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The Natives Issue

Teaching the Teachers

The first ever church built in Gällivare was the Lapp Church. They collected one penny of every person in Sweden and built it in 1747. It was a part of the christening of the Saami.
LH
Κείμενο Lis-Mari Hjortfors
1.1.06

The first ever church built in Gällivare was the Lapp Church. They collected one penny of every person in Sweden and built it in 1747. It was a part of the christening of the Saami. That was when the priest arrived. Now Saami are Christians like every one else, though there are still people who posses knowledge of the drum, and the brass ring and of stopping blood, people who have insight into shamanism. But overall being Saami means living closer to nature, and understanding that you can’t just take, take, take, you need to give things back too. But Saami are also great at embracing the new technology, we’re good with snow scooters and motor crosses and helicopters. Right now I’m working on a model for Saami education in high schools. It’s a grass root initiative. There used to be special education available for Saami students, but it would always mean they’d go off on their own. They’d go take care of reindeers or show up in their Saami costumes and it would be very awkward, it would set them apart a lot. Right now we’re working on making that education available to all students. This met a lot of resistance with the local government; you know, it’s the old mining mentality. But now everyone is very positive. The students feel good about it, and the teachers are excited. What I do is I work with changing attitudes, and with inspiring people, being Saami myself. What we want to do is strengthen the kids’ self-esteem towards their heritage, and we’re also teaching them about other cultures at the same time. Even if the Saami have a history of being invisible, that is very much changing right now. One important thing is that we will be able to start flying the Saami flag alongside the Swedish on our national day, February 6. We’ve been working with the school project for about a year, and it is set to become something steady by fall, and something that will be available to all of Sweden. Saami education is in the curriculum, but there haven’t even been teaching materials, so we’re working on creating that as well. LIS-MARI HJORTFORS
To read more about the project Kulturkraft go to www.kulturkraft.info.