Black Butterflies

We don’t watch shows together often but we make exceptions for holidays — and when someone is ailing. Last week as a birthday treat we watched Paddington Bear 2, which was absurdly fun, and so like our quirky youngest to suggest.

Last night I used my convalescence to cajole both husband and son (his sister is back at college) to watch a show together. I chose this compelling short documentary about the “Green Revolution” and Gállok.

It was important for me to share with our son that, at his age in the 1660s, our ancestor Olaf Thomassen Fannj (whose name may be a variant of “fanahit,” stretched, or “fadnu,” a flute made from the stem of angelica), was a slave. He was conscripted by the Swedish state to work in a silver mine in Gällivare, to haul ore with his reindeer.

The conditions were dreadful and the penalties severe (e.g., repeated submerging in a frozen lake). The road to the mine was, they say, lined with bones for a long time.

One source says:

To avoid forced labor, many Sami moved away, and when the government’s tax collector came to Kaitum in 1667, he wrote that “all had escaped,” and that there was no tax to collect. At the same time, in neighboring Sirkas, there were only nine taxpayers left. As a comparison, in 1643 Sirkas and Kaitum, which by that time were treated as one unit in the tax records, had had about seventy registered taxpayers. In 1667, the Sami population in the whole of Lule lappmark had decreased drastically and by then only fifty-five people were registered in the tax record.

According to Hultblad there were almost 200 taxpayers a decade earlier. The stress that the mines evidently brought on the Sami population was not in line with the government’s intention for interior northern Sweden, and policies had to be revised. From 1670, the number of people registered in the tax records slowly and steadily increased again, but it was not until after the tax reform in 1695 that the increase gathered real momentum.”

At 13:53, when Sara began to sing Sámi eatnam, I imagined Olaf — a young man with wind-whipped cheeks — loading his sledge with rocks, then stopping, suddenly alert, listening.

He is a slave in a Swedish colony, and a soldier is approaching, snapping a length of rope. But he has heard a sweet voice from the future.