A winter day in 2016, one hundred severed reindeer heads were stacked up outside of the district court of Deatnu, Norther-Norway, Sápmi.
Inside the court, the young Sámi reindeer herder Jovvset Ante Sara was fighting the Norwegian state for his right to take part in his heirloom, the livelihood of reindeer herding. The chopped off heads of the art installation Pile O´Sápmi by Jovvset Antes sister Máret Ánne Sara, are now bare skulls, inspired by the pile o' bones left behind by European settlers of North America after having killed of the buffalo the Native Americans depended on.
Jovvset Ante, the young reindeer herder, claimed that a government-imposed forced reduction of his small flock of reindeer would push him out of his traditional livelihood. The State on the other hand claimed that the land Jovvset Antes family had used for generations could not bear the strain of his reindeer.
The same land that the government have licensed for copper mining. The same land where the government would like to set up a wind farm. Truly a special piece of land, able to withstand the ecological stress of polluting mines, but not of Sámi reindeer herding.
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For centuries the nation states around Sápmi; Norway, Sweden, Russia, tried to dominate the Sami people; with bibles and swords, and through racist legislation and assimilation in the 19th and 20th century. There were laws against selling land to Sami speakers, and Sami children were sent to brutal boarding schools, where their language, identity and pride very physically and mentally beaten out of them. When the Canadian Truth & Reconciliation Commission examined the similar assimilation policies towards the first nations of Canada, they were labelled as cultural genocide.
The official assimilation policy came to its end in the 1950s, and from there on our fathers and mothers fought and won to keep the language alive, for the right to political consultation, indigenous rights and for our self-respect.
But there is something colonial when lands are taken from us, to make room for industrial development. In Fálesnuori, Gállok, Rásttigáisá, Fovsen. There is something colonial when young men in the reindeer pastoralism, a demographic hundred times more represented on the suicide statistics than the majority population, are put under even harder strain. The names and aims of the policies of today might be different than those of the last century, but the results are the same; Sami assimilated into the lifestyle of the majority population, losing language, tradition and identity on the way.
Recording the vocals for our latest album “Natur”, I took a day of to attend the annual conference held by the Norwegian Culture Council. Celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the first Sami political organisation, the conference were named “Sami Wrath”- discussing the conditions for Sami art and culture, and showcasing the many young Sami artists.
The Norwegian minister of Culture opened the conference, saying she hoped to through the conference better understand the origins of the “Sami wrath”, why were the young artists so angry? The president of the Sámi Parliament, Aili Keskitalo, took the stage after the minister, chillingly stating “one does really have to be blind, if one cannot see the origins of this wrath”. But by that time the minister had already left the building.
Wrath is born when a Minister of Culture praise the importance and international success Sami art, while at the same time dramatically cut funds for Sámi culture. Wrath is born when a minister praises the revitalisation of Sámi language, while Sami schools at the same time constantly are on the verge of being closed down. Wrath is born when our governing elite praises our culture, while skulls of reindeer, tradition and desperate young men are piling up.
I am a part of a new proud generation of Sami, a generation continuing the struggle of our elders in courtrooms and parliaments, but also in by making festivals, language classes and Sami arenas in every day life. And Ondt Blod is part of a new generation of proud, angry Sami artists: painters, poets, musicians, and writers like Anders Sunna, Maxida Märak, Máret Ánne Sara, and ISÀK.
The rage and shame of generations conveyed through book pages, through machine gun drums and recorded screams, through synthesizers and spray paint. Our traditional gákti are not exotic fashion statements, but confrontations, positions flagged.
And if the majority population cannot see the origins of our wrath, then we are going to open their eyes.
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Ondt Blod's new album 'Natur' is out now.
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