In common with the majority of indigenous peoples, the Sami produced virtually no historical records of their own before the twentieth century. Information about Sami history must instead be pieced together from a number of sources produced by others, chiefly different branches of the early modern Swedish state or organizations connected to the state, such as the Swedish church and scientific organizations. We have relied mostly on court rulings from the local court in Jokkmokk to cover the eighteenth century and early modern accounts from the mid-seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth century. To cover the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century, when there were no records of court rulings and very few personal accounts are available, we used cadastral records (jordeböcker) and tax records as proxies for Sami land use. We also used many of the other printed sources, mostly tax records and other accounts from the Swedish state. However, for the time period from 1550 to the mid-seventeenth century we mostly relied on secondary sources.
Early Modern Accounts
Sources that describe Sami husbandry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries consist of accounts by missionaries to the lappmark. Six of these date from the seventeenth century, most of them prepared on behalf of the statesman Chancellor of the Realm Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie and forwarded to Uppsala professor Johannes Schefferus for his book project Lapponia
For various reasons, Schefferus did not use all of the accounts in his book, and the complete collection was edited and published, some of it for the first time, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.30
All in all, this compilation is made up of accounts by six missionaries: Samuel Rheen,31
Olaus Petri Niurenius,34
and Gabriel Tuderus.36
In the early 1740s, another detailed description of Sami life and customs was written and published by the missionary Pehr Högström.37
Högström had become well acquainted with both Sami livelihood and language through his work as a missionary and priest in Lule lappmark. In his book, he refers quite often to Schefferus’ Lapponia
, commenting on and correcting information that he considers to be wrong.
Even though missionary accounts provide many valuable insights into Sami history, they are also associated with source-critical problems. First, they are inevitably colored by the Swedish context in which their authors were raised and educated, and moreover by the ideals of the Christian Lutheran Church that sent them to the lappmark in the first place. In fact, only one of the missionaries, Nicolai Lundius, was Sami and thereby also part of the Sami context.38
The primary task of the many missionaries was to spread the Christian Lutheran faith and customs among the Sami through preaching and traveling in the Swedish lappmark. This would certainly have provided many valuable insights into Sami subsistence, and the missionaries would surely have developed a relatively close, albeit unequal, relationship with the Sami they described. As a result, the strength of the accounts as source material is that the authors actually interacted with the Sami of northern Sweden in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They thereby provide us with a unique window into Sami history, albeit with various problematic filters.
Second, another source criticism is that some missionaries seem to have copied parts of others’ texts, incorporating them into their own accounts. This calls for careful reading and analysis in order to identify each author’s independent contribution. The third problem concerns how well the priests and the Sami could communicate with one another, given that they spoke different languages. According to contemporary sources, some Sami, at least in the southern lappmark, understood Swedish quite well, and similarly some Sami in the eastern lappmark understood Finnish.39
These language skills are described as especially good among the Sami who took part in trade. Some accounts indicate there were plenty of interpreters in the lappmark whom priests, for example, could use when preaching sermons. In one account, the author actually mentions his interpreter, which clearly shows that not all priests could speak Sami, and that interpreters were used not only for sermons but also for other forms of contact between missionaries and Sami.40
All in all, it seems to have been quite possible for missionaries and Sami to bridge the language barrier by using Swedish or Finnish through an interpreter or more rarely speaking Sami.
Missionaries aside, a number of Swedish and foreign travelers in the eighteenth-century lappmark recorded their encounters with Sami. Most famous among these is perhaps Carl Linnaeus who, as a young man in the spring and summer of 1732, journeyed to the lappmark at the behest of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Uppsala. On his travels he visited both Ume and Lule lappmark making countless useful observations on Sami livelihood. He noted and illustrated many of his observations in a personal diary that was supposedly never intended for publication. His edited journal first appeared in English in 1811.41
The Swedish version, which has been edited and republished several times, was published most recently in three volumes by the Royal Skyttean Society in 2003.42
Almost a decade later, another young man, Arwid Ehrenmalm, traveled from Stockholm to Åsele lappmark on behalf of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. On his return to Stockholm, he wrote a book about his experiences, its final section describing Sami customs and habits.43
Both these travelogues contain detailed and useful information, allowing us to understand more about Sami subsistence. These accounts, however, share similar source-critical problems with the missionary accounts described above, some of which will be elaborated in the next section.
