People Weren’t Allowed to Live in Houses in the Capital of Wilderness

AjtteWe are in Jokkmokk. It is just above the Arctic Circle. Jokkmokk is Saami for “river and bend”, the nearby river is bending. The municipality of Jokkmokk is in some regards the capital of national parks in Sweden. It is also in some regards the capital of the Saami people in Sweden.

In 1996 Laponia became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Four national parks – Sarek, Padjelanta, Stora Sjöfallet and Muddus and two nature reserves Sjaunja and Stubba forms the site. UNESCO made this inscription because it represents the original population’s landscape. This large wilderness in Jokkmokk is the mecca for avid outdoor people.

In the 1960s a museum for the Saami culture in Jokkmokk was established. In 1989 the museum changed from being a local Saami museum to become a national museum for all Saami culture in Sweden, Ájtte – Svenskt Fjäll- och Samemuseum (Swedish Mountain and Saami Museum). Ájtte is not only a museum about the Saami, but also about the nature and other cultures in the area.

We made a short stop at Ájtte in 2012 on our Midnight Sun Road tour. But instead of visiting the Saami museum we went to the Alpine Garden of the museum.  In the summer of 2014, Ájtte was a top priority. The manager of public relations Ms. Elina Nygård welcomed us to Ájtte. Ájtte means store house in Saami. And that is what we do, she said, we collect, store, and present the Swedish Saami culture.

Ájtte – Svenskt Fjäll- och Samemuseum (Swedish Mountain and Saami Museum)

She is particularly interested in taking care of the immense change between the old Saami ways and the modern times. She is personally engaged in this topic. Her grandfather was born in a lavvu, he and his family lived the way the Saami had done for thousands of years. They weren’t even allowed to live in houses, she said. Elinas mother on the other hand was born in a hospital.

Angelo and I had met the same type of story at the Alariesto Gallery in Sodankylä the week before.

The generation who experienced this transformation is still here today. But in 30 – 40 years their story will not be accessible through first hand reminiscence. We need to take care of this very important time in history.

There are proof of people living in this area 11 000 years ago. Ájtte are taking care of all the years.

There is one peculiarity as the editor I would like to mention. There are Saami museums in all four countries in Arctic Europe. They all divide the Saami within different national borders. The Saami people lived geographically within siidas which did not always confide within borders. Moreover, borders hardly existed before the 18th century.

As we previously had experience a lot of Saami culture on our tour, we went to another important exhibition, the exhibition for the settlers.

The Wild West was about cowboys and Indians, the Wild North was about the Saami and settlers.


Elina Nygård outside Ájtte


Ájtte – Svenskt Fjäll- och Samemuseum


Settlers bringing home grass

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Posted in Jokkmokk, MIDNIGHT SUN ROAD

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