Church of Sweden

Stories that must be heard

Press Release   •   Jan 29, 2016 10:00 GMT

The Church of Sweden will, during Jokkmokk market Febr 5-6, launch a book with personal memories from Samis' school days; "When I was eight years old I left my home and have not yet returned. The aim of the book is to provide a more in-depth picture of Sami school history through Samis’ own stories and other articles. The emphasis is on the Nomadic School as the central institution of education for the Sami.

“The Nomadic School has played a central part in Sami policy. It was a policy and form of schooling that were based on racist ideas about higher and lower races and that deprived many Sami of their language, culture and human dignity,” says Archbishop Antje Jackelén.

“The stories in this book must be heard! Without them Sweden cannot come to terms with its colonial history. In the Church of Sweden we want to and must take responsibility for our part of this story.”

Friday 5 February 14:00–16:00: The book will be launched by the Church of Sweden and the Sami Council in the Church of Sweden at a seminar, which is open to everyone, during Jokkmokk market.
Venue: Församlingshemmet (the parish hall), at Borgargatan 9 in Jokkmokk.
Participants: Chair of the Sami Council in the Church of Sweden, Sylvia Sparrock; and Council member, Ingrid Inga; Bishop Eva Nordung Byström of Härnösand Diocese; the editors, Kaisa Huuva and Ellacarin Blind; as well as two of the writers whose work is included in the book, Ylva Jannok-Nutti, researcher into Sami teaching methods, and author Nils-Henrik Sikku, who tells his personal story in the chapter I was born free – but the Nomadic School clipped my wings.

Saturday 6 February 13:15–13:40: Chair of the Sami Council in the Church of Sweden, Sylvia Sparrock, and the principal editor of the book, Kaisa Huuva, will present the Nomadic School book to the Minister for Culture and Democracy, Alice Bah Kuhnke.
Venue: Hotell Jokkmokk, at Solgatan 45 in Jokkmokk.

Colonisation of the Sami
In the book older Sami give accounts of their experiences, emotions and memories from their time at Nomadic Schools and Arbetsstugor (after-school centres for children where they learned handicrafts). For some, this consisted of abuse and constant homesickness, in an environment with foreign values where they were forced to speak a different language instead of their Sami mother tongue.

The book also presents different perspectives on the education of the Sami. For example, there is a description of how the state and Church, through the education system, tried to assimilate and colonise the Sami population. The focus is in particular on 1913 to 1940, a period during which race biology ideas prevailed. The Sami population was regarded as a lower race, and their children were therefore to be treated differently to other children in Sweden. The book also describes the treatment of Sami in Sweden and its consequences that live on in our time.

The principal editor of the book is Kaisa Huuva and her co-editor is Ellacarin Blind. The foreword was written by Archbishop Antje Jackelén and the chair of the Sami Council in the Church of Sweden, Sylvia Sparrock.

Ewa Almqvist, press secretary at the Church of Sweden, phone +46 705 469677.
Joakim Nordblom, communications specialist, is on site in Jokkmokk. Phone +46 70 640 84 38.

During a conference about Sami church life, Ságastallamat in Kiruna in the autumn of 2011, Sami representatives within the Church of Sweden expressed the need for more in-depth knowledge of and research into the relationship between the Church and the Sami. They urged Church leaders to take responsibility for the wrongs and violations committed by the Church against the Sami population. The Church’s responsibility for the Nomadic School and its far-reaching consequences were emphasised In particular.

In the spring of 2012 the Central Board of the Church of Sweden decided to conduct two projects aiming to document and reveal the role that the Church played in the oppression of the Sami:

A documentation of stories about older Samis’ memories of school and a more in-depth picture of Sami school history. The emphasis is on the period from 1910 to 1950, during which the Nomadic School was a central institution of education for the Sami. This book is being launched at Jokkmokk market (see above).

A scientific anthology, “white paper”, mapping the relationship between the Church and the Sami, in cooperation with the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Umeå University. The white paper will be published in March 2016.

Through these publications, the Church of Sweden wants to give an account of the wrongs it is guilty of and it wants to examine its guilt and responsibility towards the Sami in a colonial past.