The prime objective of the journeys by Linnaeus and Ehrenmalm was to investigate the natural resources of northern Sweden, and to ascertain how the area could best be exploited from a Swedish point of view. As part of their task, the travelers also provided valuable insights into Sami subsistence. However, as with the missionaries described above, the travelogue authors came from a different context to the Sami they described. This sometimes shines through by way of derogatory descriptions, especially related to Sami beliefs, appearances, and manners, and more so for Ehrenmalm than for Linnaeus. Nevertheless, both authors were more objective and matter-of-fact when describing various aspects of Sami trade, reindeer herding, fishing, and their use of other natural resources. As neither of them spoke Sami, one suspects that a great deal of information, as well as the many nuances of Sami culture, became lost in translation. Ehrenmalm mentions using an interpreter, which Linnaeus does not, even though he too certainly would have been accompanied by one.
An increased scientific activity, and an interest in exploring Sweden’s natural resources, in order to promote the country’s economy impacted the publication of dissertations and scientific journals during the eighteenth century. This included topics and places from interior northern Sweden, and the authors often had lived in the area they covered. An example of that would be Jonas Hollsten from Lule lappmark, who wrote articles about three animals: beaver, wolverine, and wild reindeer.44
contains an overview of accounts used with a biosketch of each author.
Major early modern accounts used as sources, including biographical information of the authors; listed in alphabetic order by author
Visited Åsele lappmark in 1741 at the behest of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (where he was notary public)
Journey through Wäster-Norrland to Åsele lappmark district
Carl P. Fjellström
Defended a thesis on the possibilities to further cultivate the entire lappmark; he grew up in Lycksele in Ume lappmark, where his father Pehr Fjellström was priest
Thoughts about the possibility of cultivation in the Lappmark
Schoolmaster and priest in the parish of Lycksele, Ume lappmark (1718–1764)
Short story about the Sami bear-hunt, as well as related superstitions
Priest in the parish of Piteå
, County of Västerbotten (1656–1689); wrote about Sami in Pite lappmark
Relation, or a complete description of the origin of the Sami, as well as their entire living conditions
Priest in the parish of Gällivare, Lule lappmark (1742–1748)
Description of Sami districts belonging to the Swedish crown
Priest in the parish of Jokkmokk, Lule lappmark (1757–1775)
Remarks on the beaver, castor
Remarks on the wolverine
Dissertation on the reindeer
Visited Ume, Lule, and Torne lappmark in the summer of 1732 on behest of the Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala
Sami; born in Pite lappmark where his father was priest. Minister (Sw klockare) in the parish of Jokkmokk, Lule lappmark, at the time of his death; wrote about Sami in Ume lappmark; he might have attended the Skytteanska school in Lycksele
Olaus Petri Niurenius
Priest in the parish of Umeå, County of Västerbotten (1619–1645); wrote about Sami in Ume lappmark
Lapland, or a description of the Nordic region inhabited by the Sami in the most remote parts of Scandinavia or Sweden
Priest assistant vicar (Sw komminister) in the parish of Jokkmokk, Lule lappmark (1664–1671)
A short story about Sami life and customs, superstitions, and in many cases severe delusions
Priest in the parish of Nedertorneå, County of Västerbotten (1639–1681)
Description of the Sami districts and their conditions
The travelogues and missionary accounts are mainly descriptive in character and therefore not particularly suitable for quantitative analyses. However, since the descriptions derive from sources who depict different districts in the lappmark, it is still possible to make comparisons, which in turn strengthen the credibility of the descriptions as source material. One additional source is Anders Holm’s account that is part of a map drawn by surveyor Jonas Gedda covering Ume lappmark in 1671 and published by Norstedt in 2011.45
The map is divided into 37 skatteland
(tax lands), and Holm systematically describes available resources on each portion of land.46
The other major source material we used are court rulings from the local court (häradsrätt) in Jokkmokk in Lule lappmark. The early modern häradsrätt was an arena where users could bring unresolved conflicts regarding natural resource management to have them settled.
Scandinavian law is generally regarded as distinct from other legal families. Another name for Scandinavian law is Nordic law since it refers to the law of the five Nordic countries—Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.47
The Scandinavian legal tradition goes back to the early medieval period when similar provincial law codes appeared in Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and last in Sweden. This intense period of legislation coincides with a period of political and ideological consolidation of the emerging states.48
In Sweden, the medieval law code was in place until 1734, when a new national law was introduced to include countryside and towns.49
However, the new law code did not radically break from legal tradition.50
The laws of the local community were written by and for the land-holding peasants.51
The long-term history of jurisdiction in Sweden relates to how the king and the state (the crown) gained increasing control over the process at the expense of local communities. Starting in the seventeenth century, the jurisdiction slowly became more professionalized.
