Art and Sámi revitalization

No reason to be ashamed any longer, on the contrary! By July 1st 1969 my insecurity was gradually replaced by a growing Sámi awareness and natural pride

Awareness of history or lack of it determines the status of a people to a much larger degree than they are aware of. To be indifferent or ignorant of the past is in itself a danger, because it makes manipulators easy access to popular opinion, changing it or forming it whichever way they want. Being aware of the mistakes, catastrophes, as well as the heart-warming humanitarian victories of history is likewise a guarantee against seduction, despotism, apathy, lack of purpose, and threats from overpowering forces, once it is applied from a strong conviction. Or, to put it plainly: You are easily fooled if you lack experience, the experience of knowledge, including knowledge of past follies.

Any individual or group of people small or large that have experienced violence based in racism, know what to look for if it is about to happen again. Indigenous people are among the most frequent victims of race violence, and if we include the original Africans becoming slaves, or the victims of industrial mass murder as in Shoah or Holocaust, the millions of people murdered is shockingly high. Adding the war victims of all times one really have to ask the painful question whether humans are capable of kindness towards “the other”, and if not, why? And most importantly, how to positively change it?

Nationalism is both a necessity and a danger, and to balance it is not easy. It is more reasonable to criticize a majority population for being too nationalistic, especially if those who not only feel, but are in fact also victims of the excesses of that nationalism do it. Likewise it is out of proportion if the criticism comes from that majority against the minority’s aspiration on the same course as a means of sheer survival as an indigenous minority. Yet if the same minority uses the same ugly domination technique against a smaller group within, then it is wrong.

The temptation to dominate seems to be part of the human set up, and has to be countered by the will to co-operate if we aim to survive. Co-operation as equal partners is a difficult art, and it often starts by making the ignorant aware of the injustices that has been insignificant or even invisible to them so far.

It took decades of our lives to overcome the feeling of ethnic shame and Indigenous inferiority versus the dominating societies where there hardly was any room for other than on single set-up. We were the victims of a misunderstood ideal of equality, where being on the same level, meant being identical regardless of ethnicity, language or individual trauma: To be a part of Scandinavian Society meant that all should learn exactly the same, and have equal or rather identical opportunity, even if it meant wasting a few generations of “ethnic misfits” on the way. It took an enormous effort to convince the majorities that this was too square and too simplistic strategy. To deny a child the use of its mother tongue is an irreparable crime that will have tragic consequences for the next generations. My heart cries when I think of the people that have undergone such spiritual torture, and as I learned more about it, I was intensely convinced that this has to stop, and I should take part in it. I also encouraged several others to do the same. As an artist I found unique ways to promote Sámi revitalization, and the following pages are the history of that:

1. ČSV symbol

2. Sámi Calendar

3. Sámi Map

4. Sámi as one of many Indigenous people

5. Oslo Sámi Association

6. Sámi Artist group

7. The Alta Conflict

8. The Indigenous World

9. Sámi Regional maps

10. Art exhibitions and Informative work

11. Fighting for democracy and justice, with strong weapons: words!

12. Retelling the past

 (Keviselie 27.12.2014) (more to come)


1. ČSV symbol

ČSV. Čájet Sámi Vuoiŋŋa! A look at one of the most important symbols of Sámi revitalization in the early 1970-ies.

Artists lead on in an important initiative that soon becomes a symbol of unity and strength for a threatened and vulnerable Indigenous people.

Although this is a brief summary of some important events since the late 1960ies, we have to mention the first inter-Nordic Sámi Conference of reindeer owners taking place at Troandin 06. 02.1917 initiated by a charismatic activist Elsa Laula Renberg of Vaapste, hence the Sámi National Day every year on this date in honour of her initiative. From then there has been many ups and downs, marked by brave Sami individuals as well as a few non-Sámi, to act against the mainstream of assimilation and attempted cultural genocide in Fennoscandia, like so many other regions of our globe. Many Sámi artists were in the front, Anders Fjellner, Anders Larsen, Johan Turi with Emilie Demant-Hatt, to name but a few from the past. Then there were Paulus Utsi, Lars Pirak, Nils Aslak Valkeapää, and Maj Lis Skaltje among the most versatile.

The Nordic Sámi Council had been founded in 1956, yet the first international Conference took place in Johkamohkki 31.08. – 03.09. 1953. (Snoase/Snåsa 26. – 28.06.1974) the first Nordic Sámi parliament was opened in Finland 9. November 1973, and later in Norway and Sweden.

Using unacceptable means (threats, exaggerations and plain lies) Mr Hans Rønbeck managed to convince many Sámi to go against their own people, signing a document stating that Sámit did not want separatism, or anything that would lead to Reservations, as in America, and that efforts to strengthen the Sámi society, culture or language were unnecessary. Opposing this were the leaders of NSR, who aimed for ethnic, cultural, economic and poilitical survival and equality by peaceful means.

This man was just one in a large row of non-Sámi trying to take advantage, abuse or patronize us, in order to grab our resources more easily, and render us incapable of protest. Still worse was it when some among us did the same, and advocated self-denial as a sole means of national salvation. Most famously in our recent history is Mr Henrik Ravna, whose activity prompted a French newspaper to write: “The Sámit are the only people on earth that do not wish to survive”.

But even this could not stop the revitalization process.

The Sami Searvi/Samisk Selskap in Oslo (1947) was the beginning of the NSR (1968). There are now national cultural and political organisations in all 4 countries with indigenous Sámi population, including, among others the Guládaga Sámi Searvi (1989).

‘ČSV’ as a specific Sámi slogan had been initiated at a Sámi political preparatory meeting at Máze authumn 1970, then threatened by a huge river dam. Johan Jernsletten of Buolbmát threw out the idea half jokingly with the mention of “Secret Sámi Helper” “čiegus Sámi veahka” and from that time onwards, it developed into something very special and powerful.

The important seminar on Sámi Literature at the village of Sirbmá by the beautiful Deatnu River in authumn 1972 was a demonstration of the will of our people to fight against destructive forces from without and within. This was in a time when the anti-Sámi major of Kárásjohka, now the seat of the Sámi Parliament, and thus our “capital”, had the power to do great harm to the budding Sámi activism and will to survive. However, according to Johan Klenet Hætta Kalstad, the ČSV was initiated already in 1970, at a political meeting in Máze. Litteraturseminar in Sirbmá 1972 encouraged Sámi writers to use their language, which were published through a series of booklets, Čállagat. There has been some confusion as to the origin of the cover: the design for the cover is made by the Sami teacher Marit Stueng of Kárašjohka, who also used it as decoration and flag to promote Sámi activism. Anders Guttormsen, editor of the Sámi periodical NUORTTANÁSTE and writer of books, suggested additional content to the ČSV symbol of the new spirit in Sámi culture, one of active optimism replacing fear and shame.

More about this theme here (Sámi with English summary):

The slogan should be many sided, and at least one “Sámi” letter should be in it, “Č” in addition “S” for Sámi was self-evident, and “Čále Sámigiela vuokkasit!” made the third and last letter a “V”, thus “ČSV”, which became a symbol for the Sámi language, literature, culture and positive activism in general. The symbol was very flexible, and it was up to the users fantasy and creativity to make slogans from these three letters, like Čájet Sámi Vuoiŋŋa! and similar encouraging sentences. Needless to say, some made ridiculed of it, and found some funny sayings for it, but at least it showed the flexibility of Sámi culture.


The first Sámi Publishing company Jår’galæd’dji (‘Translator’) OS by Odd Ivar Solbakk & Aage Solbakk, 1974, starting as music publishers with a famous if not sensational Long Playing Record DEATNUGÁDDE NUORAT (Youth from Deatnu Riverbank) Tanabreddens Ungdom LP, that had a huge impact also on the non-Sámi populations, who suddenly discovered some of the positive sides of Sáminess. 2 of the yoik-inspired songs were on the national hit list for years. This company published numerous books,  & language courses (Dávvin/Sámas), not to forget Vulle Vuojáš (Donald Duck in Sámi).

One important TV-program about the Sámi revitalization in the early 1970-ies, was called 'ČSV – vis at du er same!'(ČSV – show your Sámi pride!) focusing on Knut Johnsen of Fanasgieddi, Deatnu and produced by Sámi producers for the national TV. I was an art student in Oslo at that time, and remember one old distinguished Norwegian gentleman who exclaimed: “This program has to be stopped!”(“Det porogrammet må stoppes!”). On another occasion I saw the same person in connection with a royal visit, and he asked, “Where are the court?” “Hvor er hoffet? Hvor er hoffet?” I told him, there is no court in Norway, but he just continued, clearly not accepting certain facts of history. I did not see him at the first demonstration against the Alta dam in 1978 as it was voted on in Parliament in its sad favour, the formal starting point of the so called Alta-conflict. .

These were some of the first steps in the Sámi revitalization that still goes on, as least as long as artists like me are alive and kicking!

01. Anders Guttormsen, of Gávvuotna, veteran Sámi publisher and activist, strongly urged the wider use of the ‘ČSV’ as a spiritual and cultural inspiration. However, the ‘ČSV’ as a specific Sámi slogan had been initiated at a Sámi political preparatory meeting at Máze, then threatened by a huge river dam

02. Knut Johnsen from Fanasgieddi, Deatnu, was a student and a radical Sámi activist at that time. We had a good collaboration with the first Sámi Calendar (1974-75)

03. I will now turn to my own practical involvement in this, and naturally I was keen on making a proper logo for the symbol. In a matter of days, after I read the news of Sirbmá in the Sámi newspaper, I started thinking about a ČSV –logo. I was thinking how I might link the Sámi struggle for survival with some natural parallel. The soahki, birch tree) is very important for our people, giving building material, and food for fire. It is strong and flexible, and I made one ink drawing with these trees crooked and bended, yet fully alive. But I realized that this was rather an artistic comment, an illustration, not a logo. In fact I sketched an idea on the same paper that basically became the one I pursued onwards.

04. This is a brush drawing of the three letters of Č S V, and with the central letter of “S” standing out instead of being enveloped by the two. After all, S for Sámi gives the fundamental meaning to the symbol. By highlighting the “S”, I believe I drew attention to the core of the symbol.

05. I also tried this design out as a wood block print sketch.

06. It was important to present the symbol within a circle, and the final logo was a colour pencil drawing, later to become a colour wood block print, with variants.

07. Quite a few people bought this print, and I was pleased to contribute in this way.

I remember we also made buttons of this symbol. But economy prevented me as a student to any large production number.

08. But there was more to do, and by this time, I was heavily involved in a quite different task, a map. Later I even included the three letters hidden in one map “SÁMISAT 010790” (Can you find it?) The symbol has become natural, a part of nature! So this was the story of my Č S V symbol that came to be accepted as relevant, a colourful and artistic representation for the three symbolic letters.

09. Johan Jernsletten, Sámi teacher and activist, here photographed by the Deatnu river 10.07.1972. ‘ČSV’ as a specific Sámi slogan had been initiated at a Sámi political preparatory meeting at Máze, then threatened by a huge river dam. Johan Jernsletten of Buolbmát threw out the idea  during this meeting authumn 1970, half jokingly with the mention of “Secret Sámi Helper” “čiegus Sámi veahka” and from that time onwards, it developed into something very special and powerful. Humuour has an important place in Sámi politics, maybe that’s why we can’t be beaten…! 


2. Sámi Calendarr 1974-75

The first calendar printed on paper aimed for Sámi use was made in Stockholm in 1795. To our knowledge there has been none since until our initiative late November (16th ?) 1974 to make one for the coming year 1975.

As an artist under education at the State Academy of Art in Oslo, I was committed to use my abilities and creativity to support Sámi re-vitalization, and by this time was well into another such project, the first map of the whole of the traditional Sámi homeland, Sábmi, which was published one year later. At this time I was active in the Sámi Association of Oslo, where I was member of the board, later becoming the leader one period. I suggested the idea at a board meeting, and the response was positive. The only concern was the short time.

By November most calendars for the coming year had already been presented well in time for the Christmas rush, of course. We had the choice to wait one year and make a very good and appropriate calendar, risking the case that others might ‘steal’ our idea and outdo us, or to make a hasty tryout that nonetheless would become historic. I said I would take the responsibility to edit and produce it, if I could get some help, of course, and they agreed. I contacted our friend and the famous leader of the Sámi Association in Bergen, Knut Johnsen who studied to become a doctor, if he would co-operate to make this a joint project, and I was very happy that he said yes to be co-editor.

We agreed on the spot to break the news immediately on the Sámi radio, and then it was no way back! Looking back I had been too optimistic as to the amount of work. In those times there was no such thing as computers available. I had one electric typewriter, and it became the main tool for the written and printed texts. I also took responsibility for the layout, and I was satisfied as far as the front pages of each months were concerned, except, perhaps for the main titles and month numbers. I used wood block prints for the illustrations, and wrote the texts with ink filt pen.

Knut Johnsen of BSS was responsible for most of the texts, others who contributed were  Inga Juuso, Ragnhild Nystad, Dagrun Danielsen, Nils Johan Hætta, Johan Klemet Kalstad,Johan Albert Kalstad, Aage Solbakk, and others. The layout, illustration and editing was my responsibility. We used poetry and relevant citations from both Sámi and non-Sámi authors, and made a few ourselves, even one in combination. 

To make the back sides, which all had typewritten texts, more interesting, we included some small illustrations, mostly small photographs and some ink sketches from my archive.

Mind you, this was at a time when electric typewriters were the state of the art of normal writing, personal computers and much else lay decades ahead far into the coming future.

The Calendar was printed under my specifications and supervision at a small printshop at Akersgata near the Art school, in offset and in two editions: One on cream tinted quality stock, and the main numbers on suitable normal offset paper. Both editions used three alternating monocromic coulors: Dark blue-green (front cover, Feb., March, Apr., December and last page) and dark red-brown to suggest the colour of some of the paintings on the old Sámi drums (Jan., May-Nov), partly to suggest the cold and warmer seasons of the year. All the backsides were printed in black. This no doubt enhanced the attractiveness of the product, and probably helped countering its shortcomings.

Although we were in a hurry, the aim was to make as good a product as possible, and many clever minds working together, made that more possible. The illustrations were carefully selected to fit both the month and the texts and citations used simultaneously.

To sum it up, “Åk’ta Sáme Jahki 1975” became a powerful tool to promote Sámi culture, by combining Sámi language, with translations, art, literature, politics as well information and better political and historical knowledge of our Indigenous culture.

Remember that this was written in a quite different time setting, and things have certainly changed since then. However there is surprisingly much that still is relevant even today, perhaps more now than 40 years ago.


