Our History

MY FAMILY HISTORY // My grandfather Algot is from the old Sámi family Pokka. Algot's nomadic mother, Maria and her sister Selma, left the Reindeer lake (Rensjön), along with a few other family members, and the mountains around Jukkasjärvi before my grandfather was born. The Pokka family was known to be great jewelry makers, which I find very interesting as several of our family members are still working with the Sámi craft. Maria and Selma wandered down South along the Torne River (Torneälven) with their reindeer herd, and lived as a nomads in the forest for many years. Maria married forrest worker Hjalmar Jönsson and decided to settle down in the quiet Juoksuvaara (part of the Sámi district Ängeså sameby). Juoksovaara was a village of only 7 houses hidden in a thick forest, with no road access, a step away from the Kalix River (Kalixälven) in Lapland.  Maria gave birth to 7 children, Algot being the youngest born in 1922. My grandfather loved living this simple life in harmony with nature and far away from civilization. He still talks about it and tells me all these amazing stories about their simpler way of living and all the adventures he went on. Algot and his aunt Selma helped each other to care for the reindeer herd. They used them for both forest work and farming. Algot had his own pet reindeer called Jakob (see picture below). My grandfather tells me stories of skiing behind the reindeer, riding on them, and using them to pull heavy logs in the forest. They basically used the reindeer like other farmers use horses. Unfortunately, my grandfather was pulled away from reindeer farming and had to leave his home in Juoksovaara in the late 1940s when he needed to start providing for his wife and new born, my grandmother and my uncle. It was tough to live life in the reindeer farming industry as new laws made it more difficult as well as the industrialization started to take place. In the 1940s the Sámi people’s situation worsened when their land and culture were being threatened by forest industry and mining. The forrest industry began clear cutting, and installing hydroelectric dams, constructing highways and railroads. Despite all the hardships, we still have reindeer farmers in our Pokka family today which we are very proud of. My mom's cousin, Sixten Keisu and his nephews, for example, live off of reindeer farming and Sámi handicraft. Read more about Sixten here


Today Algot is 95 years old; still acting and looking younger and stronger than most people his age. Algot lives in Malmberget (a step away from Gällivare) in Norrbotten (Lapland) and still loves spending as much time as he can in Nature; fly fishing the Kalix River, munching on fresh berries, soaking in the sun and breathing crisp air. It makes my heart melt that my talented and lovely grandfather is very excited about my heart project Simply Swedish. He loves that I'm following my heart and passion with this ancient hand craft, that is so complicated to master he keeps saying. Algot is also very proud that I'm honouring both him, his Pokka family history, and the Sámi people by making reindeer bracelets all the way over here in Canada. He says with a big smile that I'm putting Norrbotten (Lapland) on the world map, and standing up for the Sámi people and culture!




SHORT HISTORY OF THE SÁMI PEOPLE //

We didn't come from anywhere, we have always been here, and we were here way before anyone else was. We are the people of the land, we live and feed of what Nature has to give us, and we leave no visible trace behind us

Possibilities and difficulties, power and resistance, rights and unrighteousness. Some 370 million people identify themselves as belonging to an indigenous people, descended from a population inhabiting a particular area before current state boundaries were established. The Sámi are one of these indigenous people and recognized as a national minority in Sweden. Their history begins long before the states of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia existed. There are at least 20,000 Sámi in Sweden today, and about 70,000 in total in Scandinavia. We know for certain that the inland part of Northern Sweden was inhabited some 10,000 years ago by people who may have been the ancestors of the Sámi. The Sámi (even called Lapp back in the days, but that world shouldn't be used anymore) people have inhabited the northern portions of Scandinavia, Finland and eastward over the Russian Kola Peninsula since ancient times. Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden claim territories that is now regarded as Sápmi (the land of the Sámi people, even called Lapland). Sápmi used to be a land where Sámi people and and their reindeer herds could travel freely across the boarders between Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia


