Has Norway indigenous people

The history of the Sami

by Yvonne Steplavage

About the original origin of the Sami the scientists are still not in agreement today. However, DNA studies show that the people carry both European and Asian genetic material. There are several hypotheses about the roots of the indigenous people of Lapland. One of them is that they are originally from Siberia. The tribe living there is considered to be a possible ancestor Samoyed called. Especially culturally, there are many similarities to this. Both peoples make a living from reindeer herding, and they set up their tents in the same way. There is also the assumption that the Sami originated in Mongolia, but this has not yet been proven. According to the current state of science, however, it is considered certain that the ancestors of the Sami, also called Proto-Sami, lived in the area between the White Sea and the southwestern one Lagoda lake lived It is believed, however, that they were victims of ethnic persecution and were therefore unable to stay there. Most likely they played for the expulsion mainly from the Ural Mountains native populations play a crucial role. These are the ancestors of the Baltic peoples and the Finns. The migration of the Sami towards the northwest, today's Lapland, probably took place in several stages. Since they probably had nowhere to gain a foothold, they only found them in the harsh and inhospitable latitudes Northern Scandinavia finally their home. According to the current state of research, it is not clear since when they actually settled there.

The fact that Lapland was populated as early as 98 AD is evident from the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus. He describes the people living there as simple and poor, but living in harmony with themselves and the world. According to his descriptions, they ate herbs and clothed themselves with skins; their life took place mainly in family groups. However, living in houses was apparently alien to them.

As evidence shows, already lived in the Neolithic (5,500 to 2,300 BC) people as hunters and gatherers in northern Scandinavia. This could be proven above all by old rock drawings and the remains of fireplaces. According to research, reindeer herding began in Lapland between 1800 and 900 BC. Hunting and fishing formed the livelihood of the Sami for many centuries. The reindeer in particular was one of their most important prey. It was not until much later that they learned the basics of agriculture from the Norwegians and how to build boats out of wood. The Sami had their own boats before, but these consisted of frames covered with animal skins.

The Sami in the Middle Ages and in modern times

It has been proven that already in the 9th century Contact between the Sami and the Vikings existed who settled on the coasts of northern Scandinavia. The Vikings themselves kept large numbers of reindeer herds. However, over time, conflicts arose between the two population groups. Tales show, among other things, that the Vikings levied taxes on the indigenous people of Lapland. However, one can also infer from records that both peoples traded with each other. The Sami exchanged skins and hides for precious metals and salt, among other things.

In the course of the Middle Ages the indigenous people of Lapland became increasingly dependent on other Nordic countries. At that time, the state borders in the north had not yet been determined. At that time the rulers existed Denmark-Norway, Sweden-Finland as Russia. These three states gradually subjugated the Sami by starting to collect taxes from them. These had to be paid in kind, especially animals for slaughter. Due to the not yet defined borders, it could happen that Sami living in one region paid taxes to three countries at the same time. Also Norwegian fur traders, also known as Bicarle called, demanded a fee, which they in turn had to pay to Swedes. Since the tax-collecting countries were far superior to the inhabitants of Lapland in terms of organization and weapons, the Sami obeyed their dictates.

In the 14th century the Russians and Norwegians began proselytizing their neighbors of other faiths, especially the Shamanism, that is, the worship of the sun and moon and the bear cult played a decisive role. At this time the first churches were built in Lapland.

At the beginning of the 16th century there were three different population groups among the Sami, including:

  1. The Sami farmers in the south of Norway, who mainly operated in agriculture and arable farming.
  2. The Sea Sami, who lived next to the farmers in the northern and eastern districts and made a living from hunting and fishing.
  3. The Sami in the mountains and Finnmark, who lived as nomads on hunted wild reindeer.

Since the Sami had to pay high taxes to the respective sovereigns and in some cases also had to do compulsory labor, the creation of a solid livelihood for the people became increasingly important. Therefore, the people of Lapland started keeping tamed reindeer, probably in the 1940s 16th century. However, the reindeer herds were much smaller for a long time than they are today. The Swedish King Gustav I. Wasa, who lived from 1523 to 1560, granted the Sami people the right to keep these animals.

Gradually, the three states of Sweden, Norway and Finland made ever clearer claims on Lapland. Because of this, they put increasing pressure on the Sami population. The Christianization of the northern Scandinavian parts of the country with its non-believing inhabitants was intensified. The Swedish royal family also left in 17th century at well-known trading places of the Sami church villages, where markets were held once a year. This offered Sweden an additional source of income for its national budget. Courts were also regularly held in these places. As already mentioned, the Bikarle helped the Swedish state collect taxes for a long time. Now these have been replaced by their own tax officers.

