Investigating ancestral land

The right to use land for reindeer herding has been challenged since the wealth of Sápmi land became evident – minerals, forests, energy, fish, game and recreation. The land was divided, bought and exploited with the Sámi still on it trying to adjust and claim rights. The new landowners soon enough started to question the Sámi right to their traditional land for reindeer husbandry, fishing and hunting. One method has been to dispute Sámi was on the land before the colonizers came. Archaeology has become a Sámi tool in this debate. Since Sámi language was not a written language and since Sámi by tradition left very few marks on the land it has been hard to prove indigenous rights against Sweden. The enormous raw material wealth of Northern Sweden and those capitalizing from it probably adds to Swedish reluctance to accept Sámi rights. This is a glimpse into the life of some unveiling the truth of Sámi ancestry. Text interpreted from an article By Jörgen Sundin at allehanda.se and Sameradion.

Skärmklipp fornminnen
Photo: Jörgen Sundin. Archaeologist Bernt Ove Viklund still going strong.

In Resele deep forests north of Sollefteå archaeologist Bernt Ove Viklund have found exciting remains from ancient Sámi homesteads. A team is now mapping and cataloguing the abundant findings.

  • I am always happy when I find something like this. You know, I’m not that young anymore. I am soon 65 and have been doing this for a long time. And will keep doing it as long as my legs can carry me. I’m very, very happy, said Bernt Ove Viklund. And I find something new all the time.

They have now documented close to 140 findings. One purpose is to write a map and perhaps an illustration showing how the home stead might have looked like. The Viklund discoveries does show that reindeer husbandry have existed in the area since ancient times.

– This is not an archaeological investigation. We are doing this for inventory purposes because of a planned windmill plant project. But I estimate that some of the findings originate from around 500 – 600 AD, says Viklund.

Journalist on the spot Sundin like most not familiar to findings like these find it hard discover anything walking together with Viklund. But the trained eye of Viklund sees where there may be fire hearths. With a probe he quickly and correctly locates an old hearth. The Sámi fire hearths can be distinguished by their oval shape. This together with knowledge that this is ancient reindeer herding land strengthen the old Sámi connection. A group of fire hearths on a row tell that there was probably a kåta (Sámi tentipi) built above them.

Reporter Sundin also met Sámi Thomas Kroik Kristoffersson and Lena Kroik from Voernese Sámi community who are partners in the project.

  • This is traditional land our reindeer graze in the winter. We Sámi have it in our culture not to leave traces in nature. Therefore, it can be difficult to find proof of our presence here a long time ago, says Lena Kroik. Archaeology can help us with this.

Food for thought. If you travel from Resele 15 km south-east along River Ångermanälven  you come to Nämforsen. Here a huge amount of rock art have been found dating 6 000 years back. Moose is the dominant animal in these carvings but there is also an abundance of different objects, humans and animals. The moose as the reindeer is an important part of Sámi mythology as with other indigenous peoples in the Arctic.

Food for thought. A reason for these archaeological investigations to be conducted is the fact that a windmill park is planned for the area. That will get you funding to investigate.

Read more about Sámi history at our NatGeo Stories site – klick on ”South Sámi of Scandinavia”. Also learn more at ”Sámi and myths from the Arctic”.

Food for thought. My great grandmother and great grandfather fell in love somewhere around here. She Sámi and he railroad worker and lumber jack from Småland in the south.

By,

Dan Jonasson

 

 

 

 

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Investigating ancestral land

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