The Sámi have lived in relative co-existence with their neighbours for centuries, but for the last two hundred years, especially during the second half of the 20th century, there have been many dramatic changes in Sámi culture, politics, economics and their relations with their neighbouring societies. During the mid 1900th century the freedom of moving across the boarders within Sápmi got more restricted and controlled by each country’s government. The Sámi were called “wild indigenous people” and rasism started to spread against them, and the Sámi were getting discriminated and their rights more restrained. In the 1940s the situation got even worse when their land and culture were being threatened by mining, forrest industry and clear cutting, hydroelectric dams, highway constructions, and rail way construction. During the late 20th century, modern conflicts broke out over the construction of a hydroelectric dam, the reaction of which created a reawakening and defence of Sámi culture in recent years. The fight about Sápmi and the right for the Sámi to use the land is still on-going today. In the course of their history, the Sámi have suffered a lot of discrimination, and they have joined forces both within and across national boundaries to defend their rights


The Sámi long lived by hunting, gathering, fishing and reindeer herding. Today about 10% av the Sámi people are working with reindeer farming. New sources of income are handicrafts, tourism, media, art and music. Today there are Sámi working in most vocational fields


Sámi culture and identity is often demonstrated with colourful traditional clothing (also called ‘kolt’) and beautiful handicrafts. The style of the kolt varies between different areas within Sápmi. Handicraft is a strong symbol to express identity for the Sámi people. Sámi handicraft is called duodji. The materials were always found in nature and their surrounding; roots, leindeer leathers, shed reindeer antlers, tendons etc. The craft is handed down from generation to generation and is still an important part of their culture 


SOURCE // samer.se and nordiskamuseet.se



Map over Sápmi (the land of the Sámi people), sourced from the Nordiska Museet


HISTORY OF PEWTER REINDEER BRACELETS //

spun threads of gold, silver and bronze have been found from the Viking Age, which was used to decorate their belongings with. In Hågagögarna outside of Uppsala, fragments of spun gold threads have been found, approximately 300 years old. The technique using tin wire, however, came later. The oldest discovery so far is from Lake Furen in Småland. It is believed to be from the 11th century. Even in Gråträsk, Norrbotten, old tin wire has been found, which also dates from the 11th century. Tin thread embroidery has been widespread amongst the Sámi people since the 17th century

Tin thread embroidery has been widespread among the Sámi people since the 17th century. In the 19th century the technique disappeared almost completely. This was probably because the tin (and even items in silver) was condemned by the Laestadian revival for some time. Someone properly faithful would not adorn themselves with ”ostentation an ornaments”. The idea to spin pewter probably came to the Sámi people when they traded with the northerners. They did this mainly with the Norwegians. Most commonly used was silver wire. The Sámi people started using tin/pewter, as it was easier to process and slightly cheaper, a so called ”poor man’s silver”. They made the thread by cleaving a twig of birch or alder in half and then remove the pith. The twig was then tied together with string. In the hole, a mixture of melted tin and lead. The tin rods then got pressed trough small holes drilled in reindeer antlers. Once the tin was thin enough it could be sewn into beautiful patterns. Eventually, the tin handcraft disappeared, even from the South Sámi areas. By the turn of 1800–1900 there was hardly anyone doing tin thread embroidery anymore


1905 Andreas Wilks found his mother’s old tin wire tools and began experimenting. Eventually, he managed to both drag and spin tin wire. He did not do this the old way, instead of spinning it around a lendon he used a bear wire. He also simplified the actual spinning by replacing the old ”twister” to a kind of distaff that The Sámi people used to spin wool yarn with. Andreas Wilk held 30 courses in Norrbotten, Västerbotten, Jämtland and Härjedalen. By doing this he saved a dying art form. Today, Sámi jewlery is produced by both Sámi people and other craftsmen mainly in Northern Sweden. Sámi bracelets are most commonly made of vegetable tanned reindeer leather, reindeer antler buttons and thread made of pewter with 4% silver

 

SOURCE // The book 'Tenntrådsbroderier' by Mona Callenberg