Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Visit to Lapland, 1868

Today is the international Sami Day. If you don't know the word, the Sami are the indigenous people inhabiting the far northern region of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola peninsular of Russia that is sometimes called "Sàpmi" or "Sami land". The Sami are traditionally hunters, gatherers and reindeer herders and were continually pushed north from part of their traditional lands by settlers, and their way of life, religion and language has been under threat for hundreds of years. The old Swedish word for the Sami is "Lapps", which is now considered derogatory and no longer in use. The word "Lappland" derives from that, and it is still used for parts of northern Sweden and Finland.

I'm part Sami, and in the 19th century, my family all lived in the traditionally way. They were nomads and reindeer herders and they lived in materially very poor conditions, in lands that were covered in snow and ice for 9 months a year and where there was no daylight at all in December.

In the 19th century, anthropological studies were gaining in popularity, and in 1868 Swedish physician and anthropologist Gustaf von Düben organized the first of two expeditions to Swedish Lapland in order to study the Sami people. He brought his wife Lotten, who helped document the Sami way of life using the still relatively new tool of photography. Her photographs are now in the care of Nordiska Museet of Stockholm, Sweden, who has kindly made them available on Flickr Commons.

Portrait of Maria Persdotter Länta, aged 45, from Sirkas Sami village (from Flickr Commons)
Inga Pantsi, a widow from Tuorpon Sami village, and her granddaughter (from Flickr Commons)
A Sami man carrying a spear (from Flickr Commons)
Portrait of Lars Anders Baggi, aged 25, from Jokkmokk (from Flickr Commons)
Portrait of Karin Savalo, a widow from Tuorpon Sami village, and her daughter Inga (from Flickr Commons)
Please feel free to have a look at the entire collection (which is really rather remarkable), and if you are interested in more facts about the Sami, you can of course find an article on Wikipedia.


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