What is it about?

Modern sports equipment is nowadays manufactured industrially according to globally accepted and standardized models, but traditionally tools for play and games were prepared from materials found in the local environment. The manufacture of tools for play and games was characterized by a rich creativity in the use of various biological and natural resources, and a wide range of such resources is presented here. This article investigates various aspects of Sámi sports and games, local knowledge about organisms used for their material culture of traditional sports and games in northern Fennoscandia (Sápmi), and what functions the surrounding biota had in the production of equipment used in sports and games.

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Why is it important?

Industrialization of the material culture of sports has been contributed to a loss of local knowledge and familiarity with locally available organic stuffs for producing equipment for play and games. By reconnecting with previous knowledge of traditional games, we discover a potentially new direction for modern sports and games, shifting from globalization to environmentalization. Such an environmentalization could permit the local environmental context define the content, meaning and structure of sports, and simultaneously enrich both sports and outdoor life.


A reintroduction of traditional games and materials from nature could provide an alternative concept, in which sports and games practices take place in the surrounding landscape, rather than in modern arenas with standardized dimensions, or in fitness clubs. Games of the past, compared with modern sports of today, show a crucial difference in the dependency between the practice and the surrounding biota, and in creativity and innovation. An increasing environmentalization would let the local environmental context define the content, meaning and structure of sports, and simultaneously blur the border between sports and outdoor life, and enrich both.

Dr. Sabira Ståhlberg
Independent Scholar

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Traditional sports and games among the Sámi people in Northern Fennoscandia (Sápmi): an ethnobiological perspective, Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, March 2022, Springer Science + Business Media,
DOI: 10.1186/s13002-022-00517-9.
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