Haircuts and Academics in the Sami Language

A couple of weeks ago I had my first haircut in the Sami language in my new hometown. I was excited and sure that it’s only possible in Kautokeino. The hairdresser, however, dampened my excitement, but only slightly, by telling me that there are Sami-speaking hairdressers also in the neighbouring towns of Karasjok and Alta. Maybe it is not as unique as I had thought but still I think it’s something worth recognizing in a world where the opportunities to speak indigenous languages are rapidly shrinking. It’s also worth recognizing because one quickly starts taking for granted the fact that nearly everyone in Kautokeino speaks Sami. I don’t need to practice my rusty Swedish/Norwegian because everywhere I go – post, bank, stores, town hall, health center (save the doctors who are from elsewhere) – I can operate in Sami. Even if you can get a haircut in Sami in a couple of other towns, there simply aren’t other towns in the world like this where Sami is so widely spoken.

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