Indigenous Innovation

In our results-driven society, we tend to search for new solutions to challenges, finding ways to make incremental changes in our daily lives to battle the changes we want to see. Could it be, that some of the solutions to our current challenges can be inspired by the wisdom, ingenuity, and sustainable principles that our ancestors lived by?

I am from Sápmi, which is the land of the indigenous Sámi people, covering the northern hemisphere of Europe.

Our culture is centred on the reindeer herds and a nomadic lifestyle following the reindeer over vast expanses of land, mountains, and valleys. The reindeer is the bearer of life, and in our culture we have found use for almost every single part of it.

Although we Sámi are the indigenous people of the northern hemisphere, our culture is slowly and continuously being challenged from multiple directions – from the exploitation of land to the destruction from mines and dams. We are also currently facing a strong generational shift, where globalization, urbanization, and new opportunities for us all have presented themselves. This has led to a challenged sense of belonging to Sámi culture, especially for individuals who are not directly bound to the traditional practices like reindeer herding and crafting.

We are standing at a pivotal point in our history where what it means to be Sámi can have a multitude of meanings. While some wish to preserve the culture and save what we have left, others are exploring ways of finding new meaning in their heritage and identity.

Change is inevitable. The challenge is to find unique ways to combine what is new with what is old; we are standing within multiple worlds and many of us want to be true to them all.

In response to this, a small group from my community has come together to create a regenerative social business called Gállak Crafts. (Gállak is the name of the area through which the reindeers from my village migrate). We are a collective of Sami crafters, artists, and creatives who are interested in exploring and regenerating our indigenous culture.

We are exploring how indigenous principles can work in symbiosis with a modern business model. The business must sustain itself and also find alternative ways of applying wisdom once practiced.

One of our pillars is to design and create sustainable contemporary Sámi products. Using traditional crafting practices such as working only with materials native to our land, we aim to challenge typical designs and forms, taking a step away from the traditional objects that once were the items needed to sustain life. Instead, we are exploring fields where our principles can be applied to our current world, while also staying true to our heritage.

As a nomadic herding culture in the harsh surroundings of the northern hemisphere, a lifestyle of minimalism and efficiency is a necessity for survival. We have to be fluid and adaptable to a constant state of change. The creation of objects that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing is also at the heart of our culture. We only carry what is needed and yet art is incorporated into our everyday objects. Our clothes, bags, and tools all have artistic qualities in addition to their practical uses. Rather than following the over-discussed common Western trend of amassing as much as possible, our objects are intentionally designed and intentionally used.

While an object can be created for a pragmatic purpose, it is the artistry and soul behind the creation that engenders its beauty.

That something beautiful also fulfills our needs is what makes an object an artifact – a testament of heritage, enveloping the stories that reverberate throughout generations lost, those here and those not yet realized.

As Sami craftsmen, we believe that less can be more, and that producing an object that combines integrity and quality is not only invaluable from a pragmatic level, but a progressive response to the holistic future of our existence. Our aim is that every object we create tells the story of our way of viewing possessions, passed down to us from our culture. Every object should show how one can live in  greater harmony with nature and lessen the urge for consumption that we, as a Western society, tend to have.

Gállak strives to propel the movement of conscious consumerism. The objects that we carry with us day to day shape not only our own lives but also our collective culture and livelihood.

Our generation faces a formidable challenge, but is also has been given the opportunity, at a very pivotal moment, to steer towards and help to realize what will become our collective history.

By acknowledging and upholding the Sámi way of life, a beautiful opportunity emerges for us to participate in tactful social and environmental change. We can collectively exchange our cultural values through new mediums, using our own language, heritage, knowledge, and concepts of beauty. Further, through technology, modernization, humanization, and tolerance, there is the opportunity for us all to stand for sustainable progression, while still maintaining our past.

How else could we apply this way of thinking to our current world, and what would happen if more of us owned less – but more precious – objects?

To learn more, visit or check us out on Instagram: @gallakcrafts.


the author

Simon Mulk

Simon Mulk is the CEO and founder of Gállak Crafts.