Lávvu

After watching Eatnameamet (2021) I learned that there was more to the lávvu than I initially understood. Often described as a ‘tent-like structure, similar to the Tipi’ there are some significant differences. In terms of structure, according to Rebecca Emmons’ (Risten) article ‘An Investigation of Sami Building Structures Sami Building’.

Because of the strong winds of the Scandinavian tundra the lavvu has to endure much more structural stress than the tipi. The lavvu cover is traditionally made of reindeer pelts sewed together with a bone needle and guy thread. It also has a number of arched lateral supports that absorb the wind load. The tent is also more centered to the ground compared to the lofty upward reaching tipis. Comparing the tipi to the lavvu proportionally, the lavvu is much wider at the base than tall, allowing it to be one of the most stable structures among the world’s indigenous peoples. The lavvu entrance consists of an attachable door that always faces away from the prevailing winds. Yet another example of uniquely adaptive climatic structures, the door is then reinforced with wooden slats to provide a firm covering that permits quick and easy access.

What struck me was the symbolism of the lávvu as a cultural haven. According to its Wikipedia entry:

The lavvu played a prominent role in two events during the 20th century as more than just a shelter. The first was at the end of World War II during the winter of 1944/45 when the German troops retreated westward across northern Norway, burning most of the housing in Finnmark and eastern Troms counties before the Russian Red Army. Because of this destruction, many Sami lived in lavvus for many years afterward because of the lack of housing and unemployment from this period…

The second event was when the lavvu was used during the Alta controversy in Norway from 1979 to 1981. A lavvu was set up in front of the Storting (Norwegian Parliament Building) which became an international focal point as several Sami went on a hunger strike to protest the proposed dam project that would have destroyed reindeer grazing grounds of the Sami herders in the area and inundated the Sami village of Máze. This lavvu became center stage in the political fight for Sami indigenous rights … This conflict gave birth to the Sami Rights Committee which addressed Sami legal rights within Norway, resulting in the Sami Act of 1987. This in turn became the foundation for the Sámediggi (Sami Parliament of Norway), a democratically elected body for the Sami in Norway in 1989, and the Finnmark Act of 2005.

(Having grown up in Australia, this history reminds me of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, set up in front of the Australian Parliament, Canberra, 1972. This also opens up another thread related to protest infrastructure.)

The Sámediggi recalls the lávvu in its architecture. Designed by the architects Stein Halvorsen and Christian Sundby after winning the Norwegian Government’s call for projects in 1995, the building was inaugurated in 2005.

Arguably it is this history of shelter and struggle that Sofia Jannok also recalls and promotes in her recent single, Lávvu.

Drawing by Sven-Ole Kolstad, 1989

Eatnameamet – Our Silent Struggle (2021)

Eatnameamet – Our Silent Struggle (2021) is a documentary description of the Sámi policy of the Finnish state, the loss of Sámi culture and the Sámi struggle for its existence. It tells about the cultural genocide of the Sámi people and the non-violent struggle for the existence of the Sámi people. The film increases the understanding of the Sámi and how the rights of the Sámi are related to the rights of the land. If the indigenous people do not have access to nature, there are no indigenous people.

I’ve also notice the film listed as The AssimiNation on English-language movie databases.

According to director Doavtter-Piera Suvi Máret/Suvi West on the film’s website (Google translate):

Eatnameamet is the collective cry of distress for the Sámi. This film is born from my personal experience of living as a Sámi in this country. Time and time again I come across us on misinformation, prejudice and repressive structures. My people and culture are fighting a silent defense with accelerating colonialism. I felt that I, like other Sámi, had to do something for our future. The film Eatnameamet was born.

The story of colonialism is not my personal story. Nor is it the experience of any other individual Sámi. Exporting countries, forcing Finnishisation, destroying our way of life and narrowing our rights is a common pain for the entire Sámi people. This story could not be told through an individual, it would have been an understatement. As I listened to people, I realised we were in the pain of untreated trauma. For me, Eatnameamet is a collective cry for distress.

I’ve done a movie about love people, and Sámiland point. (Google translate? Perhaps, ‘I’ve made a movie about people I love and from the perspective of Sámpi?’) We Sámi have the right to be heard, but Finns also have the right to know about the Sámi and our situation. Knowledge increases understanding, and understanding is the starting point for the equal coexistence of two peoples in the same country. Ignorance is not the cause of any individual, but it is the fault of oppressive structures. I invite viewers to embark on this journey and step into the Sámi reality for a moment, where they have to fight quietly if they want the culture to be preserved for future generations.’

Eatnameamet sold out its online screenings at the recent 20th DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival (20 Jan. – 7 Feb., 2021). A webinar was organised to accompany these screenings, this following summary was posted on the documentary’s Facebook page (Google translate):

The weekend’s “Finns who think they own Sámiland” seminar can now be found on DocPoint’s YouTube account. Thank you Petra Laiti, Áslat Holmberg, Emmi Nuorgam and Matti Liimatainen for an important discussion. This was just the beginning, we are going to continue discussions about colonialism throughout the year!

In summary, the biggest difference between Sámi and Finnish land use is in efficiency. From a Sámi perspective, the land is in use, even if it is not built full of infrastructure, houses and mines. Finnish land use, on the other hand, is based on “development”, which often means plundering natural resources and resources. It is also important to ask who will benefit from land use projects?

❗Áslat stated perfectly in the discussion that, for the first time, the Eatnameamet is giving a face to colonialism and showing who is seeking to exploit resources. resurs
Outi Länsman also summarized the main points of our discussion on Twitter:
▪️In the Sámi region, many conflicts related to nature, the environment and land use are due to different perceptions and concepts of different parties.
▪️Researcher Päivi Magga has wisely written that when you want to study what the Sámi people see as culture, and what you want as nature, you have to look at it through the Sámi language.
▪️In conflicts, it is important to be aware of words, language and perceptions associated with words. For example, Northern Sámi does not actually have the word wilderness. If the word is not in the language, then it is not in the worldview either.
▪️Regional decisions on areas often lack a Sámi perspective and one may ask on whose terms the future of the Sámi will be decided?
▪️Sámi customary law is a matter that should be taken into account e.g. land law issues.