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Tentipi’s relationship with the Sami indigenous people

When the company was founded, a decision was taken to always behave respectfully towards the Sami and the Sami cultural heritage.

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Tentipi was founded 1989 in Swedish Lapland, in the village Moskosel, in East Kikkejaurs forest Sami village.

Indigenous people in this area are called Sami, and the land stretching over northern Scandinavia and north western Russia is called Sàpmi, where Sami have resided for millenia. In past time the Sami lived mainly off fishing, trapping, nomadic reindeer herding, and from small farms. Many had a nomadic lifestyle travelling with the reindeer herds, but during the 20th century more and more became settled. Unlike many other indigenous people on earth, the Sami are integrated in the majority societies of the Nordic countries and work and live as any citizen. While sharing cultural values with the majority populations, many Sami also maintain their Sami heritage and culture.  Many Sami keep reindeer and work part or full time as herders, combining a modern lifestyle with traditional tasks. Numerous reindeer-herding Sami uses Tentipi tents during work and leisure.

Through history, Sami like so many other indigenous people have been subjects to racism and oppression from the majority cultures and governments. Sami today are granted the same rights and possibilities as the rest of the population in Scandinavia, and unlike the situation for many other indigenous people of the world, most of the past’s injustice towards the Sami is now gone. Yet the memories of past discrimination is still present.

The remaining conflicts between the Sami and the majority population are today mainly concerning the use of land. As indigenous people, the Sami have special rights to fishing and hunting in certain areas of Sàpmi. Some non-Sami citizens may see this as unjust.  Also there might be conflicts when development of mines and airports in Sàpmi interfere with migratory routes of reindeer.

Back in time, before Sami were settled during the 20th century, most Sami lived a more or less nomadic life, depending on the wealth of the reindeer herds and moving along as the herds changed pastures with the seasons. At that time there were plenty of predators and especially wolves were a big threat to the herd. Therefore it was important to guard the reindeer and travel with them. Using Nordic tipis, or lávvu in Northern Sami, the herders and their families could maintain a nomadic lifestyle and always bring their home and shelter with them. These tents could be used throughout the year. Sami families lived, had children and used the tent as a home in all aspects. The Nordic tipis consisted of straight wooden poles leaned against each other in the center and a sheet wrapped around the bars. At the top was an opening to let out the smoke, and a loose cloth to close the opening on the windward side with.

Bengt's background in Sami land
Bengt Grahn - who founded Tentipi in 1989 in the small village Moskosel – was born and raised in Lapland. His father Henrik Grahn was even part owner of a small reindeer herd, which testifies the good relationship they had to the Sami people in their village.

When Bengt started his company, Nordic tipis were hardly in use in Sàpmi and hard to find. There weren’t many people making them, and the ones produced were very simple in design. Often basically a tarpaulin over a couple of poles.

Bengt saw it as his task to preserve what is great about the Nordic tipi, namely its circular shape and circular construction, and its social potential from having an open fire inside to gather around. Another good key feature was the cone-shaped design, which automatically made the construction stable in all weather conditions. But it was also clear that there was much to do to improve the design.

When the thus developed Nordic tipis were released on the market, the Sami people where the first to understand and enjoy the  benefits, as safe for mosquitoes, the weight only a fraction of its predecessors, and that it could be set up in minutes.

Bengt's initiative was very well received by the individual Sami.

In 1993 he even got the task of organizing and conducting a large booth for a Sami organization to market Sami handicrafts and other cultural expressions during one of Sweden's largest fairs, Stora Nolia Trade Fair. The booth contained a reindeer slaughterhouse, a reindeer fence, and traditional Sami arts. To give the artisans a special booth, the very first Stratus 72 was constructed – which is a story in itself!

Today Tentipi tents are common among the Swedish Sami

The name of the concept – Nordic tipis
Since the local names "lavvu" and "tältkåta" was not known in other parts of the world, "tipi" was the natural choice since the term was more internationally recognized. But because the origin was from Scandinavia, and also because there were major differences in the Nordic construction compared to for instance North American Tipis the tent type was named “Nordic tipi”.
The Scandinavian type has a loose vent cap, to be able to regulate in all wind directions, which is an important difference compared to other tipis.

Early decision in principle
When the company was founded, a decision was taken to always behave respectfully towards the Sami and the Sami cultural heritage.
Therefore, we very rarely use Sami cultural expressions or attributes in our marketing. In the few cases when this is done however, it is done with a clear reference to the Sami culture. In fact, we at Tentipi are happy to spread the knowledge of Sami culture and history, to the extent we are capable to – and we hope this approach can lead to a win-win situation for us both. Where it is possible to create a partnership with Sami businesses and organizations for mutual benefit, we do it.

Ethical recommendations to our clients
Throughout history, generations of indigenous people of the world have seen their rights diminished and their lifestyles and cultures threatened. Therefore we believe their heritage must be treated with the utmost respect. We also believe that developing the inventions of past generations and other cultures is a hallmark of humanity and something we as humans can be proud of, as long as we do it with respect. But we should not profanely distort nor without consent profit from anyone’s cultural manifestations, for this is a part of their identity and thus something which we are not entitled to. We strive to find constructive business relationships with anyone, indigenous or non-indigenous, because we believe every culture has something to offer. We strongly advise our clients to have the same approach and hope they will join us in this spirit.


Design features and fabrics

Find out what makes our Adventure Nordic tipis so special.

Read our fire safety document

Learn how to use fire safely in our Nordic tipis.




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