The Sami

I hope one day to see a Sami drum, which are used in Sami spiritual rituals.  There are only 70 left in the world.  The Sami are the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavian – who traditionally herd and co-exist with reindeer.

I beat these images on the stone, on the drum./It is so slow./After drumming for a while/ am pulled into another world/to visions.                                    

(Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa – Sami poet)                                                                                                  

Years ago, I researched my mother’s Norwegian roots and discovered her grandfather, John Peter Larsen was raised by Sami parents outside of Skjervoy, Norway.   John P.’s father was a Sami called Lars (Lasse) Andersen.   Possibly because their family was poor, John P. was adopted into a nearby family.  The woman who raised him was also Sami.  This is according to census records from Norway.  John P. eventually left Norway to work in copper mines in Northern Michigan before making his way to Minnesota.

I once connected with a elderly, distant relative here in Vancouver –  Olaf, the grandson of John P.’s sister.  We had coffee and he confirmed we are descended from Sami.  His grandmother spoke the language fluently and he remembers Sami people coming to her house, including a chieftain.

During drumming, a Sami shaman leaves his body and travels to the netherworld to seek spiritual answers.

I fly away                            see                     come back and tell the people            and their lives make the visions true        but they asked for it       themselves.

(Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa)

There is a wonderful movie about the Sami called The Pathfinder (directed by Nils Gaup).  It was nominated for an Academy Award. And they have a great poet, Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa.   I have one of his books, The Sun, My Father.  It’s a series of poems about his life in the Sami community.

Here’s two poems I like:

Even in his sleep/the old dog/turns the herd

and also,

If it’s troubles/you want/the whole world/is yours


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