More Information: Spoon made from elk antler. Sami spoons were made of either reindeer or elk antler. The designs were carved or cut out with a knife. Knives were the only tool used in making and decorating antler and bone handicrafts. It was common to colour in the carved pattern using either soot from the hearth or burned birch-bark ash, which was rubbed in with the thumb. Working with antlers and bone was traditionally a male handicraft.
Spoons of this type were carried in a special bag or pouch, which hung in a belt sheaf along with other tools, such as knives, containers for matches, a cup (drinking scoop) and a powder horn. Women hung scissors and sewing tools from their belts.
The Sami are an indigenous people, originally from the northern parts of present-day Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. They lived in these areas long before these modern states existed. The Sami supported themselves through hunting, trapping, fishing and reindeer herding. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, tourism, handicrafts, art and music became new sources of income. Today, Samis reside in many places and can be found in most professions. There are a total of at least 80,000 Samis, with at least 20,000 resident in Sweden. Approximately 2,500 Swedish Samis still make a living from reindeer herding. Other important industries are handicrafts, hunting, fishing and tourism. There are three different Sami languages, which in turn can be divided into a number of dialects. All three Sami languages are included on the UN's list of endangered languages. Since 2000, Sami has had minority language status in Sweden.
Sami handicrafts (in Sami duodji) have their origins in the period when the Sami lived a nomadic life. Such an existence frequently involved breaking camp and moving around, meaning it was useful to have tools that were easy to carry around. They made most of the things they needed. The material was mainly taken from the surrounding environment, such as bone, antlers, hide, sinew, wood and roots. But sometimes they also bought textiles, yarn, tin and glass beads. Today's Sami handicrafts draw on tradition, but are also constantly changing, and modern materials such as plastic and plexiglas are now also used.
Nordiska museet has a large collection of Sami objects. The first was collected during the museum's first year in the 1870s and the most recent in 2010.