My Lule Sami Heritage

Reclaiming My Lule Sami Heritage: A Personal and Artistic Journey

This page will be regularly updated with both images and text that reflect this journey.

Vourbbe sámij álmmukbiejvijn! This year we were lucky enough to celebrate Sami People’s Day on 6 February in Oslo City Hall. So glad my daughter could join me on this.

Background and Impact of Norwegianization

I am of Lule Sami descent on my father’s side, but the Norwegianization process and assimilation led to the loss of the Sami language in my family. The Norwegianization process, a systematic policy by the Norwegian state from the mid-19th to mid-20th century, aimed to assimilate the Sami into Norwegian culture. Sami children were sent to boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their language, leading to the loss of their mother tongue and cultural identity. Restrictions were placed on Sami culture and traditional livelihoods like reindeer herding and fishing. Sami culture was actively opposed and ridiculed as something inferior and reprehensible. This policy caused deep and lasting impacts, weakening cultural transmission and causing shame among many Sami.

Revitalizing Cultural Heritage

As a visual artist, I am now in the process of reclaiming my cultural heritage and attempting to learn the Lule Sami language. The themes I explore in my artwork incorporate elements of this lost identity. My website will eventually be updated with both images and text reflecting this journey. I am working to revitalize my Lule Sami culture and language so that my daughters can be proud inheritors and not feel the shame that my father and his father experienced. We have Lule Sami ancestry going back nine generations, likely more, so I am fighting hard to ensure this heritage does not disappear from my family.

My great-grandmother, Karen Marie, originated from Drag before relocating with her family to Narvik, where my father was raised. In the accompanying map, the locations marked in red represent the ancestral origins and settlements of my Lule Sami relatives in Tysfjord. These locations include Ajluokta/Drag, Helland, Måsske/Musken, Vuodnabahta/Hellemobotn, Lasluokta/Lossvika, Tjårro/Tjårrnes, Oaffe/Kjøpsnes, Gásluokta/Kjøpsvik, and Ráhtáluokta/Fredagsvika. My lulesami family has resided in these areas since at least the 1700s, and likely for a considerably longer period.

Regrettably, it took a long time to overcome the shame that lingered within my family. It was only in adulthood that I began to take my Sami heritage seriously, registering in the Sami census and starting to vote in the Sami elections. I vividly remember the pride my father felt when I embraced our Sami heritage, which had previously been so strongly suppressed. No one was supposed to know about it. However, when I stepped forward, my father did as well. Nevertheless, it took many more years before I finally took the step to learn the Lule Sami language. Through this, I began to understand more about both my family and the cultural heritage that lies in comprehending how language and sentence structure convey more than one might initially perceive. I gained insight into the linguistic challenges that arise when Lule Sami is translated back into Norwegian, which has a completely different structure.

While my daily life revolves around my studio in Oslo, my entire family, on both sides, hails from Northern Norway, above the Arctic Circle. Throughout my life, I have commuted between Oslo and Northern Norway to visit my family in Lofoten and Narvik.These frequent journeys have fostered a sense of artistic duality within me, juxtaposing urban life with the untamed wilderness. The prospect of traveling to Northern Norway always fills me with immense joy, and I undertake these trips as frequently as possible, finding that the wild nature is essential for my rejuvenation. The sounds and smells of the vast ocean invigorate me, and the connection with nature, the mountains, and the sea serves as a profound source of inspiration, resonating deeply with my soul.

Reclaiming my Lule Sami heritage is a deeply personal and artistic journey. It involves not only reconnecting with my ancestors and their culture but also reflecting this reconnection in my art. By doing so, I hope to honor my heritage and ensure that it is passed down to future generations, allowing them to take pride in their identity without the shame experienced by previous generations.

Mån lav gåvvådájddár