3. Sámi Map

The Sábmi map of 1975 and Sámi Cartography

This year 2015 marks several milestones in my life, both as a person and as a Sámi activist. I shall focus on my work as a cartographer, although I normally never used this word myself, since this is a profession, and I am an amateur or rather autodidact who has regarded this more as a hobby or side-dish to may proper profession. However, it might be understandable why some of my people regard this as my main output. Firstly, there has never been, as far as I know, any such before, and I do not know if there are any Sámi cartographers beside me, but I would be pleased if there were. At least there are Sámi architects, and interestingly enough, that is one of the connections to map work that I have too.

Another aspect is that I have used my drawing skills, as well as my artistic creativity to enhance the map, turning them into more than maps, but into artwork as well, combining at least two professions. This has been done before, and I will tell the story from the start.

Having developed the sensitivity in different circumstances, and suffered some harsh traumatic experiences as a child, I was used to be alone, as well as together with others, and neither appeared boring to me. My faculty of fantasy became an asset as an artist, so I believe it became a natural development in that direction. Without this background I would be a very different person, and probably not an artist at all.  

At school I was particularly interested in History, Geography and language, and of course, drawing and music, both during my schooling at the hospital where I stayed until and including the 4th form in Primary school as of 1956, and when I came out from there into a normal society outside. My foster parents and others found it wise that I restarted the same form instead of continuing into the 5th form. A wise decision, even if it meant the loss of one year vis-a-vis my contemporaries, not a small issue at that age, normally, but for me it mattered little, since the I was new to the class, I came a stranger among strangers. It is also meant that I was introduced to a new topic in the national school: English!

With an extra language, the whole world opened up to a young kid eager to learn. I have to mention that Sámi language was more or less forbidden, so it took many years until that became a topic in the existing society, and it would never had happened, had not dedicated men and women, young and old in the Sámi world kept to their strategy: never give up! The heavy hand of chauvinistic racism was yet to dominate for more than a decade, choking normal cultural expressions, and only little by little the dominating societies would listen to reason and fulfil the UN Declaration of Human Rights towards their own Indigenous people. 

What is a map?

There has been maps in different forms thousands of years ago, (see my PowerPoint presentation Indigenous Maps), and the oldest maps are to be found in Africa. Maps as we refer to them today, are two-dimensional and drawn or painted and then reproduced for printing on any flat material, mostly paper.

And in a world where information was based on printed matter (and later radio) maps were to see everywhere, once they had ceased to be the exclusive too of political and military machinations, after some time anyone could make and publish a map for whatever purpose was deemed necessary. In the meantime there was the monopoly like NG (Norges Geografiske Oppmåling) whose task it was to make maps of Norway for various use and purposes, including tourism, highlighting whatever was at hand, since no map could include everything. The amount of information on the map must be accessible, that is: readable. A map of a huge area would have fewer details on the micro level than a map highlighting only that same area. I shall not go into greater detail regarding projection, scale, legend, etc. But there are certain obvious minima that should be included in a map aimed to seriously (re)present an ides, topic, and theme: Title indicating the topic, orientation and language, whether it is symbols, text or both.


As mentioned above, the school introduced us to geography and maps, and I immediately became fascinated by them, since that give room for creative thinking and fantasy. I guess most kids have made fantasy maps, and I was no exception. I created my own parallel world, with maps, cities, people mainly inspired by tourist magazines from the travel office where my foster father worked. I was really fascinated by English landscapes, and a favourite magazine was called IN BRITAIN, where I found inspiration to both languages, (once I had passed the level of Donald Duck in American English). It waked my interest in historical places and interesting places.

Another inspiration was tourist brochures from the Alpine region, be it Swiss, Austrian, south German or French. I liked best the Swiss brochures, and it also became an obsession. I loved the unusual ways of mapping the landscape, it was rather a three-dimensional overview like one would see it from an aeroplane, but without clouds, and of course the names. When I eventually came to Berner Oberland  (2007) and wandered in the Alps, I already knew many names from those maps, Pfäffikon, Shreckhorn, Neuchatel, Zermatt and Interlaken. For the first time I met an interesting phenomenon: Multilanguage names, and how it was solved. Many of the towns and villages had double names, Biel/Bienne and Luzern/Lucerne for example; one German the other French, or they could be in either only, including names in the other languages of Swizerra: Valdes/Valais.

Ancient maps were also intriguing, and I acquired one during my student years from antiquarian shops in Oslo, as well as old lithographs from the north made during the Recherché expedition in the early 1800s. (find the year) ! These maps were usually “illuminated”, or equipped with comments in the form of illustrations, sometimes informative, other times pure fantasy, but entertaining nonetheless. The oldest map printed in the Nordic countries (1550) is from the Bible, illustrating the prophecies of Daniel. (ill).

Then we have the famous maps of what was to become one of my favourite publications, National geographic Magazine. The photos and their maps were very interesting, and I saw that many maps had special themes, like Bird Migration, Satellite maps, The Universe, the Moon, and so on.

Most of the features mentioned here found their way into my own maps eventually, and I believe I was introducing such traditions into Sámi Cartography,

Inspired of what I had learnt from the above, I started to take a closer look at the bilingual situation in our own countries. Among the papers and maps in the house I found one that seemed very old, KART OVER TROMSØ AMT, form 1872(?). It was pasted on canvas in rectangular pieces, and obviously it had been in long use. On the front cover was the name “Tromsø” handwritten in very nice gothic letters, although this was a map of the whole country, not only the town. The most interesting part of this map was that apart from the Danish/Norwegian names, there were Sámi or Lapp place names in parentheses under or behind. I believe this map was made during the Reindeer convention discussions between Norway and Sweden, based on the “Lapp Codicil” of 1741 (?), that regulated the pasture of the Reindeer herding Sámi that had used the area before the borders came, during their nomadic livelihood for ages. I made a small traced version by putting as thin paper over the map section I had chosen, drew the coastlines and put the names with pencil, my first map with Sámi place names, probably from the late 1950ies or early 60ies, the very first step on a long laborious and challenging but rewarding path. This would be a way to recognize my own ethnicity in a creative way.

There were also indicated some numbers, and when I asked, I was told it was to indicate how many reindeer there was gracing within every particular area. I have seen different versions of this map, without these numbers, but in any case, to see a map of Troms County with other than Norwegian/Danish place names, was a great discovery for me. This was a proof of at least some sort of recognition of the existence of Sáminess. I began to feel that maybe it was not so bad to be Sámi, after all. And I discovered that our neighbour, the grandfather of my best friend, who I mostly have seen drunk, was Sámi from Garanasvuodna, and that meant that my best friend also was, like me, at least connected to the Sámi people. Later I understood why people ridiculed him, just because he was, and appeared like a pure stereotypical Sámi old man, and I began to realize important connections and consequences that matured much later.


After I graduated form High School in 1966, I wished to start at the University, but my foster parents could not afford it, and I decided to break up and find myself a job. At the same time my creativity now was spreading into three interconnected directions, music (I enrolled at the Music School in Romsa), literature (I wrote dramas, and even won a price at FINN in 197) and painting/drawing (Two of my paintings were accepted at the regional exhibition in 1969). Among different jobs during those years, one is most relevant here: I worked some months at Gangvik’s architect bureau as an assistant technical drawer, and learned to use and apply the current tools, Rotring etching ink, and plastic sheets that were to become the perfect base for my maps later.


At this time there was almost nothing taught at school about the Indigenous people of Fennoscandia, even in High Schools, so I had to find the information I wanted elsewhere. For the money (Nok 5000) that I won for the huge 5 act drama I had won 3rd (and only) prize at the Drama Competition in Harstad, I bought a camera, and ordered books about Sámi culture, that luckily were still available through order in bookshops. It so happened that I got the last copy they had of some of these books, like they had been waiting for this, and at a reasonable price.

I also decided to learn Sámi language, which I had spoken as a small child, but lost during 9 years hospitalization (7 of them in Tromsø). There was a lot to regain, and I plunged into it with all my heart and mind! It was accepted that I could follow the Sámi course at the teacher Training School in Rosa, where Nils Jernsletten was teacher, and wit special permission I was allowed to take the exam, which I passed. Nils and Laila Jernsletten became like parents for me, as least as far as Sámi culture was concerned. Is it possible to be Sámi in a town? I had asked, and Nils said that nobody had put such a question before, and the answer, was of course YES!

In 1968 I wrote a play called Bjørnefesten (1968-69),
where I problematized the ignorance regarding Indigenous place names

I let them read through the tree manuscripts that I had written for the competition of FINN. It is on one of these, BJØRNEFESTEN, that I put forth a sort of reasoning, the theoretical base for my later work with maps and placenames. It takes pace around 1790, when south-Norwegian farmers are encouraged by Danish/Norwegian authorities to colonize the Beardu and Málat valleys, notwithstanding the fact that they were vital and crucial to the yearly migration of the Reindeer herding Sámi.

This also reflects the attitudes towards Sámi place names on maps, a theme threated at length elsewhere. (examples)

These, then, were the main reasons for me taking up the work of a cartographer, without being one. The need overruled that fact.

I decided to start with a local map, more or less based on the first map mentioned above, the same area,  Jáhkutnjárga-Stuorranjárga-Ittunjárga with the large islands north of them.

Some of the books I had acquired treated specifically Sámi place names; the books of Just Knud Qvigstad became important sources in the beginning of my work. Here I found enough placenakes to fill the map Sámi namat Tråm’sa Guovllus printed in October 1974. I also collected a few names from whoever could contribute. I asked Maragrethe Kitti’s daughter with the same name, and she also contribnuted to the follow up map Njárggat Vuonat ja Sullot (198x).

At this time there were no rules as far as I knew, how to collect names, and if there were, I did not follow them I guess. I was happy to get a name, and immediately put it on the map.


Preparing the Pan-sámi map

The 1974 map became a sort of fore-runner for the next project, a much more ambitious one, a map showing all the available Sámi place names in the Sámi homeland across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. At this time I was a student at the Art Academy, and my gracious mentor Arne Malmedal granted me one year to work on the map as a student of graphic art at the Oslo State Academy of Fine Arts. First I contemplated the use of one of the classical graphic techniques, but neither etching, woodblock nor lino, nor lithography would be adequate for my purpose. Certainly this would be a work of art, but also a map, aimed for as wide a public as possible, and consequently reproduced in offset and printed in much larger numbers that an exclusive edition of a limited number of superb prints for a high price and consequently available for a select few. This was much against my way of thinking, but I tried it out on a lithographic stone, but soon gave up. I would need to draw it using a mirror, and the size would not be large enough to include all the names I wanted. So I bought a roll of Architect drawing film, a stabile and very strong-coated plastic sheet that perfectly balanced the need for see-through, and look on. If it was too thick, I could not see the underlay that I depended on, since I wanted the map lines as perfect as possible, and it was not too clear, so that one would have difficulty on separating the names and lines under from the lines drawn.

The map title

The term used at that time was “Sámi-æna” which is most probably a translation or rather adaption of the Norse term for the same area “Finn-mork”. To me that was less than ideal. I discussed this with Aage Solbakk, who had helped me when we made the Sámi Calendar and let us use his flat at the Oslo suburb of Tveita. I asked if there is no other term that could be used, and then he checked Konrad Nielsen's famous dictionary and suggested the term Sábmi with its multiple meaning: 1. The Sámi homeland; 2. The people, 3. One person. 4. The language

Solbakk said that there was a new orthography on the way, when the word would exchange the ‘b’ for a ‘p’ but I decided not to change it, after all, it was not decided yet, a cdecision I regret today.

Problems with source-maps.

As soon as I had decided which medium to use, I needed to decide the limitation of the area and the scale. I had great problems in fining a map that included the whoel area of Sámi homeland in one map and in the same scale. Oddly enough, there was impossible to find a map that I could use which could include the northern and Sothern Sámi area in the same scale. I asked at the NGO, and they could not help me either.

I have been criticized for my first suggestion to solve this problem, by people who not possibly could know nor understand the difficulty I encountered. My suggestion was to include the southern Sámi area in a separate map in a slightly smaller scale, the best option I had at the time, but not ideal, of course. It orientation would also be different.

It was not until they told me that there did exist such maps, but they were military maps issued by NATO, and not available to the public. After some discussion, however, I was allowed to have two maps, flight charts as they are called, used by aircraft pilots and covering large areas. I had solved one problem, and got a map with all of Scandinavia on one map in the same scale. Now the problem became the Guoládat peninsula, but somehow I managed to solve the problem. But the link area here is the most unsure oin the map. I was also a bit reluctant to include dammed lakes rather than their original size before the damming damage.

The place names

Although I had fairly good control over the map drawing, and the illustrations, illuminating Sámi culture, for the place names I again depended on Qvigstad and other written sources, but that was not enough. I asked for and got advice from very competent professionals, both Sámi and non-Sámi. Among them I like to mention Knut Bergsland, who took responsibility for the South Sámi names as well as some of the eastern Sámi names, Thor Frette for the North Sámi names, Samuli Aikio for the western part of the Eastern Sámi names, Ole Henrik Magga and several others also gave advice. I also wrote top various informants for names, and got quite a few, some of which had never been mapped before. At that time none of the accepted orthographies in use now existed. For the Northern Sámi the Bergsland-Ruong orthography was used, with the frequent use of «‘» inside words, which was nothing compared to the intricate markings of the various Eastern Sámi words. An attempt was later made for a pan-Sámi orthography, but as of now, it has not, alas, come to pass.

Like the maps and illustrations, including the colouring, the names was written one by one, stroke by stroke in handwriting. In addition to writing them, they also had to be placed on or as close as possible to the proper location.  There are 920 names on the map

Preliminary presentations

As soon as I had finished a draft version of the map lines, I got huge photocopies with me to various Indigenous Conferences, like the Sami Youth Midsummer meeting and Onkere, as well as the first General Assembly of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples at Port Alberni,  BC Canada, October 1975 only one month before the printing of the final version of it! I did some freehand colouring on the copy to make it more interesting.

Tryout line edition, without colouring

After I finished the line originals, one for the outline to be printed in blue, another for the illustration to be printed in black, I sent a set to Sámi Instituht’ta for reference. including the name sheet

They printed a small number in two colours of the line drawing, giving people a chance for corrections and comments.


