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The Sami language is not one language, but a group of ten related languages, and the Sami population in the North Calotte consists of an equal number of population groups with their own languages and regions. Mo i Rana is located where three such regions and languages meets: Lule Sámi, Ume Sámi and Southern Sámi. Today, Ume Sámi is little used in Norway, but Lule Sámi and Southern Sámi are two of our three official Sámi languages in Norway. Many of today's inhabitants of Mo i Rana are of Sami origin or have a Sami family. The South Sami Theatre, Åarjelhsaemien Teatere, has its headquarters here, and the theater performs in a language that today is spoken by only 600 people in the world.

But there is good work done, both with language training for children, and with increased awareness among young people. From January 2022, the South Sami name of Mo i Rana also became an official city name:


Bringeklede, boengeskuvmie, sørsamiske kofte, Mo i Rana

Bring cloth for women (boengeskuvmie) for the South Sami cardigan. Photo: Åge Hojem NTNU / Science Museum

On Helgeland, far back in time, two people has lived side by side. Much is common, much is different, but historically intertwined. To be able to understand this important part of Helgeland's history, one must know the region's geography and know how important the life of traveling has been. Being able to travel freely over great distances has for all people and at all times, been a prerequisite for being able to trade, get what you need, establish a home, fish and hunt, and to develop your culture.


Since the end of the ice age, the traveling north or south has been linked to the coast and to boats. Inland of Helgeland, the traveling in the north or south direction has been far more demanding. Deep fjords and large rivers with strong water flow have made the distances inland much longer than out on the coast. The original main road on Helgeland has therefore gone out on the coast, and it has worked well. Archaeological finds indicate that contact with southern Europe and the Mediterranean was established long ago. On Dønna just west of Ranfjorden, a two thousand year old Roman coin was found in 2016.

Harald Hårfagre, Snøfrid Svåsedatter, sørsamisk, Mo i Rana

Harald Hårfagre and the Sami woman Snøfrid Svåsedatter. Norwegian stamp series painted by Sverre Morken (2008)

Harald Hårfagre is considered by many to be Norway's first king. The Norway he ruled was probably only a fraction of today's Norwegian mainland, but still it is interesting to know that Norway's first queen was a Sami, Snøfrid (Snæfríðr Svásadóttir) with whom Harald had four sons. It should be mentioned that the fair-haired king had many women, and had children with several, and marriage at that time was very much built on power and alliances. But the importance of the alliance with the Sami around the year 900 and that Harald had four children with Snøfrid, tells how integrated the two ethnic groups lived with each other.

At Helgeland, there were at that time several large viking settlements and cheaf seats at the mouth of the Ranfjord, including the islands Tomma, Dønna and at Handnesøya who became an important center of power for Helgeland. Close to the ferry berth on Handensøya we find today the protected burial ground "Langskipet". This Norse burial ground tells a story about traveling on Helgeland and about a coastal population totally dependent on boats.

From Snorri's royal saga,  Heimskringla, we can read that Sigurd Slembe in 1137 had two boats built by Sami boat builders. Sigurd was the son of King Magnus Berrføtt and a man who traveled a lot and far. His travels brought him to Iceland, Rome and Jerusalem, and the Sami-built boats were known for maintaining great speed. In one of the Norse poems it is said:

«Few can follow
pine boat håløigsk
as bound with tendons
for the sail flies »

When Sigurd Slembe's half-brother and namesake, Sigurd Jorsalfare embarked on his legendary and three-year voyage to Miklagard (Istanbul) in 1108, he sailed out of the country with 60 longships with 100 men in each of them. Perhaps some of these historic longships were built by skilled boat builders on Helgeland. We can be sure that they were built by the most reputable ones that were available.

Vikingtidens langskip

Sigurd's sixty longships and his crew of 6,000 must have been a bit of a spectacle when they sailed into the Mediterranean.

Mo i Rana, sørsamisk, samisk, maavie


South Sami Knowledge Park

Mo i Rana, sørsamisk, samisk, maavie

South Sami Theater

Mo i Rana, sørsamisk, samisk, maavie

Sami association in
Mo i Rana

Mo i Rana, sørsamisk, samisk, maavie

South Sami
food and culture

Mo i Rana, sørsamisk, samisk, maavie

Producer of reindeer and game meat

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