At that time, as many centuries before, the Sami lived in family groups, which were also known as "Siida". However, these have been subject to various changes over time. This had mainly to do with the change in structural and economic conditions. When the Sami lived mainly from hunting, the Siida consisted of up to fourteen households, most of which were related to one another. They shared the food, especially in winter, such as B. Game and fish. In spring and summer, however, they lived separately across the entire area, and each family provided for their own livelihood. With the advent of reindeer herding in the 16th century, these family groups were reduced in size due to the new spatial flexibility. For example, they consisted of several siblings with their families. There was the possibility of using common pastures for the reindeer. In spring, the herds were usually separated when the animals had young and had to be re-marked. The summer pasture was then shared again, as was the winter quarters. In order to strengthen its position of power and exercise greater control over the Siida, the Swedish royal family restructured them in the 17th century and divided them into "Lappendörfer".

The enslavement of all Sami is also a very dark chapter in history. In 1635, a silver mine was opened in Nasafjäll, Sweden. Many of the indigenous people of Lapland were forced to mine the precious metal in the mine and transport it to the coastal regions. Sami slaves were also used in other areas to work in various tunnels.

In 1673 the Swedish state began colonizing the Sami territories. The government sent settlers there who were given the right to use Lapland without restrictions and even to collect taxes from the Sami. There was little respect for the indigenous people themselves. The settlers hunted without consideration, especially in the southern Sami areas, so that at times there was food shortage and famine. In order to alleviate their misery, many of them hired themselves to the Swedes as forest workers. The Sami who lived further north often had themselves registered as settlers in order not to lose their country residence. Nevertheless, they were deprived of their right to breed reindeer.

In 1695, the Swedish King Karl XI replaced the tax in kind that had been levied until then with a municipal tax, which now had to be paid in cash. Furthermore, the indigenous people of Lapland were required to run errands and transport for merchants and authorities, among other things. As a result, the Sami had less time to take care of their livelihoods, such as buying food. The result was a further impoverishment of many families. To escape their poverty, many fled to neighboring Norway. From 1720 onwards, many Sami people in Sweden were resettled in areas designated for them by the government.

Over three decades later, in 1751, the "Treaty of Strömstad" was signed between Sweden and Norway. This was a border treaty that guaranteed the indigenous people of Lapland, among other things, the unpunished crossing of the national borders. Furthermore, all hunting rights between the settlers and the Sami were recorded in this. In reality, however, the Sami people continued to experience oppression and arbitrariness. Among other things, their religion did not meet with any acceptance. The people continued to be forced to convert to the Christian faith; religious places and instruments fell victim to destruction. Some Sami who refused to convert to Christianity were even sentenced to death.

At times the reputation of the indigenous people of Lapland in the cities changed for the better. They owed this to the Swedish naturalist Carl Linné. In 1732 he made a trip to the northern parts of Scandinavia. Contrary to the popular opinion that the Sami were primitive people without any decency or morality, the latter described them as a primitive people who had become victims of oppression and violence by civilization.

Unfortunately, the living conditions of many Sami remained poor. This also led to unrest within their own population. In 1852 there was a brutal battle in Kautekeino, Norway. Thirty-five Sami from the Laestadian revival came to the settlement to engage in a battle with some of their "unbelieving" compatriots. Laestadianism is a religious movement that arose on the one hand from Pietism and on the other hand from Moravian circles and belongs to the Lutheran churches in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Two people died and one was seriously injured in the bloody confrontation in Kautekeino. As a result, the fight was brutally suppressed by the Norwegians, and two of the masterminds were arrested and executed.

As during the 19th century When their hunting rights were curtailed, the poverty of the Sami population continued to increase. This situation worsened when iron ore mining began in the northern Swedish cities of Gällivare and Kiruna in 1888. The construction of the ore railway, which ran from Lulea in Sweden across the Norwegian border to Narvik, also contributed significantly to this problem. The result was that the Sami culture increasingly gave way to industrialization and emerging tourism. It also changed profoundly.

Another major deterioration to the detriment of the natives of Lapland was the emergence of social Darwinism in the 19th century. Since the teaching of the natural scientist Charles Darwin increasingly served as the basis of racial theories and interpreted them accordingly, the Sami were regarded as a lower people who lived in the stage of development was far below that of the "white man". This resulted in an even worse relationship with the Sami population. The Swedish government tried to counteract this development by keeping an area free for the natives of northern Scandinavia to keep reindeer. The so-called "Fjellbaugrize", which ran from north to south through Lapland, was used for this purpose. The mountains to the west of this border were intended for the Sami. In reality, however, implementation failed in many places.

