Ante Mihkkel Gaup's gákti indicates among other things that he is from Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino, Norway. Photographed on his visit to Washington State by Julie Whitehorn.

Ante Mihkkel Gaup's gákti indicates among other things that he is from Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino, Norway. Photographed on his visit to Washington State by Julie Whitehorn.

What is Gákti?

Gákti, Gápptie, Gapta, Gåptoe, Gaeptie, Gáppte, Mááccuh, Mácēh, Mäccak, Määccaǩ

Sámi traditional clothing today is part of an unbroken tradition going back many generations. The oldest known gákti was found in an archaeological excavation in Andøya, on the Norwegian side, and dates from around the year 1000. Yet today this Skjoldehamndrakt is still easily identifiable as a Lule Sámi gákti.

Each Sámi region and community has its own specific gákti traditions, and within these it is often possible to identify which family wearers belong to by small variations on the local pattern. Gákti is complex, with many unwritten rules for wearing and use. How a person wears their gákti can indicate marital status as well as personality traits and interests. 

For many years the gákti was looked down on as low-status garment, but today it is enjoying a renaissance. Many Sámi people are beginning to wear the gákti again, and a number of Sámi designers are making creative innovations on the local gákti traditions. Many designers are also making clothing that is inspired by, but distinct from, the gákti.

For many Sámi the gákti is a very special and important symbol of identity and belonging. It is inappropriate for a person to wear a gákti from a region or community to which they do not belong, or for non-Sámi to wear gákti (although it is generally acceptable for non-Sámi to wear the gákti of their Sámi spouses’ communities.) On the Finnish and Russian sides it is nevertheless quite common for non-Sámi workers in the tourist industry to wear fake gákti, and these imitation items are also often sold to tourists as the real thing.

You Can Help Maintain the Integrity of Gákti:

  • don’t wear gákti if you are not Sámi
  • don’t buy or wear fake gákti items
  • use precise terminology, e.g., gákti instead of costume, Sámi-inspired instead of Sámi, as appropriate
  • when sharing photographs of gákti, include the name of the individual,  region, and photographer whenever possible
  • call out appropriation