The countryside was divided into judicial areas. The primary unit of jurisdiction was an assembly called ting
. During the Middle Ages, it became an arena were rural communities convened to manage their legal matters. The court proceedings took place under the leadership of a judge who made decisions with a panel of twelve local men, the nämnd
, who served as lay-judges, nämnedmän
. No official could sit on the nämnd
. The nämnd
represented the community and its knowledge of local people and circumstances. The participation of the community was essential for the legitimacy of the court. One explanation for the stronger influence of the Swedish peasantry compared to much of contemporary Europe was that peasants constituted one of the four societal estates of the Diet that was standardized in the sixteenth century.52
Another feature of the Nordic judicial system was that many cases were resolved by settlements in court, not out of court.53
The courts have been described as social arenas where the local community met the authorities and together “took part in the exercise of social control,”54
and as a place where local economic disputes and other relations were settled.55
A fundamental feature of the court was its lay dominance, where conflict resolution was a bottom-up process.56
Lay dominance was a cornerstone in the Swedish legal cultural identity at that time.57
Since the courts in the Swedish lappmark belonged to the same legal system as the courts in the rest of Sweden, we can assume that the legal culture there was analogous, albeit reflecting local practices in a Sami context. This assumption is reinforced by the fact that the häradsrätt
in Lule lappmark, at least into the mid-eighteenth century, had twelve Sami lay-judges and one Swedish head judge, like the other local courts in the lappmark
The courts in Sweden were inclined to accept the economic reality in the local community and strived to maintain social stability.59
However, it is important to stress a few things to put the local court in perspective. The lay-judges were not randomly selected. They represented established taxpaying people. They all had a stake in natural resource management, i.e., reindeer herding, fishing, hunting. An eighteenth-century source described the lay-judge position in the lappmark
as desired and the lay-judges as honorable, not different from the same position in an agriculture setting.60
While the court decision in the eighteenth century was a bottom-up process regarding land use where Sami customary rights were taken into consideration, not all cases brought to the court were. In criminal cases and religious matters, it was the Swedish state’s view that prevailed. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century it was the Christian Lutheran faith that showed if you were a Swede. Religion was the cohesive force and a glue in society, not the language, since Sweden was a multilingual country. According to Lars-Gunnar Larsson, even Sami-speaking people were seen as good Swedes as long as they confessed to the Lutheran faith, something that changed during the nineteenth century when the Swedish language came to define the country.61
When the court became aware that Sami had been practicing a pre-Christian faith, they investigated the circumstances meticulously and punished the practitioners severely.62
In cases regarding land use, the court acted the other way around, with inclusiveness that involved users.
Solving Conflicts in Practice
How policy making regarding land use and grazing rights were shaped is hard to fully understand in an early modern setting, where the users have left no written evidence of how the process evolved. Natural resource governance was complex, and we can assume that users routinely interacted with each other to make policy decisions. These interactions are difficult to research today, but from the late seventeenth century, the local court became a trusted arena for policy discussion and decisions regarding natural resource management policy. To get a sense of how the court worked and the bottom-up perspective used, we present a few court rulings.
In 1732, Anund Larsson in Tuorpon complained to the court that Jon Larsson Hufwa and his father Lars Andersson Kock in the same village, had been fishing in a lake in the mountains. Particularly annoying for Anund Larsson was that they had been fishing in the part of the lake where the fish spawn each year. Since the court was not able to determine who had the right to fish in the lake, they appointed two lay-judges to do an investigation, Tomas Storm from Jokkmokk and Pål Andersson in Sirkas. The lay-judges were told to visit the lake with the plaintiff and the defendants and gather all information possible. The court only convened once each year and told the users to share the lake as they had been doing while they waited for a decision regarding the case. One year later, the lay-judges reported back to the court what they had discovered. Based on that information, the court eventually was able to make a decision in the case in February of 1733. The plaintiff and the defendants agreed upon a solution that the lay-judges had suggested and the lake was divided between them. A border between the two parties was determined, and Anund Larsson had the right to fish on the south side and Jon Larsson Hufwa and Lars Andersson Kock on the north, and most likely, both getting half of the spawning area.63
As the case shows, a lay-judge was a trusted man and was often appointed to resolve conflicts and suggest solutions to the court regarding disputes among users, usually after he had met the parties involved in the field. In this case, the Sami-speaking lay-judges met with the plaintiff and defendants in Tuorpon to find a solution that the court later confirmed. The lay-judges came to have an important role in determining the outcomes of conflicts regarding land use brought to court. The lay-judges could also be asked to determine if arguments put forward in court were plausible, as a case from 1743, about an oxren (ox reindeer) shows.
