Archive for the ‘Sami’ Tag

Culture Theft   2 comments

In Stolen Ann-Helene Laestadius’ coming of age novel, Elsa is nine-years old when she witnesses the murder of her reindeer, part of the family’s herd. Threatened by the killer, Elsa remains silent, despite others’ suspicions regarding his identify.

It’s only one incident endured by the Sami in this far northern region of Sweden. Despite entreaties to authorities, nothing is done to quell tensions endured by the indigenous people whose livelihoods depend on the reindeers.

Ten years later, little has improved for Elsa’s family and the Sami community. Reindeer, which have cultural significance, are still tortured and slaughtered. When Elsa takes it upon herself to speak out, she and others are terrorized. Despite being haunted by her childhood memory and the overhanging threat, Elsa is a strong, intelligent woman with dreams of one day overseeing her own herd. This, however, is yet another battle in her male dominated world.

Disregard by the authorities, xenophobia, personal demons, Sami culture and familial relationships are all addressed. Laestadius is Sami and provides a unique perspective to all the above. She deftly describes the frigid, beautiful landscape as well as the joys and traumas shared by the Sami villagers. The disregard by non-Sami supported by an apathetic police force is heart breaking.

It’s not just the animals that are lost when they’re killed. In Elsa’s case she was also robbed of her childhood. For other characters, beyond what the herds mean as their occupations, their hopes and mental health are also at stake.


Four bookmarks

Scribner, 2021

384 pages