I am a Sámi woman, and so I am strong!

My maadteraahka, Dagmar.

This 8th of March, the International Womens Day, I was invited to speak as one of many at a large gathering of Women and their allies at en event in Oslo, at Khartoum Contemporary Art Center Khartoum Contemporary Art Center مركز الخرطوم للفن المعاص

The curator of the event, Nasim Mashak, had gathered a line-up of exceptional women, whose time on stage could be spent doing whatever suited them; be it a performance, a poem or reading an excerpt from a book and so on.

I knew early on that I wanted to write and read something that touched upon isses of Indigenous woman, I just didn´t know exactly what that would be.

But then, two nights befor the event I dreamt of my maadteraahka, my great grandmother. She told me I was strong like her, but to be careful that it was the right kind of strenght.

The next day, heavily inspired by both the dream and by all the strong and wonderful Indigenous woman that I am fortunate enough to know, respect, admire and love, I wrote this.

A special thanks to Rauna Kuokkanen, whose book «Restructuring Relations: Indigenous Self-Determination, Governance, and Gender» was particularly helpful in my thinking and writing process.

Also, thanks to my dear friend and partner in crime, Tatjana Kolpus for the picture and allowing me to share it.

But now, onto my manuscript;


I am the daughter of Uhca-Eliissá, who herself is the daughter of Dagma-Eliissá.

Growing up I was told; “Sámi nissonat, mii leat gievrrat/ you are a Sámi woman, and so you are strong”

Surrounded by what I perceived to be strong women – grannies, aunties, sisters, and my mother, I internalized this belief.

“I am a Sámi woman, and so I am strong”

Much of my life has been governed by this belief, and when in pain, scared, overwhelmed, insecure or discriminated against, I tell myself:

“I am a Sámi woman, and so I am strong”

Enduring any hardship and pain in silence, taking comfort in the unshakable truth that

“I am a Sámi woman, and so I am strong”

Feeling pride that I decend from a long line of equally strong women that could bear any hardship and pain.

How then, can I do any less?

Appealing to the notion of the strong Sámi women is not, however, a simple compliment on the inborn strength of my people. Though it is true that the legacy of colonialism and the trauma it implies, have forced upon us a greater fortitude, the insidious rationality to the strong Sámi woman is that it silences us. It quiets our concerns and our views.

No question there have been, and still are, strong Sámi women who wield their power and influence in different spheres. But this strength has never been a detriment to the marginalization and the oppression that we as a people for generations have experienced.

Throughout the centuries of colonial expansion into Sápmi, entire communities has been erased by invading forces; spiritual beliefs and religious systems dismantled and devalued by zealous missionaries; languages destroyed or nearly so by cultural imperialists; territories stolen and Sámi autonomy undermined and outlawed.

These stories of suffering and violence have many victims – most of them women.

Prior to colonization, and the consequent enforcement of colonial and patriarchal structures, Sámi women were regarded as equal to men, existing in a dynamic that was characterized by a symmetrical complimentary of domains, roles and tasks, and as a result was independent and posessed power and control over certain domains.

Of course, Sápmi was not a perfect society, an utopia as envisioned by More.

Nevertheless, by way of religion, epistemicide, judicial practices and law, the strategic undermining of Sámi women is one of the true successtories of colonialism. And it still has a tremendous impact on our continued existence – the myth of the strong Sámi women being one example.

The belief that “I am a Sámi woman, and so I am strong”  has effectively diverted attention from the problems caused by colonial structures – including assymetrical gender relations, gender binarism, sexual abuse and violence.

Because we are strong, we are not oppressed, and so we do not experience any form of violence either.

But the impact of structural violence on our lives must be adressed. The silencing, undermining and invisibility of Sámi women can no longer continue to be reproduced and reinforced by the idea of the strong Sámi woman.

So, to all the sisters, aunties, grannies, and mothers – past, present and future –  and to our daughters

 “I am a Sámi woman and so I am strong enough to speak out and break the silence that colonialism and patriarchy has enforced upon me, and I know that you are too!”


Sámi nissonat, mii leat gievrrat – just not in the way that the colonizing oppressors would like us to be.

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