A week before Christmas, eight reindeer that belonged to Pål Eriksson had merged into Anders Anundsson’s reindeer herd. Seven of them had been retrieved, but an ox reindeer was still missing. A few days later, a thirteen-year-old boy, who had herded Eriksson’s reindeer during the summer, saw Anundsson slaughter a reindeer and he recognized it as the reindeer Eriksson was missing. When Eriksson was notified, he went over to confront Anundsson and took the reindeer pelt from the slaughtered animal as a proof. Anundsson insisted that the slaughtered reindeer was his own property. The discussion in court came to revolve around the reindeer pelt and if it had belonged to Eriksson’s reindeer or Anundsson’s reindeer. Eriksson displayed the pelt for the court and argued that his animal could be recognized because “hair” was missing at the neck where a trälg (collar) had been attached. When Anundsson told the court that he too had had a collar on his reindeer, the lay-judges pointed out that it seemed implausible that the reindeer could have lost so much hair since Anundsson had told them his reindeer had not worn the collar for a long time.
The discussion about recognizing a reindeer by the pelt or “hair” continued when Gunilla Pålsdotter took the stand. During the summer she had had Eriksson’s reindeer in her herd and she told the court that she känner således alla renar äldre och yngre, om de än vore ibland tusende främmande renar
(recognize all reindeer, old as well as young, even if they were with thousands of unfamiliar reindeer).64
When the fur was displayed, Pålsdotter said she knew it was Eriksson’s missing reindeer from “the hair,” as well from the fact that part of the fur on the neck was worn away. The judge seemed to have a hard time judging Pålsdotter’s testimony, and he asked the lay-judges if it was possible for a caretaker of reindeer to recognize a single reindeer out of many. The lay-judges said that it was possible for a person who took care of reindeer to distinguish a reindeer by “the hair,” even if the number of reindeer in a herd were large and they look alike in color. Anundsson agreed but added that reindeer pelts could be quite similar.65
These two court cases show not only that the lay-judges played an important, and often instrumental, role in determining the outcome of a court case regarding natural resource management, but that the judge from the state often was clueless about how Sami economy and culture worked, especially when it came to the details. One way for the state to keep the faith in the court system was to leave important decisions in the hands of people who actually knew how the economy worked for local users. Since the court only convened once each year, a few days in January or February, and the judge did not live in the area, he had no time to visit contested places. This and the fact that the jurisdiction area was huge made it impossible for the state judge to know details about local circumstances. That district court existed until 1751, when its jurisdiction of approximately 36,000 km2 was split basically in half. After 1751, the local court in Jokkmokk covered around 19,500 km2.
Through the court rulings, we are enlightened by “hearing” the users’ own voices in their arguments and attitudes. The rulings were scripted by a clerk (probably non-Sami) who was appointed by the state; however, the written records present only summaries of what actually was said during the court proceedings. Most users spoke only Sami, which meant that an interpreter translated to Swedish all that was said in court before the rulings were recorded. For sure, all of this added the risk of information being lost in the process. The judges often worked for a long time in the lappmark and sometimes they knew a little Sami. When new judges were to be appointed in 1697, an argument for two candidates was that they were fairly good at the language.66
Rulings from Lule Lappmark
Filip Hultblad worked more than thirty years on his dissertation Transition from Nomadism to Farming in the Parish of Jokkmokk
In his seminal work, he laid the foundation for other scholars working on settlement development in Lule lappmark.68
His aim was to understand the settling process, but it was only possible to do this as a study of the total development of settlements in the area. Hence, he became involved in Sami history. In order to understand the development in the southern part of Lule lappmark, Jokkmokk’s parish, he used the time-consuming method of studying the population person by person, a method he described as genealogical-topographic. He went through almost all available written sources (unpublished as well as published sources) from the early modern period to the end of the nineteenth century, and added some early twentieth-century sources.69
An important source Hultblad used was court rulings from the häradsrätt
in Jokkmokk. The court rulings are from the end of the seventeenth century to the second half of the nineteenth century.70
From the late seventeenth century, it is possible to follow individual people through the sources. Hultblad estimates that he read approximately 20,000 pages of court rulings, an astonishing number. In his book he has a long section of abbreviated court rulings listed according to people involved.71
Each person was assigned a number, and in another part of the book he has a family register regarding families that were established in the area before 1880. He listed both court rulings and family members according to the Sami village the person belonged to. Settlers, mostly non-Sami, are listed at the farms where they lived or in other settlements. Since Hultblad studied settlement development and wrote a dissertation in geography, the list of court cases he published often involved names of places. Court rulings that are rich in place names are civil court cases regarding, for example, the right to use grazing land, fish, or hunt. Hence, they make up a large part of the abbreviated court rulings Hultblad published.
