Changes in Saami socioeconomic institutions in Jokkmokk parish 1720-1890

Roger Kvist, Umeå Universitet
Robert Wheelersburg, Elizabethtown College


National and provincial policy changes during the 1820s usurped the land and resource use rights of the Jokkmokk Saami to protect the rapidly growing settler population in northern Sweden. Ethnohistorical sources suggest that changes took place in Saami socioeconomic structures as a result of that loss of access to resources. Under pressure from the Swedish authorities, traditional communal groups such as the siida (the cooperative hunting/herding village) were replaced by independent households, which competed with each other for resources. While some families became wealthy, other households lost their herds and dropped out of the nomadic society, continuing the process begun with the initial shift to pastoralism two centuries before. Historical demographic data reveal a decrease in the number of Saami households and total population at both the parish and village levels after 1830. Conversely, family size grew slightly, reflecting the need for independent and competing households to provide their own sources of labor.