"It was a fantastic tour. The guide did not rush us, and gave us time to really immerse ourselves in the Sami culture and way of life. Thanks so much for the delightful tour."
THE TOWN OF KIRUNA
The ore in the mountains of Kirunavaara and Luossavaara was known already at the end of the 18th century. A Sami man showed the peculiar stone in the mountains to an expedition lead by the county governor. For that he got a reward and exemption from taxes for the rest of his life. However, it took a long time until the ore could be extracted.
In the 1850’s the Swedish state drew up a so called "Cultivation Border”. West of that border, colonisers were not supposed to build huts and cultivate the soil. The lands should only be used for reindeer herding. But at the end of the 19th century the mining industry developed: The railroad solved the problem of transportation and a new kind of process made the ore worth mining. Several iron ore mines opened in the area. Mine workers built small huts for their families. Because of the railway and the “ore rush” the town of Kiruna was born in 1900 and the population grew.
The name Kiruna comes from the Sami word Giron, meaning ptarmigan (a bird that is common in the area). Today there are 23,000 inhabitants in the Kiruna municipality, out of which approximately 20,000 live in the actual town. There are more than 6,000 lakes and seven rivers in the area. The tallest mountain in Sweden, Kebnekaise or Giebmegáisi in the Sami language (2 096 metre above see level) is situated 100 km (62 miles) from Kiruna. On a clear day it is possible to see the mountain range with Kebnekaise from the city centre and along the road to Norway.
The population of Kiruna is a mixture of people with roots from different areas in Sweden and Finland. Nowadays many nationalities are represented here. The exact number of Sami in Kiruna is unknown, but probably 10-15 % of the population would define themselves as Sami. Reindeer herding is still an important livelihood for many Sami families in the area. The old reindeer culture has never disappeared, even though the motorization and modernisation has changed the way reindeer herding is pursued. Today’s Sami live in modern houses and many have ordinary jobs. But the connection to the reindeer and the love for the animal remain in the Sami culture.