The Guardian view on returning a Sámi shaman’s drum: an indication of hope | Editorial

This week the Indigenous Sámi individuals of Norway celebrated a historic occasion: the return to the village of Karasjok (Kárášjohka within the northern Sámi language) of a rune drum that had been confiscated in 1691 from a Sámi man who was tried for witchcraft. At the time, the Nordic colonisers of the Arctic had been energetically Christianising the Sámi inhabitants, whose animist spirituality trusted a way of connectedness with the lands they inhabited and the animals with which they interacted. Rune drums, created from birchwood and reindeer pores and skin, helped a noaidi, or shaman, to enter a trance and stroll amongst spirits. They may be used to divine future occasions: perception was gained by noting the place, when the drum was struck, a hoop moved in relation to the symbols painted on its floor.

This specific noaidi drum – there are numerous examples in museums in Sweden, Germany, the UK and elsewhere – occurs to be significantly effectively documented. The courtroom transcripts survive, together with an in depth account given by its proprietor, Poala-Ánde, of its makes use of. He claimed, poignantly, that “he wanted to help people in distress, and with his art he wanted to do good”. A verdict was by no means reached within the trial since, earlier than it might be handed down, Poala-Ánde was brutally murdered. The confiscated drum was despatched to the authorities in Copenhagen and handed into the royal assortment, changing into a part of the National Museum of Denmark. Over the previous 40 years, throughout which period the drum has been on mortgage to the Sámi Museum in Karasjok, the Sámi individuals have been arguing for possession to be formally handed over to the establishment. After an attraction to Queen Margrethe of Denmark, that has eventually occurred. “I feel,” mentioned Silje Karine Muotka, president of the Sámi parliament in Norway, “that [Poala-Ánde’s] power is with us as we continue to take ownership of our own history for future generations.”

The Sámi individuals – whose inhabitants of 60-70,000 is scattered by Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia’s Kola peninsula – have lengthy been the victims of inner colonialism, their views sidelined within the rush for pure sources, whether or not timber, nickel and even wind energy. Now they discover themselves on the frontline of local weather disaster, with rising temperatures affecting Arctic climate patterns, ecosystems, and conventional methods of residing comparable to reindeer herding. But, with a revival in political self-consciousness, and a younger technology taking again the dwindling Sámi languages and taking pleasure of their tradition, the individuals of the Sápmi nation are taking their place amongst a community of Indigenous peoples from all over the world, notably these from the Amazon, who’re more and more being recognised as holders of information that will but assist the broader world sort out local weather disaster. Later this month, too, Sámi artists will step on to the worldwide stage after they exhibit within the Nordic pavilion – renamed this yr the Sámi pavilion – on the world’s most celebrated worldwide artwork occasion, the Venice Biennale. The Sámi drum is a strong image of a individuals insisting on the validity of their perception methods – methods that inform us that people, animals and land are intimately related, and that hurt to 1 means hurt to all.

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