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Decolonizing Sápmi – supradisciplinarily
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research. (Technoscience)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2820-0584
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research. (Technoscience)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2820-0584
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2013 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This panel brings scholars, artists and activists from Sápmi – collaborating supradisciplinarily.  With a geographical focus on the Swedish part of Sápmi, the common theme methodologies and strategies for decolonization, such as making Sámi agency and activism visible as well as memory work and visions of decolonized futures.

Abstract [en]

Paper 1: May-Britt Öhman, Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala University


“ Rivers, resistance and resilience: Sustainable futures in Sápmi and in other indigenous peoples’ territories – presentation of a Formas financed research project 2013-2017”

This paper is a presentation of the basis for the research project which starts during 2013. The overall aim of this supradisciplinary research project is to analyze the sociotechnical aspects of human security, sustainability for, resistance and resilience of indigenous peoples in (post)colonial settings in regard to industrial exploitations of riverscapes/waterscapes. Apart from the analysis of the interactions between different groups of human beings, Sámi communities, individuals, associations, on the one hand and local and state authorities as well as industrial companies on the other,  the project also departs from the understanding that the interaction between human society and the natural world goes beyond the control of one by the other and therefore aims at a broader understanding of agency, one in which both humans and nature act as agents of change.

The geographical focus is on waterscapes in Swedish Sápmi – the Lule, Ume, Kalix and Torne rivers. Cmparisons will be made with other colonial settings, Japan, Norway, Finland, Australia, the US; The Great Ruaha and Rufiji in Tanzania, as well as rivers in India and Canada.

Apart from the cross-disciplinary collaboration envisioned, the supradisciplinarity is based on decolonizing methodology where an important part is collaboration with indigenous and Sámi scholars and a close collaboration with Sámi associations, individuals, artists and filmmakers – as well as representatives of authorities and industrial companies.

Abstract [en]

Paper 2: Agneta Silversparf, the Sámi association Silbonah Samesijdda and Centre for Gender Research – collaboration with May-Britt Öhman


The Sámi genealogy work as resistance practice:  Countering Social Darwinism and reclaiming Sámi history and culture


This paper discusses Sámi genealogy work as a resistance practice. Swedish state colonization of the Sámi was paralleled with a cultural genocide amongst other through the so called “Lap should be Lap policy”, categorizing only mountain reindeer herding men as “real” Sámi from the beginning of the 20th century. Ensued a segregation policy where non-nomadic forest Sámi were to become Swedes, reindeer herders were forced to quit reindeer husbandry. Their children were sent to Swedish schools, where teachers did not speak Sámi. Nomadic children were forced to attend tent schools or simple wood buildings, constructed to resemble the traditional Sámi tent used in migrations. Both language and connection to the culture was rapidly destroyed. Also this colonization along racist discrimination of Sámi resulted in non-reindeer herding Sámi themselves doing their best to become Swedish, denying their Sámi heritage. In the 1970s, a governmental inquiry set out to establish the number of Sámi in Sweden. The method was to count reindeer owners from the 19th century and their descendants, strengthening the construction of a real Sámi as reindeer herders only. Today, these categorizations form the base for the official number of Sámi. The number of living Sámi persons in Sweden of today is commonly suggested to be around 20 000 – and at most 40 000. The figure is maintained even by official Sámi institutions, such as the website on the Sámi parliament. Sámi genealogy work is an important strategy to counter this eradication of Sámi culture and memory.

Abstract [en]

Paper 3:

Katarina Pirak Sikku, Sámi artist


Title: Tearing up old wounds to make them heal properly: An artistic perspective on racial biology and its effects on the Sámi


This is a presentation of an upcoming exhibition on the theme of racial biology, to be at shown Bildmuseet, during UMEÅ 2014 European Capital of Culture.

In the late 19th and early 20th century research on Sámi was pursued with an outspoken racist ideological background, where the Sámi where defined as the Other through skull measurements and photographic documentation. In 1922 the Swedish Riksdag passed a law setting up the National Institute of Racial Biology, the first national institute of its kind in the world. In 1958, when the Swedish state race biological institute was closed down, its content and research was transferred to the Department of Medical Genetics at the Uppsala University.

As an artist I want, with the exhibition “Bita huvudet av skammen” (“Go past all sense of shame”), to shed light on how race biology affected my ancestors in the early 20th century. We know some of consequences the racial biology had. We, the Sámi people, were seen as second-class citizens. I have interviewed several persons, mostly women, who remember. I wish to highlight how these memories are dealt with, and also how we will deal with this in the future. What are the emotional consequences of these events? How do we know how to handle it?

With the help of art as a tool I wish to open this infected scab to make it heal again properly. 

Abstract [en]

Paper 4:

Marie Persson, Kvanne Grafiska / ”Stop Rönnbäck Nickel Mining Project in Tärnaby”


Visions for a future at the source of the Ume River, Sweden:  The battle against the Rönnbäck Nickel Mining Project



This presentation discusses a case of local struggle for a sustainable future in Sápmi, through a battle against a specific mining project. The Rönnbäck Nickel Mining Project in Tärnaby which currently in process for opening, supported by the Swedish State,  will be the first nickel mine in Sweden since WW2, with several open day pits and sand and waste water ponds located directly by a water reservoir in the Ume River.  Despite that the indigenous rights should have radically changed with the UN-adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), the Swedish government, and its ministry of Enterprise has weighed the national interest of the indigenous way of living with reindeer herding as less important than the interest of extraction of minerals. The mine will seriously deteriorate reindeer migration routes, and thereby put the survival for Sami traditional cultural and economic activities at stake.  Furthermore, the mine is also a threat to water resources, nature, culture, health and a sustainable way of life for future generations in the area, as well as in the whole river valley.   For instance, in November 2012, the dangers with mining releasing toxic heavy metals came to the fore as a waste water pond at Talvivaara nickel and uranium mine in Finland went into heavy leakage, contaminating adjacent water courses. The presentation presents the course of the struggle as a case of resistance against aggressive Swedish state colonialism in Sápmi.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå, 2013.
National Category
Social Sciences Engineering and Technology Humanities Gender Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-236146OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-236146DiVA: diva2:762807
Teknik- och vetenskapshistoriska dagar 2013/ The History of Technology and Science Days 2013
Rivers, Resistance, Resilience: Sustainable Futures in Sápmi and in other Indigenous Peoples' Territories
Formas, 2012-1845

Panel session

Available from: 2014-11-12 Created: 2014-11-12 Last updated: 2014-11-12

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