone on her. So one day as Akanidi was sitting in a hut teaching the children how to make buttons from seashells, the envious people came suddenly in to the hut and threw a big stone on Akanidi. Akanidi took a deep last breath and sang the last lines from her favourite joik. When she had stopped joiking she disappeared with the smoke from the fire through the hole in the hut up to the skies. And she never returned back to Earth. But her joiks, dances and spectacular pictures are still in the minds of people. People are still teaching the skills of Akanidi to their children. When doing this their hearts melt and they find happiness.

This story is true. Everything happened when the people of the North met Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun, for the first time.


The wolf is an endangered animal in Lapland

In Finland there are four large carnivores; bear, lynx, wolverine and wolf. I have written posts about bears, lynxes and wolverines here in my blog earlier. Now I want to tell you about the wolf in Finland and specially in Lapland. The wolf is the second largest carnivore after the bear in Finland.

The wolves (Canis lupus) are social members of the dog family and live many together in packs. They have excellent senses of hearing and smell, and can communicate using posture, facial expressions, scent and a variety of barking and howling calls. The howling call of a wolf in the night is impressive and is started by a single wolf, who may then be joined by a chorus. Wolves howl to communicate with each other and to define their territories. The chances to hear wolves howling in Lapland are really small. As you enter the cave and walk your way down to SantaPark you can hear wolves howling from the loudspeakers….

susi yöllä tunturisusi


Twolfwalkhey mainly move around during the twilight hours and they can move over distances of tens of kilometers in a single day. An old traditional story tells that a wolf could move over nine treeless bogs (valleys) in one night. In a pack only the dominant alpha pair actually breed, but the pack help to raise the cubs. Three to six cubs are born to a pack each year. Females become sexually mature at the age of about two years, while males typically mature a year later. Wolves mate in February or March, and their cubs are born a couple of months later. Cubs usually leave the pack at the age of 1-2 years. They go far away from their birthplace searching for a mate and a territory of their own.


In Finland there is approx. 140-155 wolves at the moment. They were counted in February 2014. Most of the wolves live in the eastern parts of Finland. About 5-10 wolves were found in the Lappish area; that is a few more than last year. The wolf is an endangered species in Finland and hunting is prohibited since 1973. Hunting is a subject to licence only.

Wolf is the largest member of the dog family living in wilderness. The length of the body is 100-140 cm, the tail is 35-50 cm. Weight is usually 20-50 kg, but there has been found also bigger individuals. The male wolf is lager than the female.


susi_kayntijaljetThe coat is mainly yellowish-grey, but there are variations. People often mistake big dogs for wolves, and wolves can be most easily distinguished from wolf-like dogs by their slanting eyes – if you come so near you can see the eyes – and the way they hold their tails at a downward angle. Their tracks are very hard to tell apart from dogs’ tracks. Wolves often walk straight, while dogs tend to wander more. The wolves’ footprints are often larger than the footprint of dogs.

Wolves hunt deer and elk and in Lapland reindeer. They hunt in packs. They kill and eat almost every part of the kill; they even biting larger bones into pieces and all that is left could be a few scraps of the skin. They sometimes hide their kill.

susi ulvooIn Finland you can see wolves in Ranua zoo and in Ähtäri zoo. To keep wolves in a zoo there need to be a large area for the wolves to move around in. In Ranua zoo there are three wolves at the moment. They were all born in the zoo in 2009. The parents, the alpha pair, were Leena ja Ville. They were brought to Ranua from Sweden in 2006 and 2007. Their first brood – in 2008- were four cubs; Halla, Huurre, Kuura ja Halti. Their second brood, in 2009, were also four cubs. At the moment there are three wolves in Ranua zoo. I have to find out their names.

The wolf has never been really wanted in Finland. In the Sami language the wolf is gumpe. The Sami people were afraid of the wolf and still are, due to that the wolves kill their reindeer. The ancient story about wolves tells that the wolves had the magic skills to make people sleepy. The Sami people use to yoik as they are watching the reindeer. Their yoiks are about the nature, people and animals. The wolves are frightened as they come near the people and the reindeer, when they hear the yoik. But soon they get used to the yoik and the Sami has to sing a new yoik. They have to come up with new yoiks all the time to keep the wolves away from the reindeer.

A long time ago the wolf was also a valued animal. There is an old yoik about the wolf Suologievra. The name means “the strong on the island”. In the ancient days people used to think the world was like an island in a big sea.


Once upon a time Stuorra-Jownna, or Jouni the Great from Utsjoki in the North of Lapland wanted to become a wolf. The witches had told that, if you go around a curved tree counterclockwise several times you finally become a wolf. So did Jouni. He walked around the tree until he was changed into a wolf. Then he run around in the shape of a wolf and he visited many reindeer ranges. He could stay as a wolf for two weeks at a time. One day he noticed his time was ending; actually on the same night, and he still had nine valleys ahead to run. If he could not make it to the tree in time, he would be doomed to stay as a wolf for the rest of his life. There is an old saying: “The wolf always finds his way”. And that night he run over nine valleys and reached the tree, where he had changed into a wolf, in time. This time he run around the tree clockwise and during the run he little by little changed back into a human being.