Printing and publication

After I had applied for grants from Norsk Kulturråd, I had a conference with Mr Sinding-Larsen, and despite some sceptisicm, the reason for which I could anticipate at the time, the grant was given, and I could go to Kemigrafia in Oslo for the reproduction. They photographed the originals on large format color slide films, scanned them, and made printing films in one quarter size of the original and eventually the finished product. Then it was printed at the wellknown Grøndahl & Søn booktrykkere in Oslo, me being present at the first proofprints. I did adjust here and there, etching away some of the background colour of the plastic film. This film is not white, but slightly grey, and this is the greatest drawback in using it. The map was printed 27.11.1975 in 5000 copies on canvas impregnated paper. The price including a solid roll and piostage, was 45 kr, and the income was to be divided 50% to Oslo Sámi Association, of which I was the chairman, and 50% to myself. Jens Kristian Eriksen was appointed to take care of the business side of the sale. 

The reception,  – and some provocative remarks

The map was published as a co-operation with Oslo Sámi Association and Sámi Institute (and me). Aslak (Ailo) Gaup asked for and got the permission to publish the news in the Oslo newspaper where he worked as a journalist, and he took a photo of me in his office holding the map. It was printed likewise in colour at Adresseavisa of Trondheim. The feedback was overall very positive

Aage Solbakk had commented, as he visited me during the work at the State Academy of Fine Arts, and said: “This will make you famous!” This was a new thought for me, and like a true Sámi I did not elaborate on it not then nor later. The only comment I had was that it would make the Sámi people better known:  “Dette vil gjøre samene bedre kjent, både innad og utad.” Oddly enough, he and many others, for reasons unknown to me, have almost obsessively ignored my participation in this and similar work important to our people. I am not expecting any acknowledgement, because that seems to have become a Sámi tradition not to give, and I can live with that. But I have the right to feel uneasy when detecting what cannot be called anything else than passive ignorance and active opposition combined.[1]

[1] I will elaborate on this later, after I got better understanding since the time I wrote this.(02.10.2015)

More maps

The map became a sort of ambassador of Sámi people and culture abroad, and I think it is fair to say that as a Sámi work of art, if one accept that term, it is undoubtedly the most widespread. It has been given at the UN, the National Geographic Society, and numerous dignitaries who have visited Sápmi. The use of the term ‘Sápmi’ itself was promoted by the publication of the map. It was well received both at home and abroad. A main feature of the map is that there are no borders. Many Sámit could now see with their own eyes that the homeland of our people are much more extensive than originally thought. I believe it has contributed to the strengthening of Sámi identity both on individual and group level, and thus practically given content to Sápmi, a term now in common use.

On one of my trips to Oslo I was allowed to get the original scanned films of the map from the Kemigrafia office, all of which were in ¼ of the format in which it was printed. This enabled me to produce new editions, although smaller in size, and I am still selling these maps and/or giving them away as representative gifts mainly to indigenous visitors.

Some years ago, one of the workers at Kemigrafia now retired, called me, and told that working with this map was one of the most interesting tasks he had done as a professional. The map has been printed in many editions. I have also contemplated making an updated version, and started some years ago drawing the coast outline in hard pencil. But aborted the work, since I got the impression that there is little interest in my contribution.

To me the map also has a creative significance. 10 years after its publication I made the first regional map in more or less the same manner, DIVTASVUODNA, and the following years other maps were published.

As I feared that this hobby of mine might stand in the way of my profession, I abandoned working with maps, until 2011, when I stopped saying ‘no’ to similar requests, and worked with a map of the of Vaapste area and from 2012 a joint project with Árran Lule Sámi Centre a Place Name project included a map of the Bidum Sámi area. It was published earlier this year.

Nástegiettáš 17.05.2015 Keviselie, Hans Ragnar Mathisen


4. Sámi as one of many Indigenous people


Any group or individual whose surroundings are a threat to a natural and healthy development, seek solution, and allies outside the threat in order to strengthen the chances for survival. The Sámi, as most other Indigenous people, and numberless others are or have been in that situation, some in fact have succumbed to the threat, and are already extinct, like the Yahi people of present California, to name just one famous example.

Among Sámi artists John Andreas Savio travelled abroad, and built an international network. Artistically speaking he was very interested in East Asian art and culture, both Chinese and Japanese. He read books about these subjects at libraries and also purchased some himself, despite his often difficult economical situation. Many of the classic Sámi artists have been invited to hold exhibitions abroad. Some have done more than that.

Nils Aslak Valkeapää was another famous artist, like Mari Boine, with a clear intention to build and extent international contacts, especially to other Indigenous groups.


Early contacts

When the Sámi Council was created in 1956 as a common basis for ethno-political activity aimed to recuperate some of the drawbacks of the nation state borders that had split our people into four by the establishment of Norway, Sweden, Finland (1741) and Russia (1826) (later Soviet Union), there was also a natural tendency also to seek connection with similar organizations elsewhere, first of all FUEN, and Oslo Sámi Association (the only one at the time) was a member.  This organization aimed to unite on some levels all the various ethnic minorities, regardless of whether they were Indigenous or not. Their representatives were invited to attend Nordic Sámi Council meetings. We also had contacts with “Grønlenderforeningen in Copenhaagen “Pekatigit Kalatdlit”, I visited their house. 


The term indigenous developed from various terms that seemed to make a difference between the statuses of these groups. Minorities, Aboriginal, First nations, all were more or less precise terms for various kinds of groups. Even within one group there could be variation, like in American “status” and “non-status” Indians, or like in Samiland: Reindeer herding Sámit, Coastal Sámit, River-Sámit, and of course “Norwegian Sámit”, “Swedish Sámit”, “Finnish Sámit” and Russian Sámit, “City-Sámit”, you name it! One term evolved that has in many ways made the others redundant, “Indigenous” is a term internationally accepted as valid for a certain group of people who are descendants of the oldest known population (still in existence) and who live in in any area which later has been divided and/or has included their land before these borders were fixed. 


As has been the case with other Indigenous groups, the first to see their needs in a hopeless situation, were non-Indigenous, either they exp0loited us, helped and exploited us, or simply opened the eyes of the surrounding societies to the injustices committed against us. Such people were hardly thanked by their own, and were often harassed as a result, but Sámi people are indebted to people like hardly Eilert Sundt, Jens Otterbeck and several others.

One such person published a book that had great consequences for the Sámi revitalization process about to getting momentum, Per Otnes: Den samiske nasjon (1970) The political history of the Sámi people is a landmark in the history of political an social consciousness raising in the arctic north. Another Norwegian writer, married to a Sámi, also joined in with hos book “Samene Idag og Imorgen” (The Sámi, today and tomorrow). It is important that we recognize that the Sámi revitalization process is a joint venture, and the helpers encouraged us to take it on rather than taking over from us.

George Manuel of the Interior Sálish people in Western Canada, wrote a groundbreaking book “THE FOURTH WORLD” (197x), indication g the global importance of the Indigenous populations numbering millions after millions in almost every country in the world.


Organizing Indigenous people

I have to mention that this is neither an exact nor a complete record of the theme, for that we have to consult numerous books written on this and similar subjects, some already mentioned.

There existed in the early 60s and 70s federal organizations similar and parallel to that of the Nordic Sámi Council, and more came along. We had Native Yukon Brotherhood of Canada, Indian-Eskimo Association, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, and of course the most famous of them all, American Indian Movement, who staged the Wounded Knee demonstration in 27.02.1973 in commemoration of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 29.12.1890, and resulting in a warlike situation against FBI, that still is not resolved.

In Copenhagen there has since 1968 existed a group of professional ethnologists, ethnographers and other experts on Indigenous issues, called IWGIA, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, initiated by the charismatic Helge Kleivan, from Romsa/Tromsø, and of Sámi decent, they have published a huge volume of reports on the dramatic situations of Indigenous people around the world. Their contribution through to the organizing of Indigenous people is impossible to ignore. In the early 1970ies they worked towards making a global network of similar organizations, Survival International, Indigena to name just a few, were based in  non-Indigenous idealism aiming to help us taking over as much of the work as possible ourselves. The first step towards a global organization for Indigenous people was to summon regional meetings, as a forerunner and preparation to the next step. Thus IWGIA organized in 1973(?) the Arctic Indigenous Meeting, that I had hoped to attend, but was unable to. However, one of my friends Knut Johnsen of Deatnu did. One of the interesting discussions going on there was the content of the term “Indigenous” or rather "What is an Indigenous People and who is an Indigenous person?" Based on the results of these regional meetings, the formal foundation of what was soon to become the World Council of Indigenous People was built, that staged their first General Assembly in Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island in 1975.



Small, but we are many

Since I was present at that fantastic occasion, I will come back to it on more detail later, but now go back in time and explain my own relation as an artist to International Indigenous movements. As a young activist I clearly saw the necessity and possibility for Sámit to claim and maintain and Indigenous position within Fenno-scandia, and also to make contacts with other Indigenous peoples. This can clearly be seen in my map Sábmi of 1975, which includes a world map with the names of many Indigenous peoples, as well as an Arctic map wit the same focus. But my activity for establishing Indigenous connection started even before that.

In an informal, personal and a little naıve letter (corrected for spelling mistakes) to the Indian-Eskimo Association:


<Indian-Eskimo Association                                                 Tromsø, 22nd of August 72

Dear leaders of INDIAN-ESKIMO Association.

Myself, I’m a half-breed Lapp, and consequently a member of one of the thousands of minorities in the world. The Lapps live in the northern part of Scandinavia. We have not so good organizations as you seem to have, we are so few, and we, our nation are split into four ”other civilized nations”, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the USSR. Perhaps you have heard of us, and know of us? Yes, we must know of each other, and other minorities in the entire world. I think it be good when we can learn how other fight for their rights. Together we may be a little more strong. Why shouldn’t we form an international minority organization with an IMO-fund, committee, and frequent (annual) and effective congresses and conferences. How was it possible to combine the Indian and Eskimo- organizations, I would like to know. Yes, I would like to have some information of your work as minorities of Canada. I shall contact my own organizations NSR, The Lapp organization in Norway, if they might do something. I don’t know. Perhaps you’d better try to start it all with an international minority congress or something? I whish you could discuss it and inform me of the result. Surely the job is a big one, but I’m sure it is not Utopias. The land of Utopia is a white man’s invention. We have never mentioned it. I would like to pay for the information you please to give, or by being an overseas member. I’m a student, not rich, and I’m not proposed to be so. I’m studying art in Oslo. Thank you very much, and excuse my bad English.

Hans Ragnar Mathisen Grimsø,

Grøtsundveien 15, 9020 Tromsdalen, Norway in Europe.


This clearly shows a concern for the wellbeing not only of my own people, but for all Indigenous peoples in the world, I wanted to do something actively, and wrote this letter. There is a slight hint at dissatisfaction with our own organizations, of which I was a member, and the reason was my impatience with the activities. I asked the current leader of NSR, Regnor Sollbakk whether there was any contact at all, and he assured me that something was under way in Indigenous organizing, he did not let me know more. Having taken part in some Sámi political meetings, I clearly saw the effect of alcohol on the participants; the day after the first night was almost impossible to gather them for the morning sessions. I believe this is also an indication of the pressures and conflicts our status as a minority group in countries that would not give anything unless we fought really hard for it. I was pleased to see that after some years this situation improved greatly, but my worries at the time were well founded.

I sincerely believed that my idea would deserve positive response, but I never got any reply. At this time “Lapp” was the current international/formal term of our people, against which I was strongly opposed, but many Indigenous peoples have had to accept that until their own name won recognition, ethnographic names, often rendered derogatory, were used, hence “Lapp” and “Eskimo”.


As an artist I was exited that this idea could become reality, and I made a lithograph with a Native American on horseback, presumably an Apache, maybe even Geronimo, with a suggested logo for “IMO” in the clouds of the background.


Yet as an artist, I was also a free-lance journalist and a politician both Sámi and Indigenous. This is another letter more than one year later:


<Chief Elijah Smith President Yukon Native Brotherhood Canada Oslo, 28.10.1973

Dear Chief Elijah Smith!

Earlier this year I read in the newspaper Vancouver Sun an article, which caught my interest: Dated February 24th this year. It was taken from a letter to Canadian Government on land claims.

Myself, a student in Oslo Art Academy (painting and drawing), I’m of Samic (=Lappish) kin, and I found striking parallels between your people and mine. The Lappish nation lives in northern Scandinavia, and are of Asian, not European stock. Part of our population are reindeer nomads, another bigger part are living on fishing, hunting and some household (farming on small scale). We too are very anxious on our future, because industry and mining are eating our old land.

It is of great importance that ethnic minorities all around the world know of each other. Perhaps we could help and learn from each other! We look forward to the International Minority Congress to be held in Canada next summer; I hope you will be represented there.

When there are many voices on the same cry, perhaps they will listen…

I thank you for having written this article, there are such likenesses between our ways of thinking, too.

I want to translate the article, and publish it in this country, and I wrote first to the paper in Vancouver, because I had no other address, but they gave it, and I am glad now to write to the right persons. Will you permit it? If you want, I may be able to write or send you something more about us and our problems, both ancient and ”modern”! Ah, we are lucky, because we have the right on our side, although we’ll have to fight hard and long further. Could you please tell me how things work, did they respect your claims, or did they ignore it? I’m sure it would be easier, when we could support each other. And I’m sure your letter, your words, would be of great interest and help among us.

On behalf of my people the Sábmelažžat I send warm greetings to our brothers and sisters in Yukon. ČSV {is} our national symbol. Hans Ragnar Mathisen St. Olavs gt. 13, Oslo 1 Norway.



I translated several articles appearing in various International Indigenous media, and published them in our Sámi newspapers. One article was about the Oil exploitation in Alaska, where natives for the first time would have some influence and share for some years. (Alaxsxix- Alaska, including a map, 24.07.1975 ) Another was about the Education system of Canada and its negative effect on native children and youth. (Tell us what you do to our children, because it is breaking our hearts! The Vancouver Sun, Saturday24. 02. 1973), translated 21.10.1973.  This must have been some of the earliest documentation, translated into Norwegian, of Indigenous issues in news media for Sámi people. Another important translated featured the Indigenous people of Amazonia, translated from INDIGENA, and AKWESASNE NEWS, “Hvordan bli en Stormakt, Brazil? Brasilske myndigheter “åpner amazon-området for UTVIKLINGEN” includes a detailed map of Indigenous people of this area. (1975)

Later I was able to write my own reports from various travels abroad meeting Indigenous peoples, but that will belong to another chapter.


In 1974 and 75 I took part in several Sámi political meetings, including youth conferences. One at Ongkere/Ankarede I presented the blue-print of the map for the first time after an adventurous travel there. They were very encouraged and looked forward to the publishing of it. It was at meetings like these that I suggested a co-operation with Sámi artists, to work together for a common aim. Some of the Sámi young artists on the Swedish side were keen to join. (Britta Marakatt and Rose Marie Huvva, among others.) This was the initiating sequence of what was later to become Sámi Artist Group.


