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Traditional Sami costume

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Johan Turi portrait
The author Johan Turi. Photo: Kiruna Municipality picture archive.
Johan Turi

The first book to be published by a Sami author was Johan Turi's "Muitalus sámiid birra" (Turi's book of Lapland). The book tells about the lives of Sami reindeer herders at the beginning of the 20th century.

There are also a large number of accounts of Sami folklore, folk medicine, and about contacts with other Nordic peoples. The book is illustrated with drawings by Turi himself. The book was published as a parallel issue in Danish and the Sami language in 1910. The general view of the Sami at this time was not always positive, so Turi wanted to spread knowledge about the actual conditions in which they lived. The book is the first written information for Swedes about the Sami, written by a Sami person. Turi's comment on the then constant question of the Sami's origins was simple yet crystal clear:

"Nobody claims...
...that the Lapps have come here from somewhere else. The Lapps have been an ancient inhabitant right across Lapland, and when the Lapps lived here by the coast in ancient times, there were no other inhabitants here and so the Lapps were free to do so. And the Lapps have also lived all over the place on the Swedish side in ancient times. There were no farmers anywhere at that time; the Lapps were unaware of the existence of any people other than themselves.''

Political pamphlet
In one section he describes his people as "Samiland's unknown creatures''. This section can be interpreted as a political pamphlet against an outside world that, without knowledge of the Sami people's lives, is colonising and assessing the value of their land and lives. Turi lived in an environment where reindeer herding was the only imaginable way of life. For various reasons he settled down by Lake Torneträsk, however, where he devoted himself to hunting and fishing. Despite never receiving a proper school education, let alone learning to write in the Sami language, Turi `invented' his own written language. His ambitions as an author became a reality when he met Emilie Demant Hatt from Denmark. She encouraged and helped him with his writing. She also translated the book into Danish. It was subsequently translated into German, English and Swedish.

"Samiland is the country...
...that is home to creatures that people are not really aware of, nor how they get along. However, people know that somewhere there are cheap creatures that can live on land where others cannot....''

"...if these creatures had a chieftain who knew how they have to suffer, he would immediately buy them more land. But as they do not have a chieftain, they have to live in great hardship their whole lives. And if you think about it like this, it is very sad...''.

The Sami musical form, the yoik, was unpopular at the time in the outside world, especially among the representatives of the Church, who considered the yoik to be something that had been given to the Sami by the Evil One. For Turi, the matter was not so simple:

"The Lappish song... called the yoik. This is an art form for remembering other people. Some are remembered in hate and in love, while others are remembered in sorrow. And these songs are also used about particular regions and about animals, about the wolf and the reindeer and the wild reindeer.'' Johan Turi wrote two other books: Sámi deavsttat (Texts in Sami) (1920) and Duoddaris (From the mountain) (1931). Johan Turi lived from 1854 until 1936.

Senast ändrad: 2006-05-30