With the Lapps in the High Mountains: A Woman among the Sami, 1907–1908

With the Lapps in the High Mountains: A Woman among the Sami, 1907–1908

Emilie Demant Hatt

Language: English

Pages: 192

ISBN: 0299292347

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


With the Lapps in the High Mountains is an entrancing true account, a classic of travel literature, and a work that deserves wider recognition as an early contribution to ethnographic writing. Published in 1913 and available here in its first English translation, it is the narrative of Emilie Demant Hatt's nine-month stay in the tent of a Sami family in northern Sweden in 1907–8 and her participation in a dramatic reindeer migration over snow-packed mountains to Norway with another Sami community in 1908. A single woman in her thirties, Demant Hatt immersed herself in the Sami language and culture. She writes vividly of daily life, women's work, children's play, and the care of reindeer herds in Lapland a century ago.
            While still an art student in Copenhagen in 1904, Demant Hatt had taken a vacation trip to northern Sweden, where she chanced to meet Sami wolf hunter Johan Turi. His dream of writing a book about his people sparked her interest in the culture, and she began to study the Sami language at the University of Copenhagen. Though not formally trained as an ethnographer, she had an eye for detail. The journals, photographs, sketches, and paintings she made during her travels with the Sami enriched her eventual book, and in With the Lapps in the High Mountains she memorably portrays people, dogs, reindeer, and the beauty of the landscape above the Arctic Circle. This English-language edition also includes photographs by Demant Hatt, an introduction by translator Barbara Sjoholm, and a foreword by Hugh Beach, author of A Year in Lapland: Guest of the Reindeer Herders.

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in ethnographic description rises high above the existing literature on the subject.”27 Demant Hatt and her husband continued to work together on the Sami for some years more, supported, most likely, from Demant Hatt’s bequest from an uncle and Gudmund’s part-time work. They may also have had financial support from Hjalmar Lundbohm. With a grant from the American-Scandinavian Foundation for Gudmund to study, they traveled to the United States and Canada for a year, 1914–15, which included some

lake”—Torneträsk. The waves and wind were against us, but the girl pulled just as steadily and calmly on the oars as a man. She was warm and had shoved her little embroidered hat back on her neck, so the wisps of hair fell free on the round, light brown forehead. Her skin was pure and golden from the sun; white strong teeth shone between the full, prettily formed lips. Her cheeks were rounded, red and plump, so they smoothed the transition from the wide cheekbones to the narrower jaw. Her blue

day, the northern lights flickered, and everything froze between your fingers. The knife at your belt froze fast in its sheath, and if you wanted to eat with a knife or spoo’n, it had to be warmed next to the fire so it wouldn’t stick to your lips. You couldn’t take hold of any iron objects, like the handle of a kettle, without gloves. When you washed your hair and brushed it in front of the fire, it froze stiff and the water fell from the comb in the form of snow. (The Lapps, both men and women,

increase; wealth was in numbers. The Swedish government was moving slowly to define the rights of Sami citizens in regard to reindeer husbandry, but in doing so, it was defining away the identity of Sami who didn’t engage in reindeer husbandry. As the twentieth century progressed, these non–reindeer herders grew to be 90 percent of the Sami population all over the north of Fennoscandia. By the 1930s, traditional nomadism was on the wane. It didn’t resume fully after the German occupation of

calves that fall and die.” When we landed in Tromsø everything was a colorful bustle. There are probably always onlookers in a little town when the steamer ties up, but there were unusually many here. You can well understand that the Lapps, with their bright colors and rather peculiar get-ups can lure people down to see them. It’s harder to understand why the curiosity should be expressed in loutishness and scorn, sneering catcalls, slurs, and impudent stares. The Lapps had prepared me for this

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