Oh, to be there now!

Two years ago this month, at the last “live” Jokkmokk winter market, I recall standing in front of a display case of silver spoons in the Áttje Museum, struck by the thought that silver was a red thread through my ancestral history.

It can be traced from the 1600s when silver was found at Nasafjell, where soldiers, convicts, and Sámi were forced to work. In 1659, Norway destroyed the mine. In 1772, Karl Laestadius goes to work at the mine as an “executive” — perhaps a bailiff or sheriff of sorts — who has to pursue those who flee. (One of those who did not flee was my ancestor Olaf Tomassan Fannj.) The mine failed and Karl took up drink and farming. His son Lars Levi became the charismatic reformer of Karesuando who preached against vanity and wealth. His followers melted silver jewelry into cups and spoons. (His brother Per Laestadius estimated in 1839 that a silver belt was worth 15-20 reindeer!). The red thread continues to my Laestadian father in 20th century America, forbidding his daughters to wear make-up or jewelry, but giving his last baby girl a silver “teething” bell, which I still cherish.

If I could teleport to Áttje today, I would no doubt have similar aha! moments at the new “Mijá árbbe” exhibit, which features some of the 480 Sámi artifacts whose ownership was recently transferred from Etnografiska Museet.

This is not a geographical move as they were already there, on loan, but a victory nonetheless. Imagine having to seek permission from Stockholm each time you want to exhibit or study an item in your own archive.

Unlike Norway and Finland, Sweden has no national Sámi museum, and lags behind in the return of artifacts.

More details here.


Fortunately with friends at the market, I will get to enjoy it virtually. Post those pics!

Jokkmokk Market 2019