The court in Jokkmokk encompassed all of Lule lappmark from its inception in the first decade of the seventeenth century to 1751, when the new court was established in Gällivare in the northern part of Lule Lappmark. In Jokkmokk, the villages Tuorpon, Sirkas, and Jokkmokk and the southern part of Sjokksjokk continued as a smaller version of the original court. Hultblad was focused on Jokkmokk parish and excluded court rulings regarding Kaitum village and the northern part of Sjokksjokk that became part of Gällivare court’s jurisdiction.
We used Hultblad’s compilation of court rulings in Lule lappmark to systematically find cases dealing with reindeer herding, fishing, and hunting as well as other cases related to land use. To validate the cases, we compared a sample of his transcripts to the original court rulings, and our assessment was that they match well in regard to principal content. Nevertheless, his transcripts are abbreviations of the original records. When we needed more meticulous descriptions of court cases, we used the originals. In total, there were about 280 cases concerning land use between 1699 and 1780. The large number of court cases in a small population (more about population in Chapter 4
) is evidence that users used the court to develop policy. The court was a collective-choice arena where policy decisions about rules that defined and constrained operational activities often were made.72
Decisions about the right to use grazing land and fishing waters were discussed in detail, and the court rulings make it possible to study the gradual changes in the institutions that regulated rights to graze reindeer, fish, and hunt.73
A classification shows that around 70% of 280 cases dealt with reindeer grazing or access to land in more general terms, around 24% dealt with fishing, and only 6% dealt explicitly with hunting.74
These proportions suggest that users were concerned mostly with the expanding reindeer pastoralism during the eighteenth century and that reindeer owners used the court to change policy about grazing rights. At the other end of the spectrum, conflicts over hunting rarely were taken to court. However, the percentages say less about what role hunting played in the household than the cases themselves. Although there are relatively few hunting cases in the court material, the ones that exist provide detailed information.
With fewer cases available, we turned more to the original court rulings to get more meticulous descriptions. In practice, this means that all court rulings regarding hunting have come from the original records. We read about one-third of the cases regarding fishing and about 10% of the rulings regarding reindeer herding. In addition, some court rulings mentioned reindeer, fishing, and hunting in passing, although they mainly dealt with another type of conflict, e.g., theft, assault. We used information from a few such cases, all retrieved from the original records. For hunting, it meant that we almost doubled the number of cases.
To get a sense of how the court worked in Lule lappmark, and to get a feeling of what kinds of other conflicts were brought to the court at the beginning of the eighteenth century, we read all court rulings from 1699 to 1708. They encompass about 130 court rulings and add valuable insights into Sami culture. The court rulings sometimes contain details about practices that can add to or corroborate information in other sources, specifically the priests’ and travelers’ accounts. Some of these cases are rulings concerned with reindeer herding, fishing, and hunting and are included in the number above. In total, we used around 400 court rulings.
The authors of accounts and court records used Swedish spellings when they transcribed Sami names of users, lakes and streams, grazing land, and other places. Sami language and Sami name traditions are fundamentally different from their Swedish equivalents, which vary considerably in historical sources, and it was probably difficult for contemporary interpreters and authors to get the names right. We transcribed the names in modern Swedish, although we are aware that Lule Sami orthography would have been more accurate and would have added context and familiarity for readers. However, to be useful, such a translation requires a rigorous and systematic approach, which was beyond what is possible to do in this book. An additional problem with place names in the court rulings is that some of them are grossly misspelled or have been misunderstood.75