Herding hundreds of reindeer from colder to warmer places in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia sounds like a movie to me. However that is exactly what happens in Sapmi — the land of the Sami people, today, just as it has for thousands of years.

The Sami people are highlighted in a special “Eight Seasons in Sapmi, The Land of the Sami People” exhibit currently on display at the Vasa Order of America National Archives, located in historic Bishop Hill, Ill.

This display is on loan from Sweden, and it features some awesome photos that were shot by Birgitte Aarestrup, who lived with the Sami people for a year.

The exhibit also includes many examples of handicraft items made by Sami people from reindeer leather, antlers and roots of birch trees. There are examples of the traditional clothes and a mercer’s reed that is used to make the patterned yarns.

Traces of the Sami culture go back 8,000 years. It started as a hunting, fishing and gathering culture and progressed to raising reindeer.

Sami life revolves around the annual cycle of nature and reindeer and the eight seasons of the year — spring, springsummer, summer, fallsummer, fall, fallwinter, winter and springwinter.

Rolf Bergman, the current president of the VOA National Archives, was born in Sweden and immigrated with his family to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. He remembers watching the Sami people come down with their reindeer herds to the coast.

“They move when the rivers are frozen, and at that time, they used skis or snowshoes,” he said. “Then they go back before the rivers thaw, and each group had 1,000 or more reindeer.”

Of course, the Sami people today have adapted to modern society and use snowmobiles and helicopters to assist with their herding. However, they continue to make arts and crafts just as their ancestors have done for hundreds of years.

This special exhibit is at the VOA National Archives thanks to the efforts of Viktoria Almgren, the archivist. Viktoria also was born in Sweden and moved to the U.S. three years ago. Prior to that, she had visited her relatives in Woodhull many times.

“My goal is to put the Vasa Order and Bishop Hill on the map,” the archivist stressed. “There are lots of Swedes who come to the U.S. to vacation.”

The mission of the VOA National Archives is to collect, preserve and display artifacts, historical records and genealogical information of VOA lodges and their members. The archives also collect, preserve and display information relative to Swedish American people.

In addition, Almgren said, the national archives are available for people who are interested in genealogical research.

“We help people with their genealogy, and people come here to do research for books or students who are doing research for projects,” she added. “We are preparing for the future by making sure documents don’t get destroyed.”

I strongly encourage you to take a trip to visit this neat exhibit in Bishop Hill, plus there are lots of other historical things to do in this town while you are there. The exhibit will leave the archives at the end of June and go to the Swedish American Museum in Chicago, where it will be displayed until Sept. 8, giving you a second chance to learn more about the Sami people.