Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Sámi request return of offerings from the Swedish History Museum

Published 10 May 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Unna Sájvva is located in Gällivare by the lake Lillsaivis.

About 40 Sámi people want the return of 600 offerings that were found at the ancient sacrificial site of Unna Sájvva. The objects, including coins and beads, are now in the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.

Unna Sájvva is a Sámi sacrificial site in Gällivare. It is said to have been used between the 500s and the 17th century, but according to the website created for Unna Sájvva, it is also used today. It was excavated in 1915 by archaeologist Gustaf Hallström, who later brought the objects he found to the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. Most of the artifacts are now in storage, except for about 20 that are on display in the museum’s World of Vikings exhibition. About 30 coins are also kept at the Economic Museum in Stockholm.

In total, more than 600 objects and about 150 kilograms of bone and horn were found. Among them were coins, beads and various metal objects.

In a letter to the Swedish Museum of History, the Sámi from the villages around the site have now demanded that these objects be returned. The letter refers to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that indigenous peoples have a right to their ceremonial objects. They also want the objects to be moved to the Ájtte museum in the neighboring municipality of Jokkmokk.

Sámi stewardship

– We think it’s important that these objects are managed by Sámi people, says Hannah Edenbrink Andersson to the tax-funded SVT. The Ájtte Museum is a Sámi museum, so we want them to be in charge.

The Gällivare Cultural Museum has also asked to borrow objects for an exhibition they plan to have in 2025, which Edenbrink Andersson is also looking forward to.

– Because Gällivare is still my home, she says. But responsibility is also very important to us.

The Swedish History Museum has already responded by appointing an administrator for the case.

Facts: Sami sacrificial culture

In Sámi sacrificial culture, gifts are a religious act in which objects and animals are sacrificed to a being or force of nature, in order to bring about good luck in hunting and fishing, preservation of the reindeer herd, good health and prosperity, among other things. Land and water are seen as living beings and should therefore be treated with respect. The Sami faith also uses a sejte, a symbol of a divine being that watches over an area of nature or animals, which can be anything from a rock to an entire mountain.

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