In 1975 I brought with me the same blue-copy of the pan-Sámi map, which also included a small world map of Indigenous peoples. I made a separate preliminary world map, but my idea then to make a complete world map+ of Indigenous people, have not yet materialized, perhaps it will? In any case, the Sábmi map became a documentation of our existence, and was a two dimensional ambassador for our people, up till now. I shoed the sketch map at the WCIP conference in Port Alberni, encouraging other Indigenous people to do likew9se.


Another important happening in 1975, was the meeting of many Indigenous young people from Asia, participating in a musical called Song of Asia, and we were invited to attend, both the performance and a discussion afterwards. Ailo Gaup and me spoke at this meeting. One of the Norwegian organizers for this group of MRA, said afterwards that for the fist time she had felt ashamed of being Norwegian.

I have been much criticized for joining this group after that, in my view bot unfair and unjustified. I would not have exchanged the experience of traveling around the globe with Song of Asia for the world! And it made me a more effective activist for Sámi rights!

At the end of the year, we were a group of young Sámi people who travelled to attend the first General Assembly of the World Council of Indigenous people in Port Alberni  (not Port Albany!) on Vancouver Island Oct 30 to Nov 3rd(?) 1975, either as one of the 9 delegates, or, like me, as an observer.


This was the longest travel I have had, and to another continent as well. I quickly befriended the local Indigenous people there, since I did not have to attend so many of the meetings that seemed to stalemate. First of all, the Sámi were perhaps over-represented, and constituted almost 1/4th of the assembly of delegates. The explanation was that each country could send 3 Indigenous delegates, and had Russia been accessible at the time, we would have had 12 delegates, but even 9 seemed a bit too much. But the fact that these were all fair skinned, created a lot of mistrust from the mainly dark-skinned delegates, especially from Latin America. Their fight was against “white” exploitation, and they could not see much difference, alas. It was mainly during the cultural evenings that took place more or less spontaneously each meeting after the tiring meetings, that people loosened up, and had some spiritual edification. Nils Aslak Valkeapää solved the situation as far as the Sámi was concerned, and his adaption of a traditional luohtti into “Biegga” mesmerized the audience, and from then onwards, the Sámi were accepted into the Indigenous family. It was a great moment, and clearly demonstrated the power and depth of Art.

 Nástegiettáš 28.06.2015 Keviselie, Hans Ragnar Mathisen


5. Some glimpses from Sámi political organization

The present advanced  status and multitude of Sámi organizations and social institutions is a result of the pioneering initiatives by Sámi activists like Elsa Laula Renberg, Nils Thomasson, Anders Larsen, Per Fokstad, Israel Ruong, to name just a few. Later they were joined by many concerned non-Sámi. One explanation might be that Sámi activist had little possibility to further their own situation beyond the immediate concern of keeping the “head above the water” so to speak, fight an often hopeless struggle to keep the language and the dignity against massive official and private opposition. And it may come as no surprise that some of these initiators came from people already involved in humanitarian projects, including the church. A Swedish bishop may be thanked for the level of Sámi duodji today, and the Folk High School for Sámi in Finland helped preserve many aspects of Sámi culture including the language.

The earliest of the existing Sámi Associations of Norway was founded in 24th January 1948, Sámiid Sær’vi.

The first board consisted of

Hjalmar Pavelsen, Deatnu, leader

Anders Guttormsen, Deatnu, deputy leader

Thor Frette, Kárašjohka, secretary

Hans Guttorm, Kárašjohka, cashier

Other members were

Sara Hætta, Guovdageaidnu

Samuel J. Balto, Kárašjohka

Thorleif Berg, Buolbmát

Reidar Pavelsen

 (From Ofelaš, nr 1, 1990 Member pamphlet for Oslo Sámi Association)


From that grew the idea and will to work for an overall National Sámi Association, it became the Sámi Sær’vi – Samisk Selskap 3 years later 1951. It was logic that the Oslo Sámi Association, where Sámi from most areas in Norway were studying or working, made it into a tool for all Sámit in Norway.



Sámi Sær’vi – Samisk Selskap of Norway

The first organization for all Sámi in Norway, Sámi Sær’vi/Samisk Selskap became the start of NSR. It started in Oslo in 1951, with Asbjørn Nesheim as editor of its yearbook Sámi Ællin/Sameliv, where in its first edition he writes about the formation.

Here is the Agenda from the meeting:


Vedtekter for Sámi Sær’vi  Samisk Selskap

Vedtatt på generalforsamlingen den 17. November 1951.

§ 1. Foreningen navn er Sámi Sær’vi- Samisk Selskap.

§ 2. Samisk Selskap er en norsk landsforening som søker å samle alle som er interessert i samenes velferd. Utenlandske borgere kan opptas som medlemmer etter styrevedtak, men får ikke stemmerett.

§ 3. Samisk Selskap vil gjennom opplysningsvirksomhet og praktiske tiltak arbeide for sosial, kulturell og økonomisk framgang for samene, og for å skape forståelse for samenes spesielle problemer.

Foreningen søker kontakt med myndighetene i sin virksomhet.

§ 4. Foreningen skal være nøytral i partipolitiske og religiøse spørsmål.

§ 5. Medlemskontingentens størrelse bestemmes for hvert år av styret.

§ 6. Styre skal bestå av



       2 styremedlemmer.




Dessuten velges 3 varamenn til styret. Av styret skal minst 3 være bosatt i samedistriktene. Styret er beslutningsdyktig når minst 4 er møtt fram.

§ 7. Styret med to varamenn og to revisor velges på den ordinære generalfosamling, som holdes hvert annet år.

Her avlegges beretning og femføring av regnskap for perioden. Innkallelse til generalfiorsamlingen skal sendes ut minst 3 uker i forveien. Forslag som skal behandles på generalforsamlingen, skal være styret i hende senest to uker før generalforsamlingen. Ekstraordinær generalforsamling holdes hvis et flertall i styret eller minst 1/3 av medlemmene forlanger det.

§ 8. Ved eventuell oppløsning som bestemmer av ekstraordinær generalforsamling, skal foreningens midler disponeres av Tromsø Lærerskole til beste for samiske elever ved skolen.

§ 9. Endringer i vedtektene kan kun gjøres av generalforsamilngen,

Styret i Sámi Sær’vi  Samisk Selskap 1951.

Formann: dr. philos Asbjørn Nesheim, Oslo.

Nestformann: stud.jur. Hjalmar Pavelsen, Tana.

Sekretær: stud. Oecon. Reidar Hirsti, Tana.

Kasserer: stud. Art. Hans Guttorm, Karasjok.

Styremedlem: fengselsbetjent Hans J. Henriksen, Oslo

Varamenn tiul styret:

Skreddersvenn Samuel Balto, Karasjok.

Ekspeditrise Ella Johnsen, Oslo

Kontorassistent Astri Henriksen, Oslo

Styret i Sámi Sær’vi  Samisk Selskap for toårsperioden 1952/1953.

Formann: sokneprest Kristian Nissen, Lysaker.

Nestformann: reineier Lars Danielsen.

Sekretær: fengselsbetjent Hans J. Henriksen, Oslo.

Kasserer: cand. jur. Hjalmar Pavelsen, Tana.

Redaktør: dr. philos Asbjørn Nesheim, Oslo.


ordfører Alfred L. Larsen, Kautokeino

ordfører Jon Fagerli, Karasjok

Varamenn til styret:

skolestyrer Anny Haugen, Kviby i Alta.

småbruker Per Biggi, Tana.

stud. oecon. Reidar Hirsti, Tana

Revisorer:    disponent H. Durban-Hansen, Oslo

                   Landssekretær J. Børretzen, Oslo.

Medlemskontingenten kr 5,– pr. år, kan betales over postgirokonto nr. 151 85.



(As stated in SAMELIV, Samisk Selskaps Årbok / SÁMI ÆLLIN Sámi Særvi Jakkigir’ji 1951—1952, Oslo 1952 p. 130-134.)

A look at the content of this first yearbook is also interesting, it starts with a poem by the famous Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg:



Grieg, Nordahl: Vidden

Nesheim, Asbjørn: Samisk Selskap og Sameliv

Nesheim, Asbjørn: Sámi Sær’vi ja Sámi ællin

Ruong, Israel: Nomadskolorna i Sverige

Bergsland, Knut: Hvordan den nye samiske rettskrivningen ble til

Christiansen, Reidar Th.: Noai’dier og finnferd

Fett, Harry: Finnmarlsviddens kunst. John Savio

Hagen, Peder: Litt om reindriften i Nordland

Hallsjø, Arne: Våre reinslakterier

Henriksen, Hans J.: Samene og samfunnet

Henriksen, Hans J.: Sábmelažžat ja ål’bmut-åk’tasašvuotta

Hirsti, Reidar: Næringslivet i indre Finnmark

Nesheim, Asbjørn: Samisk og norsk i Lyngen

Vedtekter for Sámi Sær’vi –  Samisk Selskap

Sámi Sær’vi –  Samisk Selskap mærrádusat

Styret i Sámi Sær’vi –  Samisk Selskap


These documents tell a lot about its own time, note how few women were represented in the board, for example. Even the Sámi language had to cope with the introduction of comparatively alien concepts, and it was natural to use norwagisms, that later were exchanged by better Sámi terms, as for example: ‘formann’ (Norw. foreman/leader) ‘formán’ni’ is now: ovdaolmmoš; ‘samfunn’ (Norw. society) ‘ál’bmut-åk’tasašvuotta’: “people-togetherness” as of today: servodat.


Norsk Sameråd was founded in Karasjok in 1956. And Samekomiteen av 1956 (Komiteen til å utrede samespørsmål – Committee to investigate Sámi issues 1956-59), The Sámi Committee gave a report with recommendations in 1959 how to improve the social, economic and cultural situation of Norway’s Indigenous people, and several of the recommendations were put into action.


NSR, the National Association of Sámit in Norway, with local member associations in various towns, was founded 30.November 1968, aiming to unite several local associations, and inspiring new to be formed. The first Sámi association was founded in Sweden by Elsa Laula Renberg in 1904, and 2 years later in Norway. More of this history can be found on internet: 


Alphabetical list of local associations of NSR:

NSR består av 27 lokallag som er spredt over hele Norge. Forkortelsene utgår fra lokallagenes samiske navn.


Nesseby sameforening-USS

Tana sameforening

Tanabredden sameforening-DGS

Porsanger sameforening-POS 1966

Karasjok sameforening-KSS 1959

Alta sameforening 1972

Máze sameforening-MSS

Kautokeino sameforening-GSS 1963

Kvænangen sameforening 2012

Ivgu-sameforening 2013

Tromso-sameforening-RSS 1969


Senja og omegn sameforening-SBS

Harstad og omegn sameforening-HBS

Hinnøy og omegn sameforening-IBS

Dielddanuoraguovllu-nuorak-DGN 2013

Bjerkvik og omegn sameforening

Salten sameforening

Rana sameforening-RAN

Maadtoej sijte

Nord-Trøndelag sameforening-nts 1975

Sør-Trondelag, Hedmark saemiej saervi

Møre og Romsdal sameforening

Bergen sameforening 1969

Mjøsa og omegn sameforening 2008

Oslo sameforening-OSS 1948



List of leaders of NSR sine 1969:

Johan Mathis Klemetsen: 1969 – 1971

Regnor Solbakk: 1971 – 1974

Odd Mathis Hætta 1974 – 1976

Peder Andersen: 1976 – 1979

Odd Ivar Solbakk: 1979 – 1980

Ole Henrik Magga 1980 – 1985

Ragnhild Lydia Nystad 1985 – 1991

Nils Thomas Utsi: 1991 – 1995

Sven-Roald_Nystø 1995 – 1997

Geir Tommy Pedersen 1997 – 1998

Janoš Trosten: 1998 – 2001

Klemet-Erland Hætta 2001 – 2003

Aili Keskitalo 2003 – 2005

Martin Urheim (konst.): 2005 – 2006

Silje Karine Muotka 2006 – 2008

Aili Keskitalo 2008 – 2013

Gunn Britt Retter 2013 - 2014

Beaska Niillas 2014 -



The Nordic Sámi Council

“Report on the Lapps to-day in Finland, Norway and Sweden, edited and compiled by Rowland G.P.Hill on behalf of THE NORDIC LAPP COUNCIL” was the full title of two volumes called THE LAPPS TO-DAY 1 and 2.

Reports from the conferences (Jokkmokk 1953, Karasjok 1956) leading to the establishment of the Nordic Sámi Council was published in The Lapps To-day 1 (MCMLX) and reports from the Councils three subsequent conferences (Stockholm, Inari 1959, Kiruna 1962) in The Lapps today 2 (1969)”


The condition of our people is closely followed by many abroad. The publisher of the first volume Jean Malaurie, Centre d’Études Arctiques, École Practique de Hautres Études, Paris:



A people, not a tribe, the Lapps as a society are apparently split up and divided between different nations and even different forms of government. Without closer examination of the case, one might be tempted to wish for the reconstitution or preservation of a unity purely and solely Lapp, brought about by a formal return to ancient patterns. The Jokkmokk and Karasjok conferences have wisely revealed the fallacy of such a desire.

History is most living when it invents, not when it puts the clock back. Can we really wish on the Lapp communities a future where they will be merely their own museum? If the Lapps are a fact, the vast entity of modern Scandinavia and the Nordic world is a fact as well, and one the Lapps neither can nor should endeavor to overlook or avoid. The publications of the proceedings of the Conferences of Stockholm (1956) and Inari (1959), later to appear in this Series, will enable us to follow closely the economic and social evolution of the territories. And we shall follow it all the more keenly because the Internordic Lapp Council has now agreed to define precisely what a Laplander is, thus making a demographic analysis of these groups at last possible. These various studies, need we say, will prove completely satisfactory only when viewed in conjunction with the considerable research work carried out by the Soviet scientists on the Lapp population in the U.S.S.R.

