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Ecological Sustainability in Traditional Sámi Beliefs and Rituals

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Mardoeke Boekraad

The book gives a detailed overview of relevant traditional indigenous Sámi myths, beliefs and rituals based on empirical findings. The author inquires whether and how they are related to an ecologically sustainable use of the natural environment. Her main sources are ancient missionary texts, writings by Sámi and contemporary interviews with Sámi individuals. The traditional value system included ecological sustainability as a survival strategy. Beliefs and rituals, transmitted via stories, incorporated these values and transmitted a feeling of a round life, despite the strict rules for right behavior and punishment for transgressions. The term round symbolized a sense of safety, interconnectedness, reliance on mutual help and respect, identification and empathy with all living beings.
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Chapter 7 – Global Agency

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7.1 Nature: Gullat luonddu jienaid

As I read Tore Johnsen’s study Sámi Luondduteologiija (Sámi Nature Theology I became aware of the fact that nature as a whole can become an actor in belief and ritual. My interest in this issue grew even stronger when I heard a young Sámi yoik singer criticizing mining activities in the Sámi reindeer area in Kvænangen in northern Norway. According to her, the Sámi had to ask themselves how to search for spiritual harmony with nature. She used the term “spiritual oneness with nature” – in Sámi: vuoiŋŋgalaš oktavuođa lundui – to describe this issue. I started wondering what she meant by that term and whether it was commonly used.111

The statement that the Sámi consider themselves a part of nature and not separate from it, is often expressed as a way to oppose themselves to what is perceived as the “Western” separation between man and nature. It is the standard way academics with a Sámi perspective articulate their view of nature.112 During my interviews I witnessed a discussion between two Sámi on this theme. It was on the occasion of a handicraft gathering in the Porsanger area (fieldwork in Nov. 2012). There were about ten ladies of various ages who knitted and sewed and Norwegian was the language used. After a while, one started to speak a little bit of Sámi. It turned out that most of...

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