New archaeological and historical research being carried out by Indigenous people in far northern Europe is radically changing understandings of the region’s past and present. One of the traps of traditional approaches to the study of history has been to take the position of the known, obscuring how the past could have been very different. We are used to seeing Indigenous people as marginalized, suffering the effects of colonisation: population decrease, slavery, illnesses, and killings. Pushed back to places with harsh climates and living conditions that seemingly provide few possibilities to flourish, our histories often erase the fact that Indigenous people once inhabited much greater territories. New research in Sweden, Norway, and Finland is challenging these stereotypes, revealing that some Indigenous Sami people entered the inner circle of kings, held important positions of power, and influenced political strategies. Archaeological finds, objects, place names and historical records reveal a more complex picture of the Indigenous past in far northern Europe. This has become particularly clear as Indigenous Sami researchers have become greater in number and use their experiences of traditional Indigenous life in their research.
Åsa Virdi Kroik is an Indigenous Sami author and a PhD in the history of religion who does both academic research and engaged community projects with Sami people in Scandinavia.