If we reject the hypothesis of a “reservation”, because sooner or later it will degenerate into an isolated, sterile entity, does this imply there is no other solution but assimilation, integration and what amounts to absorption? The facts of the situation make it clear that such an eventuality is neither possible nor desirable. How can a homogenous assimilation or integration be brought about when the separate elements of the same ethnic group are subject of several national sovereignties? And it is perhaps here that the very terms of the problem allow us to glimpse a wider solution. Its first stage (and the contribution of the Internordic Lapp Council is of the utmost value here) requires from the Nordic governments an ever closer coordination of their policies for their Lapp subjects. But a second stage may make it clear that the natural solution of the Lapp problem is to be found in a further strengthening of Nordic solidarity and unity, conceived as an overall, dynamically civilizing force. Such a solution is admittedly not easy, nor can progress towards it be rapid.. But what do halts and their frequency matter provided they are but stages to the goal…



The Introdutory Note from the first volume (p 19):

In January, 1952, several experts on Lapp questions met in Stockholm at the Nordic Museum to discuss Lapp Handicrafts. In the course of discussions the desire was expressed to intensify collaboration in Lapp questions as a whole with a view to heightening the social consciousness and activities of this people. It was decided to hold an Internordic Conference within such terms of reference, and Dr. Israel Ruong of Uppsala, Dr. Asbjørn Nesheim of Oslo, and Cand. Phil. Karl Nickul of Helsinki were entrusted with its planning. All three were closely associated with various Lapp cultural organizations – Same Ätnam - Sällskapet Lapska Odlingens Framtid (“Lapp Homeland”, Sweden), Sami Saervi – Samisk Selskap (“The Lapp Sociaty”, Norway)´, and Lapin Sivistysseura (“Society for the Promotion of Lapp Culture”, Finland), and on behalf of their representative societies they sent out invitations to the first Internordic conference dealing with  Lapp culture and the people’s means of livelihood.  The conference was held at Jokmokk, Sweden, from 31st August to 3rd September, 1953 (a summary of its proceedings appears in the following pages of the book), and in the course of it a committee was appointed to draft rules for the creation of a Nordic Lapp Council whose task would be the convening of another Nordic Conference. This second conference was held in Karasjok, Norway, from 16th to 18th August, 1956, and the Nordic Council was instructed to keep in close touch with developments concerning Lapp questions , to champion the interests of the people and to arrange for further Lapp conferences at least every three years. The third Lapp conference was held in Inari, Finland, in August, 1959.


I am of course tempted to include more interesting quotations from these two books, since I feel the need to balance the overemphasis on the “Alta case” in the current political historytelling. The Alta case would not have happened without the long line of initiatives, fights and victories that preceded it. The books are available at libraries, I believe, so I leave you with the conclusive




1. From early days the governments of the three Northern countries have legally recognized the situation of the Lapps in their territories and guaranteed their status and existence.

2. From time to time doubts have been expressed, even by the Lapps themselves, as to their ability to live as a nation with its cultural traditions and way of living. Yet though the Lapps have known critical periods, they are still a vigorous people and the populations have increased in many districts. The Lapps maintain their feeling for their own language and traditions, and for their livelihood they exploit the natural resources of the arctic and sub-arctic territories of the North, which, for climatic and other reasons, is peculiarly suited to a people adapted to natural conditions.

3. At present Lapps are in a period of economic and cultural crisis as the modern development of the North fosters a culture with techniques dangerous to the people. If they are to survive and take advantage of the possibilities modern science and technique offer them, improving their means of livelihood and enriching their own culture, the Lapps must adapt themselves to the new age. This does not imply the indiscriminate rejection of their own cultural values but the fusion of their inheritance with modern trends. The Lapps themselves must actively participate in this and contribute to the research that will maintain the true standards of Lapp culture.

4. The problem of guaranteeing the right of the Lapps to use the natural resources of the area they live in is of vital importance to their future and is closely linked to the effort of active adaption required of them.

5. The present complex situation requires that the Lapps and also those who are interested in the maintenance of a specific Lapp culture should act swiftly and to good purpose. Lapp culture and the people’s way of living are historic facts that cannot be disregarded. From time immemorial the Lapps have crossed frontiers without surrendering national citizenship and they have been a conciliating and unifying element in the North.

This Conference has accordingly decided to appoint a Committee consisting of three members from each participating country.

This Committee will be responsible for preparing as soon as possible a proposal for the establishment of a common Nordic Council dealing with Lapp questions. The Council will suitably safeguard the economic and cultural interests of the Lapps while taking into consideration their varying nationalities. Until the constitution of the Council, the Committee will be responsible for the continuance of inter-Nordic collaboration already begun and will convene a new Nordic Conference when a suitable opportunity occurs.

The Conference appointed the following as members of the above Committee:

Finland: Erkki Itkonen, K. Nickul and Erkki Jomppanen, Deputies: Oula Aikio, Pekka Lukkari and Samuli Porsanger

Norway: H.J.Henriksen, Krisitan Nissen and Hjalmar Pavel. Deputies: Per Fokstad, Johan Johnsen and Alfred Larsen.

Sweden: Per Idivuoma, Carl Johansson and Israel Ruong. Deputies: Björn Collinder, Nicolaus Kuhmunen and Jonas Ahren. {should probably be Åhren}




The foundation of Romssa Sámi Sær’rvi 1969

The Tromsø Sámi Association Romsa Sámi Searvi was founded in 1969, and apart from being a member of the team, and working as a freelance journalist I also reported the event for the two newspapers in Tromsø. I became close friends with the Jernsletten family, and Nils was the first leader, to whom I had asked the question: Går det an å være same i en by? (Is it possible to be Sámi in a town?) He told later that nobody had asked such a question before, and I felt accepted and welcome. I remember especially when Kathrine Johnsen, who was keen to know my background, and to her surprise found out that I was the son of her best childhood friend in Deanudat! “I have often wondered of what has become of that boy, she said, so you are he!” This in turn led to my first chance to take contact with my relatives, whom I met in 1970.


This is the report to the newspaper after the meeting where the Romssa Sámi Association was founded:


TROMSØ 20 januar 1969:


“Samisk Selskap opprettet i Tromsø

Vellykket tiltak på Museet fredag


En i og for seg historisk begivenhet fant sted på Tromsø Museum fredag da det ble vedtatt å opprette et samisk selskap i Tromsø. Deltagerne i møtet var nesten utelukkende samer som for tiden oppholder seg i Tromsø eller oppholder seg i distriktet.

Ungdommen utgjorde størsteparten av forsamlingen, og mange av de unge som nå går på skole i Tromsø vil heretter få muligheter til å treffe hverandre i en felles organisasjon. Fra Oslo møtte sekretær i Norsk Sameråd, Hans J. Henriksen for å orientere om den norske offisielle samepolitikk, som ikke har vært samevennlig. Men fra 1947 har man merket en mer positiv holdning fra de administrerende myndigheter, sa Henriksen i sitt foredrag. Han ga i korte trekk en oversikt over tiltak som var satt i verk. Men nevnte også mindre hyggelige reaksjoner på hva han mente var rimelige krav fra samisk hold. Han kom inn på den likegyldighet samene har vært utsatt for, og håpet at staten ville tilkjenne samene ikke bare kulturelle og opplysningsmessige fordeler, men også økonomiske rettigheter til landet. At samenes urgamle rett til landet blir krenket ved utbygging av forskellig art er nå blitt en slags juridisk sedvanerett. I den forbindelse nevnte Henriksen at da svenske reinsamer ble nektet beiterett for reinen sin i Norge, oppfordret Svenske Samers Riksforbund de skadelidende å gå til rettsak mot den norske stat, hvilket de gjorde. Da Norge tapte saken, ble den anket til Høyesterett, og den norske stat tapte også her.

Henriksen nevnte at Tromsø Samisk Selskap ville bli det nest største etter Oslo, og han trodde på en positiv fremtid for foreningen i den kommende universitetsby. Nils Jernsletten som var en av initiativtagerne til Samisk Selskap takket Henriksen for at han var kommet trass i at han er sterkt opptatt. Etter kaffen ble det høve til å rette spørsmal. Jernsletten orienterte om samisk organisasjonsarbeid generelt og kom inn på at Samisk Selskap, som er en landsomfattende organisasjon med lokalforeninger i de viktigste samesentra, nå står foran en omorganisering. Dette ville medføre et representativt og samlet organ som lettere kunne øve det press som er nødvendig i saker som ellers ble behandlet etter det velkjente byrakratiske mønster. For Tromsøs vedkommende ble bestemt at det skulle velges et interimsstyre som skulle ta seg av de formelle saker angående opprettelsen og så legge sine forslag til vedtekter, styre, kontingent m.v. på neste medlemsmøte. Som medlemmer av interimsstyret ble valgt Nils Jernsletten, Iver Jåks, Kathrine Johnsen og Erling Hirsti. Som representant for Museet var møtt direktør Vorren, for geistligheten sogneprestene Schytte Blix med frue og Asbjørn Flokkmann. Den siste poengterte i et innlegg viktigheten av spesielle samiske kirkehelger. Han fortalte at Troms fylke på sitt kulturbudsjett støttet disse kirkehelgene som ansees for viktige faktorer i det kulturelle samkvem blant samene. Til slutt takket Nils Jernsletten som ordstyrer for det store fremmøte.

Samtlige deltagere meldte seg som medlem av Samisk Selskap i Tromsø.”



It was a great leap forward for me to be a member and also delegate to annual meetings in Deatnu in 1971, where I met famous veteran activists like Per Fokstad among many others. These happenings released creative abilities and urges within myself, and had a positive effect on my artistic outpourings as time went by, I believe.


Some artistic activities during my Oslo years

Now we take another leap forward, to my study years in Oslo at the Art school 1971-73 and Art Academy 1973-79. I immediately became a member of OSS, and was elected into the board, and was chairman for one period as well. When I was secretary I wrote the following report for the period 74/75, giving an overview of the activities:


Oslo Sámiid Sær’vi ÅRSBERETNING 20. Sept. 1974 – 12. Nov. 1975


I.   Styret

Styret  som ble valgt på ekstraordinær generalforsamling 20.9.74, har vært:

Formann:                     Ragnhild Nystad

Nestformann:                Jens Kristian Eriksen

Kasserer:                      Dagrun Danielsen

Sekretær:                      Hans Ragnar Mathisen

Styremedlemmer:          David Anti

Inga Juuso

Varamenn:                   Nils Johan Klemetsen

                                    Valborg Nystad

                                    Nils Ragnvald Dalseng

Revisorer:                     Paul Fjellheim

                                    Hans J. Henriksen

Redaktør:                     Gutorm Gjessing

Ove Teigen ble på medlemsmøte 17.9.75 valgt som ny kasserer etter at Dagrun Danielsen reiste til Jåkkamåkki. Aage Solbakk ble valgt som medredaktør for manuskripter på samisk, på styremøte 21.1.75

II.  Representasjon

1. Delegater på NSRs landsmøte Ivgobađa 1975:

Aage Solbakk, Jens Kristian Eriksen, Ragnhild Nystad, Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Nils Johan Klemetsen

 2. Ved Finnmarkslagets Jubileumsfest :

      Inga Juuso, Jens Kristian Eriksen, Ragnhild Nystad, Hans Ragnar Mathisen

 3. Møte i Norsk-Finsk forening 28.2.75 ang. Samarbeid om feles lokaler:

Dagrun Danielsen, Ragnhikld Nystad

 4. Møte om samarbeid med fremmedarbeiderforeningen 30.11.74:

      Ragnhild Nystad, Jens Kristian Eriksen

III. Møter

     16 styremøter           8 medlemsmøter           5 hyggekvelder

     På hyggekveldene har man også tatt opp mindre saker, hatt underholdning, etc.


     1974: 07.10., 29. 10., 12. 11., 26. 11.,

1975: 21.01., 11.02., 24.02., 13.03., 15.04., 29.04., 20.05.,  – 16.09., 22.09., 09.10., 21.01., 04.12.

På medlemsmøtene er disse sakene tatt opp:

1. 25.10.74: «Č s v – hva i all verden er det?» Om bruk og misbruk av čsv-symbolet , innledning ved Hans Ragnar Mathisen, diskusjon. Egen samisk representasjon på Stortinget ble også tatt opp.

 2. 01.11.: Situasjonen for samiske aviser, med særlig henblikk på Ságat-saken, bel drøftet.

 3. 29.02.1975: Aage Solbakk: Om den lokalpolitiske situasjon i Indre Finnmark i sentrale samiske områder” Samefolkets Liste foran kommende kommune- og fylkestingsvalg.

 4. 05.03.: Referater og innkomne skriv fra NSR. Valg av delegater til NSRs landsmøte i Ivgobađa i juni.

 5. 16.04.1975: Rapport fra komiteen til å fremme samisk litteratur.

Behandling og vedtak angående anvendelse av overskuddet fra joikeplate med Dædnugádde Nuorat

 6. 17.09.: Referat fra NSRs landsmøte

 7. 15.10.: “Hva er samiske klær, og hvem bruker dem?” Diskusjon. Utvalg bel endsatt for å for å utarbeide resultatet fra diskusjonen: Aud Kemi, Nils Johan Klemetsen, Inga Jåma

     Saken tas opp senere på høsten.

 8. Kautokeino-opprøret i 18952 som eksempel på religionens samfiunnsmessige funksjojn sett i lys av marxistisk religionskritikk”. Diskusjon. Vi har tenkt å belyse hendelsene i 1852fra flere punkter, iallfall én gang i året.

Årsfesten ble holdt på Readyhuset. Arrangementskomiteen besto av:

Inga Juuso, Dagnrun Danielsen, Nilos Ragnvald Dalseng, Amund Anti, Samuel John Anti; Toastmaster: Jens Kristian Eriksen


     06.11.1974: Besøk av den oxitanske visesanger PATRIC far Frankrike, som representant for den oxitanske minoritet der.. Journalist Einar Flydal innledet. Diskusjon. Visesang.

     14.05.1975: Aage Solbakk presenterte den nye samiske boka JURDAGAT JA SÁNIT. Opplesning ved Inga Juuso og Nils Johan Klemetsen; Man diskuterte også hvordan man skulle stille seg til planene om filming av Kautokeino-opprøret.

Ander hyggekvelder: 22.11. 1974; 15.01.1975.

Viktige saker styret har arbeidet med:

1. Utgivelse av samisk kalender for 1975 i samarbeid med Bergen Sámiid Sær’’vi. Kalenderkomité: Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Knut Johnsen, Dagrun Danielsen, Nils Johan Klemetsen, Inga Juuso, Jens Kristian Eriksen som også har vært distribusjonssjef. Dessuten har disse hjulpet oss: Håkon Henriksen, Thor Frette, og mange flere. Alle sier vi hjertelig takk!

2. Aksjon 23.05.785 kl 10-15.00 i Oslo sentrum med utdeling av flygeblad, salg av kalendre, bilder, og samtale med forbipasserende. Ansvarlig leder: Ester Grossmann, dessuten: Marit Solbakk, Dagrun Danielsen, Ella Andersen, Annok Sarri Nordrå, Inga Juuso og én gutt.