Since the indigenous people of Lapland were generally regarded as a lower race, the Swedish and Norwegian states in particular tried to influence their way of life through more and more regulations. Since the general opinion prevailed that the children of the Sami were not developed enough to attend a normal school, so-called "nomad schools" were built for them towards the end of the 19th century. There they were taught far below the level of a regular educational institution. Furthermore, the governments forbade them to live in the usual rectangular stone houses, as did the Swedish and Norwegian people. The use of the Sami language in schools was also prohibited in all four countries through which Lapland runs. In Norway, only Norwegian-speaking people were allowed to buy their own land. As proof was generally sought that mixing different races would cause immense social damage, the state institute for racial biology in Uppsala, Sweden carried out a "flap examination" in 1922.

From the 20th century to the present

The indigenous people of Lapland gradually developed resistance to these conditions. At the February 6, 1917 Sami from Norway, Sweden and Finland came together for the first time in Trondheim, Norway, for a conference to give each other advice. This day went down in history and is still today the national holiday of the Sami people. It was the first time that the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia organized themselves politically across borders. Above all, the Norwegian Samin Elsa Lauda was the driving force that such a conference was brought into being. The main aim was to build a network of its own institutions. But real equality was nowhere near in sight. The governments continued their paternalistic policy in the period between the two world wars. In Sweden and Norway only the Sami were officially recognized who professionally ranched reindeer. All others had to adapt the way of life of their supposedly more sophisticated neighbors on the part of the governments. However, since one remembered the doctrine of Social Darwinism, according to which it was not possible for a lower race to adjust to a higher-quality culture, no further efforts were made in the 1940s to this affiliation.

The Second World War, which also raged in that decade, also had far-reaching consequences for the Sami. Many areas of Lapland, especially Norway and Finland, were devastated. The Sami population then had to be evacuated to more southern districts. After the end of the war, many returned to their homeland, while others settled elsewhere and some of them also settled there. The reason was that some areas could not be rebuilt and the rest fell to the Soviet Union.

With the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, things finally changed for the better for the Sami population. Eight years later the Nordic Seed Council brought to life. This is a transnational non-governmental organization in which Sami from Norway, Sweden and Finland were initially involved. Russia came later. In 1973 the first Sami parliament was finally established. In addition to representing general interests, its main task is primarily to strengthen the cultural self-determination of one's own people. Such an organ is represented in each country. In the 1960s, the Sami in Norway were granted the right to live their own culture by the local government. Finally, the Sami language was also allowed in schools, and new facilities were also set up, such as B. a cultural center for the southern Sami or a Sami museum in Karasjok. This positive development resulted in the indigenous people of Lapland in all three Nordic countries advocating their rights more and more successfully. In 1975 Sami of the Nordic Seed Council participated for the first time World Council of Indigenious Peoples. This is a worldwide organization that aims to promote cohesion among indigenous people around the world. Above all, it is about mutual exchange, such as B. knowledge and experience, as well as strengthening the individual organizations on site. Two years later, the Sami were officially recognized as an indigenous people in Sweden.

Despite these advances, however, the Sami people have repeatedly faced difficult situations.In the 1970s, the Norwegian government planned to use the "Altaelv" river in the province of Finnmark for hydropower and to build a corresponding power station for this purpose. A dam at a height of approx. 120 m was supposed to hold the water back. This led to major protests among the indigenous people of Lapland, who acted as environmentalists across countries and even across Europe. Among other things, they feared that the dam could cause flooding. In order to avoid this, the government finally showed itself willing to compromise. The planned height of the dam has been reduced. In 1981, despite further protests, construction began under police protection. This had far-reaching consequences, not only for the environment, but above all for the economy in the region. In addition to flooding, reindeer routes had to be relocated, and there are fewer grazing areas overall. Progressive climate change can also become an incalculable risk for this encroachment on nature.

The 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant also left its mark on the Sami population. A total of 73,000 reindeer south of the Arctic Circle were radioactively contaminated. Those affected were financially compensated by the governments, but the total was far too low.

However, a positive event in the same year was that the Sami population made their own flag as National anthem gave. In 1987 a law was passed that guaranteed the continued existence of the Sami culture. In spite of everything, especially in Norway and Sweden, the displacement of their interests in favor of the economy continued.

In order to redress the injustice committed against the indigenous people of Lapland in earlier centuries, a Sami national fund was set up in 2000 in the amount of 75 million Norwegian kroner - this corresponds to around 10 million euros. The main purpose of the funds is to support the Sami culture and its language.