This pair of Sami baptismal boots has belonged to a girl in a nomadic Sami family who followed their grazing reindeer flocks. The boots are made of white fur from a reindeer calf, and this is considered the finest quality fur.
The boots seem large for a child of baptismal age. Nomadic Sami, however, christened their babies in their shelters, and the child could be as much as three or four years old before it was baptized in church. By that time they often could both walk and talk at their own baptism, and there are stories of unruly children who ran off during service, hiding among the dogs under the pews or dash out into the snow.
These sami winter boots are called “skaller” (meaning skulls) because they are made of fur taken from a reindeer’s head. This part has short and thick fur growing in different directions, and this prevents slippery boots. Fur from reindeer legs is also used. Producing a good pair of boots requires special skills and specific knowledge on how to treat the fur. Sedge grass is cut and dried to fill the boots, the Sami’s equivalent to using socks.
Reindeer fur provides excellent insulation. The fur was used for clothes and footwear not only by nomadic Sami but also by resident Sami as well as Norwegians and the Finnish speaking population in northern parts of Norway. Today, these reindeer fur boots are popular among tourists. Boots produced for tourists are generally of a simpler style and is commonly used as slippers. These boots do not come with the long colorful ribbons that the Sami use to wrap around their ankles to keep the snow out.
The lavvo was the reindeer Sami’s main dwelling. The fire pit was in the center. On each side, the ground was covered with birch branches and reindeer furs. Each person had their designated spot.