3. Styret i OSS har i samarbeid med Sámi Institut’ta gått inn for at det lages et kart med samiske stedsnavn over hele det sdamiske området. Kartet kalles for Sábmi, og er tegnet av Hans Ragnar Mathisen. Det er under trykking. Kultyurrådet er søkt om støtte til utgivelsen.

4. Gitarkurs ved Jens Kristian Eriksen

Oslo 12. November 1975

Ragnhild Nystad, formann (sign.)

Hans Ragnar Mathisen, sekretær (sign.)


There are many other actions one could mention, but most of it is already accessible on the internet, and in the archives of the various Sámi Associations and the Sámi Archive in Guovdageaidnu. The books I have consulted are available at major libraries. Many first hand witnesses are still alive, and hopefully available for questions.

I repeat that this is written from the standpoint of one observer/participant and does not claim any more authority than is due. However, it is a firsthand account, and relying on documents and impressions from that time.

Eventually we shall take on the so-called Alta conflict, which started in Oslo where it was decided upon, but before that, I will relate the course of events that led to the formation of a Sámi Artist Collective.


Keviselie , Nástegiettáš 30.09.2015


6. Art activities and the formation of a Sámi Artist group.

I started my career as an artist by both writing and also by making pictures. Both of them went hand in hand so to speak, because I was far from sure which to choose. In fact, have I had the possibility, I would have become a musician, perhaps even a composer. But that would mean mastering at least one instrument, and I realized to my sorrow, that it was too late. I left the excellent tutoring of Madame Fosse Strand at Markveien in Storskogen and her piano lessons after just one year, despite the fact that she claimed I learnt as much as others would in two, I was too impatient, and would rather play outside with friends than at the keyboard. Not a totally surprising conclusion for an active boy of 12. Had I instead continued, I might have had a much better chance to fulfill that later dream, but such is life! However, throughout my school days, my interests and abilities pointed in a direction of creative activities, and I was already considered to be good at drawing, even in high school, where I graduated in 1966. I had written my thesis in History about the fall of the Inca empire, as a drama Den siste Inka (The Last Inca), to the great astonishment of my teacher. However, it was accepted.


My early art activities

Apart from writing poems and drama, including one that won third and only price in a drama contest in 1979/70, I eventually ventured into the art of drawing and painting with full force, since two of my paintings were accepted at the annual regional Exhibition “Nordnorsken” in 1969. And my choice was confirmed in 1970 when another of my paintings “Máná niekko, –… Stallo / Barnedrøm” was accepted at the even more prestigious National Art Exhibition “Høstutstillingen” in 1970. I have reason to believe that this was the first time an artwork with a Sámi title entered this particular event. This resulted in a lot of interest from the media, i.e. newspapers and radio, and I had no choice but to enter admission application for the Art School in Oslo. I initially did not want to do so, because I hated the thought of not living in the north, but my years in Oslo became fruitful as well. I spent 2 years at the Art and Crafts School, and then applied and was accepted at the Art Academy. I remember Professor Vorren said he was skeptical to that idea, but at least John Savio had attended classes at the former.

During my years at these institutions, I learnt of course the basics in various techniques, freehand drawing, the basis of all art, I was told; technical drawing, painting in various media (water colour, tempera) and eventually graphic techniques, metal (cold needle, etching, aquatint), wood block and lino printing, and lithography. I concentrated on the latter as far as graphic was concerned, knowing that I probably would not get another chance at such a resource-demanding technique, up north. I also started wood block printing, and broke the ban on it that I had put on myself after watching the elaborate preparatory work involved before the actual printing took place, as demonstrated earlier by my fellow town artist Marit Bockelie. There was one graphic technique I never tried, because of the smell: silkscreen printing. Per Kleiva was a well-known artist who had made many famous prints, and a French co-student gave me one print. But I was a bit afraid of the enclosed rooms with the dangerous vapors. I even saw one older female artist come out of there in a state of “drunkenness”, so I decided that I would never try it as long as the conditions were as they were then. And I never did. Lithography and woodblock printing was more than enough for me, and I used the possibilities to the full.


As a Sámi activist, I was concerned with the status of Sámi art in general, we were not alone any more, we were alert and did not hesitate to speak out for what we saw as Sámi rights to our own culture.

One topic of interest was the famous Guovdageaidnu uprising of Nov 8th 1852.

Here is a letter concerning the plans to make a film about this, and our rejection of the plan, on the ground that it is yet again to be made by non-Sámi:



(kommentar til melding i avisene aug.73)


Hvorfor er det bestandig ikke-samer som skal "bruke" stoff som egentlig er samiske anliggender?

Er ikke Kautokeino-opprøret enda et litt for ømtålelig og brennbart stoff for en film, som likevel neppe kan gi et helt korrekt bilde av forholdene, fordi det atter en gang er daža som skal presentere det ?

Hvorfor kan ikke utenforstående vente med sin  interesse og initiativ til samene selv får muligheteen til å presentere stoffet, dersom de da mener dette er ønskelig ?

Dette gjelder ikke bare film-prosjekt, men alle forhold som har til hensikt å 'presentere' samiske forhold.

Har man spurt de samene dette angår, hva de mener ?

Tror virkelig Pål Bang-Hansen fra Oslo at dažat via en slik film kan danne et riktig bilde av opprøret i 1852 ?  Dette er spørsmål som han må tenke og svare på, før et slikt omfattende filmprosjekt blir satt igang.

Samene er ikke tjent med en lettvint behandling av et så vanskelig og dyptpløyende stoff, og vi mener at  d e t  lett kan bli resultatet dersom det ikke blir tatt hensyn til ovenstående.

Tilslutt vil vi stille et åpent spørsmål til Kirke- og Undervisningsdepartement: Hvem innen KUD godkjenner dette prosjekt ? Er samene og deres organisasjoner (NSR, NRL) med på avgjørelsen ?


Kautokeino 8.september 1973

Johs.Kalvemo  Hans Ragnar Mathisen  Marit Oskal  Nils Eira”


(“SHALL THE GUOVDAGEAIDNU UPRISING BECOME FILM? (Comment on a message in the media august 1973)

Why is it always non-Sámi that should “use” topic material that strictly is Sámi affairs? Is not the Guovdageaidnu uprising still too touchy and controversial a topic for a film, which nonetheless hardly can give a completely relevant picture of the circumstances, because yet again it is to be presented by Dáža (slightly derogative for a non-Sámi in general, a Scandinavian in particular: Dáža = Danish)?

Why can’t outsiders wait with their interest and initiatives until Sámit get the capability to present the topic, if they regard it as beneficiary?  This goes not only for film-projects, but all initiatives aiming to “present” Sámi circumstances.

Are the Sámit for whom this is of concern been asked about their opinion?

Does Mr. Pål Bang Hansen from Oslo really believe that Dažat via a movie like this can give a proper representation of the uprising in 1852? These are questions he ought contemplate and solve, before such an enormous undertaking is to be commenced.

Sámit are not being well served by a superficial treatment of such a difficult and deeply spiritual and social topic, and we are of the opinion that just that might be the result if the above is not considered earnestly. 

Finally we would like to ask an open question to the State Department of Church and Education: Who within your staff will accept this project? Are the Sámit and their organizations (NSR, NRL) to partake in the decision?

Guovdageaidnu 8. September 1973

Johs.Kalvemo  Hans Ragnar Mathisen  Marit Oskal  Nils Eira”

(my translation)


A similar incident was when the music company Arne Bendiksen published an EP-record with a sloppy version of a Sámi Yoik (the so-called “Ante” yoik) with instrumentation and coda in the form of a popular melody, as if composed by a Norwegian composer, and not properly acknowledging the original. We saw this as an unacceptable abuse of Sámi music and culture, and Inga Eriksen (Inga Sara Eriksen, later better known as Inga Juuso) who had worked at Arne Bendiksen company, joined Ailo Gaup and me in writing a public protest against it. We received only a scornful reply via telephone bordering on racism.


Oslo Sámi Association and some of its members acted as a watchdog towards any attempt of the Norwegian Government or others against Sámi Rights as an Indigenous people. But the main effort was put into creative art, the renewal of an old culture. Slowly and steadily this creativity resulted in an increasing number of young and old Sámi contributing creatively to a tide-wave that was not to be stopped, the re-vitalization of our nation.

I made sketches and logo for the ČSV symbol, not as a commission, but out of the conviction that it was needed. Before I came to Oslo, I had sent a suggestion to the editor of Ságat Sámi Newspaper (most of its texts were in Norwegian) to suggest a competition for a Sámi flag, and delivered some sketches as well. However, since these were in colour, and probably because the editor though it a bit too risky, the text was never printed. And it was returned to me.


The idea of a Sámi Artists’ Collective

When I was studying at the Arts and Crafts School in Oslo (SHKS) 1971-73 there was only one other Sámi artist, if one do not reckon those who might be Sámi without knowing, accepting or revealing it, and it was Berit Marit Hætta from Máze.  The largest newspaper in Norway at the time Aftenposten presented an illustrated feature article about the Sámit in Oslo “Naturfolk i storbyjungel” (“People of Nature in a city jungle”) written Aslak Gaup in their weekend magazine A-Magasinet No. 28, 14. July 1973 with photo of two of us in the Art School’s sculpture studio.

As is mentioned in the article, many of us did not plan to stay in Oslo, but to go north to our homeland and start our careers there. When this photo was taken during the late spring of 1973, we had already been considering the idea of joining efforts. This photo represents not only the nucleus of the coming Sámi Artist Group, it is already a group in itself, and consequently the very start of Sámi Artist Organizing as far as creative art (painting, graphic, drawing, sculpture, etc.) is concerned. Another consequence of this claim is that this part of history must be rewritten.

In 1974 and 1975 there were several important public Sámi meetings,

The 8th Nordic Sámi Conference 26. – 29. 06. 1974 at Snoase/Snåsa, where tragically part of the delegation from Finland was lost, their airplane has never been found. After the political meetings during the day, there were cultural celebrations in the evenings, as well as a large barbeque outside. Being present there, I used of course the opportunity to tell about the plans and hopes for Sámi artists under education in Norway to go back north and work for a common aim, and we welcomed participants from the other Nordic countries as well. Artists Rose Marie Huuva and Folke Fjällström were there.

Then there was the Sáminuorra (Sámi Youth Conference) at Ammernjárga in the summer where there were several young Sámi artists present. I also presented the blueprint copy of my Sápmi Map here.


Debut exhibition in a Sámi village

During this time Alf Isak Keskitalo was the leader of the Cultural department of Sámi Institute in Guovdageaindu, and he was very helpful in realizing my own Art Exhibition there during the Easter Festival 1975. In had graphic art and watercolours in the basement of their rented building, and oil paintings at the SII’DA building a bit south of the village center. This was the first time an artist in Norway and Sápmi has a debut exhibition not in a town or city of the south, but in a Sámi village. It was considered remarkable. By doing this, I tried to bring our hart back home, where it belongs, and later the same exhibition was shown both in Karasjok and Deatnu.


At the Art Academy there was in 1976 one hospitant who ventured to make a print for a Sámi flag, it was Synnøve Persen from Porsanger.  I immediately recognized that it was an identical reproduction of an already existing design printed as the cover of the Sámi bibliography from 1971. Since I was not sure who had made it, I did not comment on that further. But I told her that in my opinion this was not fit for a flag - after all it had already been used for other purposes; it was too simple, but perhaps it would be better for a long triangular flyer (vimpel) instead. So she made a print with these, which was much better. I have later thought that perhaps I should have claimed the originator of that flyer, especially since the much later controversy about the origin of the flag design. It was later also used by Berit Marit Hætta as illustration on the cover of the book “Samer tier ikke lenger” by John Gustavsen.

I contacted one of the workers at Karasjok Produkter where the mentioned book cover had been printed about its origin, and he categorically stated, “This is not Synnøve Persen’s design!” So I took it on to find out whose it was, and only very recently I have found out. However, I plan to write a longer article or perhaps a book about the Sámi flag topic, so this is enough for now.


In 1976 and 77 I had travelled in several countries meeting Indigenous peoples wherever there was an opportunity of it. I visited Khonoma and Kohima in the homeland of the Naga people of South East Asia, occupied by India and Burma. When I came back I went directly to the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples at Girun/Kiruna, and spoke up for the situation that I had just come from, and the plight of the Naga people, who had asked me for help to make their cause known internationally. I also used the opportunity again to urge Sámi Artists to join our plans for a Sámi Art Collective, that now more or less was decided on to be at Máze, where Trygve Lund Guttormsen was in charge of some buildings that we could hire for the purpose. This time another Sámi artist from Sweden responded positively, Britta Marakatt of Soppero.  


Berit Marit Hætta and Maja Dunfjeld produced a very important exhibition at the Norwegian Folk Museum, “SÁMI ÁLB’MUT” THE SÁMI PEOPLE, the very first contemporary Sámi Arts & Crafts exhibition in Norway, as an alternative to the exhibiting of old artifacts and art by museums and other institutions.

All the art was either made for the exhibition or made by artists and craftspeople that were active at the time. I made the poster, and found to my surprise that in a book of 2007 it was attributed to someone else! It really made me mad, and convinced me that the full story of our Sámi people has not been properly told yet, one important reason for my flow of words here!

The exhibition was a sensation and received acclaim and media coverage. A Japanese friend Koji Tsuda photographed the whole exhibition, at least that of the duodji, and gave the pictures to me. It shows both traditional and innovate Sámi handicraft on a high level. Berit Marit Hætta showed some very nice clothes, and her career as a textile designer was secured. She has made most of the costumes for the Beaivvás Sámi Theatre performances.

I have to relate a rather unpleasant incident, when one of the Persen sisters said to me that I was dominating the exhibition too much. I replied that Nils Aslak Valkeapää hade more number of artworks, but the reply was just “that is different!” I wasn’t sure what to make out of that, but clearly I had been targeted as less valuable and wanted. I mentioned this to Biret-Máret, and she did not agree, but insisted on my participation as it was, although I had suggested removing some of my paintings. She was, after all, responsible for the content, so I let it remain so. Other similar incidents also occurred, but all in all it was a hugely positive experience, and a great honour to the two women in charge, Maja Dunfjeld and Berit Marit Hætta!


