Sami town – Jokkmokk

Previously: Interruptions in Umeå

Heading inland from Luleå, the Sami population is more in evidence. Jokkmokk is a major Sami town in the area. Visiting Jokkmokk in July, it appears to be a ghost town – all the reindeer herding families are away in the mountains with their flocks for the summer grazing season. The reindeer herding season works like this: In winter, the reindeer are in the valleys and the herders live in or near the towns. In the spring, the reindeer flocks are moved to the mountains for summer grazing and the families follow with them. In the autumn, the reindeer flocks are shepherded back from the mountains to the valleys. After the summer, the flocks are often mixed together, so the reindeer are corralled together and the reindeer owners collect the reindeer belonging to them from the corral. The reindeer owner can recognize their reindeer by the ear marking – marks individual to each owner are cut into the reindeer ear when they are a calf.

We visited Anna Kuhmunen, a reindeer owner, who took us into the countryside outside Jokkmokk and told us more about the life of a reindeer herder and about being Sami in Sweden. It was very interesting talking to Anna, and peaceful sitting around the fire in the area in which she has her winter camp (http://silba.se).

 

Jokkmokk has other sights of Sami interest to offer. It is the home of Stoorstålka – a shop selling Sami design products made by local Sami designers, Lotta Stoor and Per Niila Stålka. Lotta was in the shop when we visited and is probably one of the friendliest shop assistants that I ever have come across! Stoorstålka also have an online shop, and I can strongly recommend their products for those interested in Sami design: https://shop.stoorstalka.com/sv/start.html

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We also visited the  museum, Ájtte, which gives an excellent overview of Sami life and the mountains west of Jokkmokk. Of particular interest to me was a selection of Sami drums, such as were used by noaidi (shamans). The noaidi would beat on the drum and chant to go into a trance. In this trance it was believed that he could travel and talk to the spirit world. A brass ring could also be placed onto the drum and would move around as the noaidi beat on the drum. The movements of the ring could be used to predict what would happen to the reindeer in the future, or to give advice on tricky matters.

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Another great thing about the museum, was the Sami-inspired playroom for children:

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Next: Reindeer and religion in Northern Sweden