Sámi lived throughout Lapland, but during the 1600s Swedes increased their presence and in 1670 various cult sites and religious objects were destroyed by the Lutheran Church’s Gabriel Tuderus (1638–1703).

In the following centuries, more Finns came, adopted reindeer herding and were assimilated into Sámi communities (or vice versa).

The Petsamo area, northeast of Inari, was ceded to Finland in 1920 by the Treaty of Tartu. The Soviet Union attacked the mineral-rich area during the Winter War (1939–40), annexed it in 1944, and has kept it. Skolt Sámi from Petsamo were resettled in Sevettijärvi, Nellim and Virtaniemi.

The German army’s retreat in 1944–45 was a scorched-earth affair; they burned all buildings in their path to hold off pursuit. Only a few churches, villages and houses in Lapland date from the prewar period.