Another smaller, yet very important exhibition was held at Galleri Alana 17. – 30. 11. 1978 in downtown Oslo (Teatergata 11) not far from the office of the Oslo Sámi Association. 70 % of the income from this exhibition was to go directly to the establishing of the Sámi Artists’ Workshop at Máze, 30% was commission to the gallery. Again I made the poster, and this was the very first exhibition of the Sámi Artist Group (Samisk Kunstnergruppe) and the first one to get media coverage in Oslo. There was  mention of it in Dagbladet and a more detailed critique (our first) in Morgenbladet:


«MORGENBLADET» mandag 27. november 1978:

Samisk kunst i Galleri Alana

Samisk kunstnergruppe – maleri, akvareller, grafikk, Galleri Alana, 17. – 30. november

Under titelen «Samisk Kunstnergruppe» viser Galleri Alana fram til 30. november en utstilling av en nyetablert gruppe.De seks kunstnerne som skuler seg bak tittelen har til hensikt å opprette et kunstnerverksted i Masi i Finnmark. Mønstringen er således ikke resultatet av et veletablert samarbeide, men snarere å betrakte som en forhåndspresentasjon, en manifestasjon av vilje, og et forsøk på å reise noe av startkapitalen. De har alle sin utdannelse fra tradisjonelle institusjoner som f.eks. Kunstskolen i Trondhjem eller Statens Kunstakademi. Det er således ikke tale om folkekunst, men om å søke en fruktbar utveksling mellom to kulturtradisjoner.

Utstillingen er preget av kunstnere på vandring, på jakt etter ett-eller-annet. Tematisk går interessenei forskjellige retninger og bærer i seg klart forskjellige tendenser. Åge Gaup er, med sine 35 år, gruppens eldste. Han viser skulptur og linoleumsnitt. Av skultpurene er vel «Fra Urtiden» det beste artikulerte arbeidet, selv om det mangler noe på helt å frigjøre seg fra stenblokken. Linoleumsnittet «Kjøreslede» er det derimot driv over. Hans Ragnar Mathisens grafiske arbeider virker gjennomarbeidede.

Fargetrsnittet «ČSV» og litografien «Ornamental fantasi» åpner for interessante muligheter. Berit Marit Hætta stod for illustrasjonene til den første barneboken på samisk. Den kom ut for et par år siden under titelen «Ammul og den blå kusinen» og var skrevet av Marry Aslaksdatter Somby. På mønstringen viser hun syv av disse illustrasjonene. De er utført i akvarell, ikke helt gode i formen, men umiddelbare og friske i farven.

Forøvrig viser Rannveig Persen 6 habile akttegninger, nærmere bestemt croquis. Josef Hasle {skal være Halse} mønstrer fire kraftige og koloristisk interessante landskaper i tempera; og Synnøve Persen 5, litt løse landskapstemninger i olje.

Som man skjønner, det spirer, men det er ennu en stund til vårløsning.

Kjell Norvin.

(illustrasjon: «Ilpost»)

Hans Ragnar Mathisens grafiske arbeider virker gjennomarbeidede. Hans farvetresnitt og litografier åpner for interessante muligheter.


At the end of my time as an art student, I launched a comparatively huge art project: I made lithographic versions of some of the portraits (mainly Indigenous people including Sámit) from my sketchbooks that I frequently had used during my travels abroad or whenever meeting such visitors here. The idea was a comment from one of my teachers at the Bookbinding course, who found my sketchbooks very interesting, and liked my portraits. “You have caught something in these portraits, something almost mystical, you should publish them!” I took him on his word, and folded the prints and sew them into signatures and bound 32 books (my age in 1978) all numbered and signed. I hoped to sell them and raise money for further travels, and for the benefit of other Indigenous peoples. (In Japan it was sold for US $ 1000 for the benefit of the “Boat people”, refugees from south East Asia.) The hard cardboard cover was decorated with painted paper, and the spine and corners with reindeer leather, hand prepared the traditional way by Máret Pentha Logje, whose portrait was one of the first in the book. I believe the Library in Karasjok has secured one of them, and I still have some left, if anyone is interested.

In addition I made some prints that were sold separately, and made into an exhibition of its own: “Portraits from the Fourth World” (synonymous for Indigenous People and the title of George Manuel’s groundbreaking book, the first and second “worlds being the political West and East, the Third the “developing or nonaligned” countries, and finally us, the Indigenous people, the “Fourth World”).

The exhibition included also relevant posters that I had collected highlighting Indigenous issues around the globe, a truly international show. It opened Tuesday the 29th of May 1979 at the Historic Museum in downtown Oslo, by no less than Thomas Cramér, at that time fighting a legal battle for Sámit in Central Sweden (“Skattefjällsmålet”). When the report of the opening was printed in Aftenposten the next day, I was already sitting on the train with other artists and journalists on the way to China.

Victor Lind at the Art Academy had given good advice regarding the poster, and Tom Svensson at the Historical Museum prolonged the exhibition, and told it had been a reference point during the now escalating Alta conflict, where the Sámi participation started in Oslo.

The guestbook that I had left at the exhibition was full when I returned, and many interesting comments and support from visitors from around the world, they used it to state their support for Sámi rights.


After my second world travel, I returned here in march 1981, when the Group was well established, and received commissions that was (supposed to be) distributed among the members. I immediately sensed there was a mood of apathy and fatigue, that often spilled out into outbursts at social meetings when alcohol made it easier to give vent to frustrations. I do not know what the others really thought about my return, because I had seriously contemplated to stay on in Asia and not return, at least not to Máze. But I was pleased to hear at least from one of them that “It was good that you came back!” I did my best to give some creative input and eventually the mood changed, and activities escalated, a natural consequence when an active member increases the group.

As had already happened in Norwegian Societies, there had been formed artists Associations and Artists’ Centres, and now this was staring up among my people as well. At Beahttet by the the border river Geagganeatnu in Geagganvuopmi, the famed artist and performer Nils Aslak Valkeapää took the initiative to form Sámi Artist Associations, the first was for writers and poets. Later came associations for Arts & Crafts, Music, Theatre & Performing Art, and also for Sport & Football, and so on. Much of the grid was taken over from existing non-Sámi associations, to my chagrin, I would have preferred a more specific Sámi approach, believing it existed, at least at that time. 

I stayed at Máze until the end of 1983, as the leader of the Group, which we eventually peacefully put to rest. My 2 odd years in Máze were a time of high artistic activity, and I worked mostly on wood block printing (mainly black and white), painting and bookbinding. I bound all my lithographs into books, and made sketchbooks as well. In 1981 one of my wood block prints (“Flokk på vidda”) was accepted at the National Art exhibition (“Høstutstillingen”), and I was also accepted at the Regional Art exhibition (“Nordnorsken”) several times, in 1981 one of my prints illustrated the Exhibition poster (1981). By this time I was already planning to leave the village and moving to Romsa/Tromsø, where I had a lithograph exhibition the same year 1981. This sums up more or less my involvement in art activities during a very crucial time in recent Sámi history. 


Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Nástegiettáš 08.11.2015




7. The Alta Conflict



Intro to chapter 7

Most of my childhood, apart from the first 1½ important years among my own people, I have been put away into institutions, forgetting my own connections, and becoming increasingly forgotten by most of them. After all 9 years is a long time for a child. However, this inflicted status of insignificance has made be conscious that the only way to end it, because it has continued up to this day, is to counter it, hence the reason for me writing these texts. I do not accept any attempt to make me invisible, so I think these texts will reveal background and connections so far unknown – perhaps suppressed, by the public. In this way I aim to contribute to the enrichment, and in some cases, correction of our history.


7. The Alta Conflict


The so-called “Alta Conflict” is the culmination of a long history of struggle between the Sámit versus the Nordic/Russian governments, a variant of the struggle Indigenous people all over the globe have had to tackle against aggressive politicians and multinational giants, basically a fight over land resources, with innumerable victims and innocent blood. To be a part in this struggle against such enormous opposition is both an honour to those who fought before us, and to those yet unborn who depend on our actions.


The plans to dam the Guovdageaidnu/Álta watershed has been known for years, and the village of Máze became central since the original project would mean that the top of the village church tower, already situated at the highest point (at the time) overlooking the various parts of the village spread along the riverbank, would be left 50 meter below the water surface of the tame, I am talking of the very top of the church. The consequences would be enormous and extremely negative for the villagers, mostly farmers and reindeer herders.

The very first demonstrations in the modern sense of the word, took place at the school of Máze in 1970, when the Governments communal committee asked for a meeting about the plans at the schoolhouse. They were met with young and old Sámit standing along with banners indicating their protest. “We came first; We do not evacuate again! “ (Check more!) and so on. At the meeting the Committee got the message loud and clear. To underline the seriousness of the protest, some of the leaders (Mikkel Hætta) hinted at the possibility of a confrontation if nothing else would help. “We have good guns here, and are well-trained shooters!”

This lead to a re-working of the original plans, and the Parliament passed a projects that did not include the evacuation of the village, but with a dam that would still destroy a very beautiful canyon with very rare vegetation some kilometers below the village.


Being a free-lance journalist at the time, I wrote extensive second-hand reports both of the demonstrations, and other relevant topics (I will come back to these in a later chapter).

Previously there had been two important cases concerning the loss of gracing land for Sámit, the so-called Brekken-case and the Áltesjávri case, where the Sámit lost against the opposition, but took the case to the Supreme Court, and won. The Alta-case was therefore a bitter setback and likely a kind of revenge from the Norwegian authorities.


Apart form journalism, I also pondered how to wake the opinion abroad to this unfair treatment by the government of our people. I decided to write a poem, using a similar case from Sweden, the damming of the Luleju watershed some decades earlier. Even the fact that these areas included huge Natural Parks, and therefore, one would thing, protected for eternity against any such change, the plans went on, and huge dams were built. I have to add that Nature Conservatism stood stronger that the rights of an ethnic minority, probably also the rights of wild animals, too. I am not against any of the latter, but Sámit would have been good guarantists to preserve and balance both wildlife and nature, if they got the chance to do it on their terms and traditions.


The poem was meant for overseas readers and written in English (“my English” I should add) within a fairly short time 26. – 30.12.1977. It was not published until 1981, and contains 60 pages of (reproduced) handwritten text with my own photos from the actual area.

“Most of the Sámi Rivers are damaged by Hydro-electric power projects. The remaining few we are asked to sacrifice, too…” is the comment to the frontispiece map, and the back cover has these words:




Although I took part in both the first and last demonstrations in the Sámi chapter of the Alta Conflict, I was not present in-between, and therefore did not witness or parttake in the demonstrations, hungerstrikes and protests taking place from 9th October 1979, when the hungerstrike outside the Norwegian Parliament took place, symbolically represented by Sámi lávus (summer-tents).

This must not be taken as a suggestion that I was not involved, I most certainly was.

“Samer tier ikke lenger” (“Sámit don’t remain silent any longer”) is the title of a book by journalist and writer John Gustavsen describing the fight to be heard as Sámit towards the unwilling authorities of the Nordic countries.

In the late 1970ies we did not only spoke out, but acted as well. A bridge in connection with a dam project was blown up in the Galgojávri area close to the symbolic area where the borders of 3 counties met, Norway, Sweden and Finland, all of them having what must have been seen as a increasingly problematic ethnic minority that no longer were content with official patronizing and public ignorance that had been good coinage for so long.

Another incident happened to one of my friends Niilas A Somby, when he had tried to do the same at a bridge close to the planned dam site in the Guovdageaidnu-Áltá river, and it misfired, with the result that he lost one of his hands.

Several years earlier,  27th  June 1971, on the way from Bearalváhkki to the Deatnu valley, I was hitch-hiking with him and others in an open lorry that took us from the barren coast  to the broad woodland valley of Deatnu. I was on my way to the NSR meeting full of positive enthusiasm for our people. I heard they talked Sámi language and I told of my sadness that I lost my chance to master it, and all due to the accursed assimilation policy of the dominating people. I urged one boy there to keep the language and fight for our culture, whatever the cost. “We must keep our beautiful homeland, and culture, we must not loose it to Dáza!” and similar encouragements, with fire and conviction. The reason why I remember it, is that he told me how much it meant to him back then, it lit a fire witin him, it was Niilas A. Somby.

I’m not trying to say that I made him blow up the bridge, far from it, But it made me realize that my conviction was deep and appealing to others. I may have hinted at means of violence, but later I realized that a small people as ours, with no army except the mosquitoes, have no chance to defend ourselves with weapons nor violence. Our only chance is negotiations, and the strength of our argument and conviction.

Towards the end of the 1970ies there was a split between these two standpoints among young radical Sámit. It came to a test during a board meeting in the Oslo Sámi Association, where I had taken up the issue: Which means of reaction against the government’s plan to dam the Guovdageaidnu/Álta river were most relevant? I had suggested hungerstrike as the best means to reach the goal of being heard and listened to. But I was voted down, there were others who suggested the option of peaceful demonstrations was exhausted and other more direct actions to stop the plans were what was needed now. I asked them to keep silent about my suggestions since topic of the meeting was a secret one. Of course I was very disappointed, yes, angry at what I saw as folly. So I bought ticket to go north to find s few trusted people and urge them to contemplate the possibility of hungerstrike.

The Oslo Sámi Association agreed upon this RESOLUTION:


«Oslo Sámiid Sær'vi - Oslo Sameforening

har på møte torsdag 16.3.1978

behandlet spørsmålet om utbygging

av Alta/Kautokeino-vassdraget.


Oslo Sámiid Sær'vi går imot enhver form for

utbygging av Alta/Kautokeinovassdraget

eller noe annet vassdrag

i samiske områder.

Det er en utilbørlig provokasjon

overfor en etnisk minoritet

å gjøre slike inngrep i samiske områder

før spørsmålet om rett til land og vann

er forsvarlig juridisk behandlet og klarlagt.

Vi vil gjøre oppmerksom på at dette

er et av de siste store vassdrag

i et samisk kjerneområde

og enhver forstyrrelse vil få alvorlige følger

ikke bare for natur og miljø,

men for den samiske kultur og det samiske folk.

Istedet for å satse folkets penger

på vidløftige tiltak

av ressursødeleggende karakter,

anmoder vi om at myndighetene bruker mer energi

på å finne fram til tiltak

som er mer aktuelle og passer inn

i det kulturlandskap og miljø

som allerede eksisterer.»

enstemmig vedtatt

Oslo 16.03.1978


My thinking was that although non-violent resistance was a well-known strategy since Mahathma Gandhi had forced the British to give up India, and at the time there was even a man on hungerstrike in a prison in Norway, it would nontheless make a huge impact if Sámit took to it, and it would make the international media interested for sure. I confronted myself with the idea, would I do something like that, since I urged others to do it? I pondered on it, of course, but came to the conclusion that because of my hospitalization as a child with TB, I was hardly fit for it, and would probably die of it too soon. Another decision I made was not to ask any female, it would be too embarrassing, since I would not try it myself. Half in jest I asked my journalist friend Aslak Gaup, also called “Stuorra-Áilu”, being quite heavy, if he would do it. But he was in favour of more spectacular militant alternatives, inspired by AIM (American Indian Movement) and others.

