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Creativity art and culture

Saami traditional spirituality is animism. Animists believe everything lives and that there is spirits in nature that we need to honor. Nature needs to be honored. For millennia we lived by the rules of the harsh environment in the subarctic lands of northern Scandinavia and the Kola peninsula of northwest Russia. We lived a nomadic life of hunting, fishing and reindeer herding.

Our traditional lands are therefore in what is now four countries. These are Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia which for centuries fought over our lands and resources. Thus we were separated by borders imposed on us by the authorities. Relatives were separated from each other and our trekways for reindeer herding and hunting/fishing was closed.

Part of this process was the church. Until not that long ago state and church was the same. The proof of being a citizen was to be baptized by the church. Naturally the colonizers wanted to christian us in order to have ”citizens” living on the lands they were trying to claim. Many Saami were baptized and taxed in sometimes two or even three ”countries”.

With the involvement of the church followed intolerance towards any other cultural and spiritual expressions than the christian. A spiritual tradition obsessed with the idea of sin and the wickedness of man, in essence the salvation of the virtuous and the damnation of the sinful. All very foreign concepts to our ancestors. A different philosophy entered, one where humans are the pinnacle of creation, not part of it. This was in stark contrast to our traditional animism.This process has been repeated in history over and over again with many different peoples where colonizers replace the minority culture bit by bit until it completely disappears into the majority. The Roman empire was among the first to systematically use this technique with their conquests.

The pressure from the church together with the state was immense and brutal involving public lashings and shamans burned at the stake. In order to survive we swallowed the blue pill and, at least publicly, adopted the conquerors religion. So we fell asleep but it is hard to stay asleep under the pressure of colonialism. Suppress and bite your tongue while raging on the inside for generations. Some things just refuse to die and it tends to be the important things such as the Saami shaman drum. Hidden behind the stars and underground for centuries to re-emerge at the right time. The drum has been a focus of mine for the last twenty years. Something really worth fighting for, this is something that everyone needs.

We Saami are far from alone in this, many cultures have been eradicated forever and cultural expressions and languages of minorities hang on by a thread today. It is estimated that more than half of the worlds languages we had in the beginning of the last century have died out and with them the cultures often went. Colonialism and imperialism is the true pandemic, it is a very real pandemic that has been going around for centuries. Today the perpetrators are not primarily nation states anymore but enormous economic entities operating outside the reach of countries and international laws influencing governments all over the world.

So this does not concern just indigenous peoples, many languages and cultures of Europe that existed just one hundred years ago are gone. Languages and cultural diversity has died, people are left with the same diluted culture and pointless art. Language, art, tradition and self sufficiency dies where ever this goes while political and economic power is grabbed by the machine.

This is why traditions, creativity and art with deep cultural roots are important. Art, language, livelihood and spirituality are all the necessary parts for a culture to be truly alive. Indistinguishable flavors of the same culture, language and art are adopted world wide and little by little the characteristics of separate cultures evaporates into thin air. This trend has been going on for centuries and globalism is just the latest incarnation of it.

An older very talented Yukon first nations artist, Dempsey Bob, once told me that life is meaningless without a proper culture. These are powerful words that speak to an inner truth we all can feel. So whether you are involved in art, traditional food ways, language preservation or traditional spirituality you are doing the most important work of all. This is resistance. This is to make sure that we are winning. No one is going to save our languages and cultures except you, me and we. That is defiance, that is true resistance. Time to take the red pill.