What is a Lávvu?

Lavvo, Láávu, Kååvas, Koavas, Kota

The lávvu is a tent alternative to the more permanent goahti (gábma, gåhte, gåhtie, gåetie, kota, kata), a traditional Sámi dwelling. Unlike the turf and tent goahti, which rely on an internal frame of curved pieces of wood, the lávvu framework is made up entirely of straight poles. It is thus more easily moved, making it ideal for use by reindeer herding nomads, hunters, berry-gatherers, and others in need of temporary or movable dwelling.

The interior of the lávvu is arranged around the árran, or central hearth, with a boaššo (kitchen area) behind the árran, directly opposite the door. The woman and man of the family traditionally sit furthest in, each on their side of the boaššo, with family and guests occupying the space between them and the door. In the pre-Christian tradition, the goddess Sáráhkká, a goddess of women and childbirth, resided in the árran. Juoksáhkká, the goddess of boys and hunting, dwelt in the boaššo, while Uksáhkka, who protected babies until they were old enough to go out on their own, lived in the doorway.

Traditionally the árran contained an open fire, with smoke exiting through the opening at the top of the lavvu, but for some time wood stoves have also been viable alternative for heating the lavvu in winter. Modern lávvus with light aluminum poles are also in common use, both by Sámi and, increasingly, by non-Sámi outdoor enthusiasts.