One important letter to a friend revealing the involvement and tension at the time.


<Ailo Gaup, Boks 82, 9225 Maze                                                         Oslo 30.12.1978

Kjære Ailo,

Takk for brev datert 14.12.78, som jeg mottok for to dager siden. Beklager at jeg ikke svarer før nå, men jeg var forlover i bryllupet til en venn av meg igår, og dessuten  “toastmaster”, så det ble jo litt å tenke på og gjøre. De siste dagene før jul har jeg vært opptatt med å flytte fra Bjerke Studenthjem til Kringsjå, så nå bor jeg atter på gamle tomter. Det var meget interessant at du også har tenkt på den aksjonsform med sultestreik også. Desto mer skuffende synes jeg det er at det bare er blitt med tanken. Det er jo ikke lenge siden at en mann her sør gjennomførte en vellykket sultestreik, så jeg skjønner igrunnen ikke din argumentasjon. Hvis det er noe myndighetene (de myndigheter som nettopp har vedtatt utbygging) er redd for, så er det nettopp publisitet. Ja, du sier billig publisitet, og for oss hadde den nok vært billig, særlig for deg, etter det du skriver. Men jeg er overbevist om at det ville bli et dyrt prestisjetap for stortingsflertallet og siden ville fått publisitet i hele Europa, og satt Gjerde og Co i virkelig klemme, det kan du være helt sikker på. Gjerde er flinthård, men dette ville ha fått ham til å se rødt.

Derfor ber jeg deg inntrengende om å vurdere saken pånytt. Forhåpentlig er det ikke for sent, selv om tidspunktet var best like etter at vedtaket ble gjort så vil det likevel ha stor effekt.

Jeg ser ikke på dette som et isolert tiltak, tvert imot anser jeg det som en viktig del av en bred motstandsdemonstrasjon, hvor mange forskjellige typer av aksjoner tas i bruk. Jeg er redd om det blir bare de aksjonstyper du nevner, så er det faktisk ikke nok. Det vil få karakter av desperado-aksjon, troverdighet og oppslutning deretter. Jeg tror mer på en langvarig, seig og intelligent motstandsform, med uventede demonstrasjoner. Derfor er jeg meget skuffet over at de som kunne gjøre noe, har gjort så lite eller latt være. Selv mener jeg å ha gjort hva jeg som privatperson kunne. Hadde jeg ikke vært bare privatperson, kunne jeg selvsagt gjort mye mer.

Du nevner at vi har jobbet med organisert motstand, men det er vel å overdrive. For meg har det mer lignet på spredte tafatte forsøk, som har vært alt annet enn vel-organisert. Og det aller verste: de fleste kommer for sent.

Du mener tiden er forbi at man kan sitte i Oslo og tro at man kan gjøre noe der. Jeg er helt uenig med deg der. Jeg tør påstå at strategisk sett er Oslo Samiid Sær’vi den desidert viktigste av Sameforeningene i Norge, fordi den er plassert nettopp der viktige saker blir avgjort, enten de er positive eller negative. At Oslo Samiid Sær’vi ikke oppfyller sin funksjon som “alarmklokke” er jo en annen sak.

Din reaksjon på mitt forsøk på å påvirke Stortinget forbauser meg meget. Du reagerer  sterkt på at jeg har “meldt meg ut av gruppa”. Hvor har du det fra? Jeg har aldeles ikke meldt meg ut av gruppa. Jeg har trukket min del av søknad til Kulturrådet tilbake, og begrunnelsen kjenner du til. Jeg hadde ærlig talt ventet meg forståelse, eller iallfall respekt. Og det har jeg fått, det er ikke det. Du vil gjerne vite mine “personlige motiver” for å gjøre dette. Kunne hatt lyst å spørre deg: ja, hvilke personlig motiver kunne det ha vært?

I denne saken har jeg satt mine personlig motiver i annen rekke, og forsøkt å tenke litt lenger frem. En kultur kan ikke overleve og utvikle seg uten en materiell basis og en åndelig basis. Den materielle basis er et hjemland. Jeg mener å ha gjort mitt til for å overbevise Stortinget om at de gjør en forbrytelse ved å ignorere samiske myndigheters krav om en rettslig avklaring angående rettighetene til land og vann i samiske områder, før inngrep foretas. Det er faktisk viktigere for meg, enn om jeg personlig kan arbeide i en trygg posisjon. Det er mulig jeg gjør meg ensom ved dette, men det må i tilfelle bli fordi jeg er “for radikal” i  min kamp for det samiske folk. Jeg er ikke romantiker, og tror ikke det er realistisk å arbeide for en kultur som er dødsdømt, da vil jeg først hindre det.

Jeg er klar over at jeg, som alle andre mennesker, er en “ressurs” som du skriver. Og jeg vet at det samiske kartet, kalenderen, osv er bare leketøy i forhold til det jeg mener jeg kan gjøre. Men man kan ikke gjøre noe helt alene, man må ha folket med seg. Og man må også ha folkets ledere med seg.

Det er jo hyggelig at du mener at det er mest synd på meg, for det er neimen ikke lett å måtte ta et “selvmord”, man fortsetter jo å ekistere som menneske, tross alt. Og så lenge forholdene er som de er nå, vil jeg ikke kunne gjøre det jeg helst ville gjøre, en frigjøring av mitt folk, både åndelig og materielt. Men det er jo mulig at det forandrer seg, vi får se.

En liten viktig detalj. Det var jeg som for fem år siden kastet fram tanken om en samisk kunstnergruppe, men da på felles nordisk samisk grunn. Jeg tok også initiativet eller hadde ideen om Masi-gruppen, og tok initiativet til den utstillingen vi hadde på galleri Alana her i Oslo. Om det skal bli flere initiativ av lignende art fra min side er ikke avhengig av meg, men av andre.

Dessuten er det juridisk sett ikke riktig å si at jeg har meldt meg ut av gruppa, for den eksisterer ikke ennå. Jeg har sagt fra til de andre i gruppa om mitt standpunkt, og regner med at de respekterer det. Om de forstår min argumentasjon, vet jeg ikke ennå, da jeg ikke har mottatt noen skriftlige reaksjoner. Jeg er interessert i å støtte prosjektet på de måter jeg kan, men er ikke offisielt involvert.

Er du med å spre den oppfatning at “vi ikke lenger kan regne med deg.”? Vær forsiktig med å trekke i de gale trådene, eller trekke for langt i de rette! Og så kommer det merkeligste av alt: Kan du forklare meg nøyaktig hva du mener med at “MRA har slukt deg.” Jeg vil nødig kommentere det før jeg vet hva du egentlig mener med det.

Godt nytt år! Hilsen Hans Ragnar


I went to Máze and Guovdageaidnu and Álta, where I met Mikkel Hætta and Ánte (Anders) Gaup, and urged them to start a hunger-strike when the time is right as an alternative to violence, and keep quiet about it until then. I stressed the importance of secrecy, it had to come as a complete surprise to the Norwegians! I was to leave the country for my art studies abroad soon. Anticipating attempts to ignore this initiative or its originator, I made sure that one book written in retrospect recorded this, namely Dallands book “Demningen” just to leave a proof. I knew I had people against me who would rather have seen me invisible.

I also had to carefully choose the persons I asked to do this sacrifice, sincere people who wanted to fight for something bigger than themselves, and I avoided people who would use this as an opportunity to boost their ego.

However, i experienced a setback for my hopers when I visited the place in Máze where Synnøve Persen lived. I found Ante there, and a bit drunk, and I feared that the action might not come to pass, at least as I foresaw it.


Opening of my art exhibition Portretter fra den Fjerde Verden (Portraits from the Fourth World) 30.05.1979, the day before leaving for China and Japan.


According to Tom H. Svensson, the leader opf the Ethnograpic Museum the exhibition became a reference point, because it reminded us all of and strengthened the status of Sámit as Indigenous people, and thus making our struggle for our rights neither local or national only but global and international. That was why the exhibition period was extended several times. The many comments in the Guest book is a proof of that. Art in service of Indigenous rights!


I left by train for China 1st June 1979, and later on to Japan as part of my art studies. All the time I wondered how the situation was at home. I remember with what bitterness and anger I had witnessed the first decision in the Norwegian Storthing (Parliament) in favour of the dam project, as announced by the stone faced Bjartmar Gjerde. Would they just go on like a bulldoozer ignoring Sámi rights to our homeland? It was only when in Japan at the end of 1979 that I got news about the demonstrations in front of the Storthing in Oslo, and 5 Sámit on hungerstrike. I was overwhelmed by joy, the strategy had succeeded!

I returned back to Oslo Saturday 14th of February 1981 after almost 2 years abroad

I quickly contacted the scene of the hunger-strike, in fact the second one since the first ine did not succeed in stopping the dam. I talked with Ante Gaup who was laying on the floor on some sleepingbaglike mattresses. A nurse distributed fluid nourishment to some of them. I also saw the NRK journalist Dan Akerø, whom I knew from the family’s time in Tromsø. I asked Ánte how he was, and he told he that it was hard, he had been there for 25 days and nights now, but he would not give up, even if that meant death. I reminded him that I gave him the idea and should feel responsible for him, but he said that this was now entirely his own decision. I left him with tears in my eyes and a warm handshake. He survived. I met him many years later.  

In letters I gave first hand impressions and I will cite from them:


To a naga friend in India 17.02.1981 (my first letter after arrival)

Many greetings from Norway! I’m finally back to my homeland and what I thought was a cold climate. Yes, there’s snow and winter, but politically it is as hot as anywhere else. The issue of the dam-project at Alta involving the legal rights of my people is the main issue discussed from the parliament down to everywhere among people who never before cared anything about my people and what difficulties faced us.

At present 5 Sámit, 2 of them close friends of mine, are on hunger-strike to protest the government’s go-ahead of the project before our legal rights have been solved, for which the same authorities has put down a committee! Quite illogical if you ask me.

A close friend of mine, Ante Gaup have up till today hungerstriked 25 days & nights. He is ready to die for our people. I hope and pray that it must never be necessary, at the same time I respect and admire their comitment. It seems the Norwegians are not aware of the Sámi stubbornness and conviction. At the moment there are discussions with Sámi leaders and Norw. Govt. Officials. Please keep us in your prayer at this time. We feel we are not only fighting for all the Sámi people in the 4 countries, the issue is even more international than that. George Manuel, president of WCIP sent a telegram to Mrs Brundtland, the female Norw. PM and urged her to stop the project immediately, as this case also is very important for all Indigenous peoples in the world. If the result is negative, Indigenous peoples in other parts of the world may give up hope in democratic, peaceful or Gandhian ways of solving the issues concerning our situation. He writes: ”If the Norw. Govt. coldbloodly ignores Sámi interests, it will be the end of our hope to achieve justice for the Indigenous peoples in the world through peaceful means.”

So you see, it is rather hot. The hundgerstrikers are seriously affected, and may never be able to recover fully. But we are determined to fight it through this time. Too often we have given in for the pressure.


To a friend in Australia 28.02.1981:

I have sent separately some information about the Sámi situation, for the first time we have published something in English, something I’ve been urging for a long time. The situation is now that the hungerstrike is over (Ante Gaup a good friend of mine, hungerstriked for 31 days! And this was his 2nd time). We have at least got some kind of a ”cease-fire” although the battle is far from won. The female prime minister of Norway has a heart of stone, according to some of the Sámi women who went to talk with her shortly afterwards she was sworn in as PM. They therefore refused to leave her office, as she did not promise any stop in the Alta-project. Policemen had to take them out. It was a great demonstration. I came back from London just after that and followed the final act of our drama, the greatest since the large riot of Guovdageaidnu in 1852. In fact, the situation for the Sámi people have never been so crucial at any point, as the result of this dispute will have consequences which are definitive for the rest of our history, however long or short it may be, but also beacuse it influences other states’ or governments’ treatment of their particular Indigenous group. We feel we have fought not only for our own people (who are an international people since we live in 4 countires) but for all the Indigenous peoples in the world. And for that sake, for the best in Norwegian culture, too.


I met of course many of my Sámi friends and others, and they briefed me about the situation.

Some of them reported that not all of the hungerstrikers were serious, and asked to be fed by food packets smuggled under the lavvo cloth. When I met Ante Gaup many years later at Jar outside Oslo, with his Chinese fianceé, he told me that the hungerstrike had had a negative impact on his health, and that his sacrifice for his people had not been properly acknowledged. I could sense a bitterness in him, and almost regretted that I ever had urged him to do it in the first place. He could confirm what I thought had been rumors about some of the hungerstrikers, but he would not give names, only that it was just a couple of them.

I met him one more time in the north, such a sincere man whose place in recent Sámi history is important.

I have to add that others have confirmed the “rumours” of the fake hungerstrikers, and am very disappointed but only too glad that it was not discovered by our opponents at the time, since that would have had a devastatingly negative effect on the whole project, and destroyed the credibility of our arguments, no matter how right they otherwise were. It would also seem to confirm, in their view, the stereotypes and accusations of our people being “cunning cheaters and twisted-tounged liars”.

On the whole however the actions had been conducted admiringly and sincerely, so that the Norwegian authorities did have no other options but to listen and evaluate, and promise to better the political and social status of their ethnic minority, and – thanks to our activism, now elevated to the status of Indigenous people, had an international backing as never before. Some persons deserve special mention, Trygve Lund Guttormsen who took the initiative to the first demonstration in Máze in 1971, Ole Henrik Magga, the leader of NSR who managed to keep a cool head when others were in danger of loosing theirs to hot overreactions, and Mikkel Eira, who spoke out during the hungerstrike and became a symbol for the now self-evident responsibility of the Norwegian Society towards their ethnic minority. That not all good leaders in times of crisis remain so thereafter he is one example of. But we are grateful what these men and women did for out people, and thereby for all people, indigenous or not, in fighting for basic Human Rights.


Keviselie, Nástegiettáš 21.11.2015


8. The Indigenous World

9. Sámi Regional maps

10. Art exhibitions and Informative work

11. Fighting for democracy and justice, with strong weapons: words!

12. Retelling the past

Jill Slee Blackadder 19.10.2019 20:40

This needs to be much more widely read and known.

Johan k Kalstad 28.12.2014 13:29

Buorit juovllat. Lea darbbaslas callit sami lagasaiggi birra, ja earenoamas go don calat. Dovdat go CSV-artihkkala:
aigecala. Johan le

Lloyd Binder 28.12.2014 01:35

My favourite trip in Sapmi, was to be driven by a friend ... from Karasjok to Kautokeino and he explained how he lost sight in one eye.. and how he later 'hid'

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