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P-SAMISK-Program for samisk forskning

Making knowledges visible: Relational gathering practices and their linguistic and narrative expressions in coastal Sápmi.

Alternative title: Kystsamiske sankingspraksiser, språk og fortellinger.

Awarded: NOK 5.7 mill.

This research project focuses on gathering practices in coastal Sámi areas in Norway and investigates how relationships between humans and non-humans constitute knowledges. Using a multidisciplinary approach, based on the social sciences and humanities, the project asks: How are cloudberry picking and egg gathering in Lule Sámi and northern coastal Sámi communities currently done? How are these practices expressed through activities, narratives, concepts, and placenames? Practice-oriented approach complies with Sámi ways of relating to the land. To express practice-oriented knowledges far from the actual activity can be difficult. The project partners have therefore chosen to participate in cloudberry picking and egg gathering practices. In addition, both women and men are interviewed, individually and in groups. Local resource groups have assisted with guidance related to place names, Sámi concepts and stories. The project has published scientific articles in international journals, in an international book and in the Sámi scientific journal. Popular science texts have also been published in both Lule Sámi and Northern Sámi. Blogs in both Norwegian and Sámi are published on the websites of the project's partners. An online exhibition has also been prepared in Sámi, Norwegian and English. In addition, the results of the project have been disseminated at seminars, conferences and in the media. The content of the publications has focused on how the Sámi language expresses the areas where people pick cloudberries and collect eggs. The Sámi term luomemeahcci (the term for areas where people pick cloudberries) is an active and living landscape that has been given a name through this practice. Other issues that have been discussed in the articles and book chapter are relationships that cloudberry pickers and egg gatherers have to their landscapes. Through practices and experience cloudberry pickers and egg gatherers have established rules for how to interact with each other, and how to relate to other creatures, both human and nonhuman. Values are linked to the use of areas, and respect is one of those values. The expression “We do not trample on each other’s dish” describes the mutual respect people have for one another. This humble way of moving is knowledge that people have acquired through harvesting in their areas. In Sámi, this would be denoted by the word birget. This is a word that describes coping in one's own areas. For instance, people say bures birgejeaddji about a person who is doing well. Bures birgejeaddji includes both having knowledge of how to harvest what meahcci has to offer, and at the same time having managed to interact with both humans and non-humans. Gathering practices are important for Sami identity, language and belonging. In the Lule Sámi research area, cloudberry picking has been of particular importance. Sámi who live in larger towns where they are in the minority, have gone to their traditional areas in the summers where they have been able to take part in traditional practices such as cloudberry picking. The practices and visits to their own traditional areas have also helped to maintain the language. Through yearly cloudberry picking and egg gathering in the same areas, people observe and discuss those changes with fellow cloudberry pickers and egg gatherers and become caretakers of those areas. Local people who gather eggs on the holms, see the connections between different species of birds and between birds and animals. People’s observations are useful knowledges that can be used in the management of marshes and holms. In a natural scientific context, marshes are referred to as rich marshes or poor marshes. Calcareous rocks can give a rich marsh, that is, a lime marsh with orchids and other more nutrient-intensive plants, while acidic rocks lead to poorer marsh vegetation. Species on nutrient-poor marshes include cloudberries, bog cotton several types of moss and some heather species. Cloudberries thus grow on poor marshes. This research project, however, makes visible how marshes are of great importance to cloudberry pickers, illustrating the close relationship people may have to their marshes. Cloudberry picking and egg gathering are seasonal activities carried out in the period when few other meahcci-activities take place.

I eggsanking og multebærplukking kommer komplekse og detaljerte termer til uttrykk, som formidler hvilke forhold folk har til sine omgivelser. Samtidig er det knyttet fortellinger til områder som har vært i bruk gjennom utallige generasjoner. Fortellingene omhandler endringer som har skjedd over tid, og opplevelser som folk har i forhold til dyr og andre skapninger. Samisk har en rikdom av verb som uttrykker prosesser og relasjoner. I sankingssammenheng er det verb som uttrykker folks relasjoner til egg, fugler, multer og multemyrer. I alle de tre forskningsområdene kommer det frem en omfattende kunnskap knyttet til landskapet. I fortellingene om folks egne og andres opplevelser under sankingen, får vi en forståelse av hvorfor folk forholder seg til landskapet slik de gjør. Stedsnavn viser også folks relasjoner til landskapet, fordi navnene definerer steder, og forteller hvilke steder som er meningsfulle for mennesker.

In this study, we focus on gathering practices in coastal Sámi areas in Norway. We investigate how relationships between humans and non-humans constitute knowledges, and how these knowledges are expressed through Sámi languages, narratives and place names. Our point of departure is to see meaning as inherent in relational contexts of peoples’ practical engagement with different environments. To study how people perceive their world, we thus need to be involved in their practices. Using a multidisciplinary social science and humanities approach, we ask: How are gathering practices in Lule Sámi and northern coastal Sámi communities currently done and what do they entail? Inspired by the ontological turn in anthropology, we see the world as continuously generated through relational practices. Rather than treating nature as an external reality separated from humans, this project will explore how different natures are brought into being through the material and discursive interaction of people, other organisms and the landscape. This practice-oriented approach is further appropriate to Sámi ways of enacting realities. By documenting, analysing and acknowledging the Sámi practices of berry picking and egg gathering, which have so far received little academic attention, this project will provide new knowledges of relevance to the Sámi society, the Norwegian majority community, as well as internationally, in the context of indigenous issues. Furthermore, by explicitly emphasizing both women’s and men’s gathering practices, this study adds to the limited field of research on women’s natural resource based activities in Sápmi.

Publications from Cristin

Funding scheme:

P-SAMISK-Program for samisk forskning