The Sami Cultural Center of North America’s “The Sami Reindeer People,” is an exhibit consisting of photographs and artifacts that honors and tells the stories of the Sami families who came from Norway in 1894 and 1898 to teach reindeer husbandry to the native Inupiaq and Yup’ik people of Western Alaska. The Sámi people are an indigenous Finno-Ugric-speaking people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses large northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula within the Murmansk Oblast of Russia.
In 2004, the first Sami Reindeer People of Alaska exhibit opened in Bethel, Alaska, at the Yupiit Piciyarait Museum, the first of 13 exhibits across Alaska and greater North America. Faith Fjeld and Nathan Muus co-curated the exhibit, with substantial input and participation from Alaska Sami families, including Lois Stover, who was present at every Alaska event. Ruthanne Cecil was also a major researcher and exhibit organizer.
The exhibit includes historic photographs, family stories, duodji (useful items made beautiful), traditional clothing, and a full sized and furnished lavvu—a traditional Sami dwelling. Before the Vesterheim exhibit in 2012-13, the exhibit photographs were redone under the supervision of Marlene Wisuri and an exhibit lavvu was designed and fabricated by Nancy Olson and Marie Olson.