Sami abused in Sweden’s church-run schools

Kaisa Huuva, co-editor of a book from the Swedish Church. (Olle Kejonen / SR Sameradion)
Kaisa Huuva, co-editor of a book from the Swedish Church. (Olle Kejonen / SR Sameradion)
A newly published collection of stories from the Sami community examines the often painful history of the lives of young Sami students at boarding schools run by the Swedish Church.

The book is called “När jag var åtta år lämnade jag mitt hem och jag har ännu inte kommit tillbaka” or “When I was eight years old I left home and still haven’t returned” and contains 10 different stories from Sami people who either attended the schools or had other experiences with them.

The schools, called Sami or Nomad schools, were established in the early 1900s by the then-established Swedish Evangelican Lutheran Church as a way to educate and assimilate the children of Sami reindeer herders into mainstream Swedish culture.

The Sami are the country’s indigenous inhabitants, who hail from the far north of Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Dark time for Sami and Church
The flag of the Sami people. (Stefan Karlsson / Sameradion & SVT Sápmi)
The flag of the Sami people. (Stefan Karlsson / Sameradion & SVT Sápmi)

At the boarding schools some children suffered physical abuse from teachers or were forced to forgo aspects of their Sami culture, such as only speaking Swedish and not Sami. The schools also boosted the theory of racial biology, which promote the idea that some human races were superior to others.

Kaisa Huuva, a co-editor for the book as well as someone who works with Sami issues for the Swedish Church, tells Radio Sweden that the book highlights a dark time for the Sami people and the Church.

“This a past that the Church has been responsible for,” she says, “and it really should, today, take full responsibility for it because today not many people in the Church but also in Swedish society know about this.”

She, along with her co-editor Ellacarin Blind, interviewed former students, some as old as 99 years old, for hours about their experiences.

Huuva goes on to say that the book also serves as a way for the Church to deal with its collective guilt from the time period.

“It’s really about the Church looking into itself, looking into its own mirror and sometimes it’s not so pretty what you see,” she says.

The schools were begun in 1913 and eventually shut down in 1962.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Final Truth & Reconciliation report released in Canada, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Sámi politician calls Finland “racist country”, Yle News

 

Radio Sweden

For more news from Sweden visit Radio Sweden.

6 thoughts on “Sami abused in Sweden’s church-run schools

  • Monday, June 7, 2021 at 13:22
    Permalink

    Why does Sweden still have soldiers protecting a pope and a religion that has the worst record on earth for child neglect , abuse , torture, murder. Look at the residential schools all across Canada. , look at the abuse snd unmarked graves in Ireland . What kind of country aids and Abeds the leader of a country with so much violations against humanity under the guise of a religion. Is there nothing more horrifying? What is the matter with the Swedish people that they don’t demand that they pull there soldiers out of Rome. This is a appalling. You are protecting a leader of a cult that has worked under the pretence of a saviour to humanity when in reality they proform more atrocities than any army. Wake up Sweden.

    Reply
    • Saturday, June 26, 2021 at 11:29
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      kieran moore, the article says that these schools were run by the Lutheran Church of Sweden, simply called the church of Sweden and then since Sweden defends the pope since in Sweden Catholics were persecuted and discriminated and until 1951 could not do doctors and teachers (
      so these schools had nothing to do with the Catholic church since Catholics they didn’t even have the right ) and then Sweden a short time ago had the Church of Sweden ( the Lutheran Church) as a state religion, What are you saying?

      Reply
      • Saturday, July 17, 2021 at 02:35
        Permalink

        I was aware of these atrocities. My grandmother was Sami. She wore her braided hair and imported traditional dress as far as an immigrant family could. The us and canada gave a chance to recover for her and her family. In Scandinavia the facial features and dress were obvious and problematic in in this new Scandinavian society. Her parents , not knowing each other decided to leave. We now have a better life. The family over time has reindeer sausage, smoked and or pickled salmon and much more! SAMIS are light, blonde or dark. In Scandinavia they read our features. In North America they don’t know or care.

        Traci Geddes

        Reply
    • Sunday, June 27, 2021 at 05:46
      Permalink

      then, in this article clearly says that these schools were run by the Church of Sweden ( the Swedish Lutheran church) What does the Catholic church have to do with it? “Why does Sweden still have soldiers protecting a pope and a religion that has the worst record on earth for child neglect , abuse , torture, murder. “Catholics in Sweden were persecuted and discriminated against, and even until 1951 they could not even teach, in addition Catholics since Sweden became a Protestant state are a very small minority compared to Protestants in the Church of Sweden

      Reply
    • Sunday, June 27, 2021 at 09:53
      Permalink

      This article clearly states that these schools were controlled by the Swedish church ( by Protestant denomination) and in addition the Swedish church had recognized its role in these schools what, what does the Catholic church have to do with it?

      Reply
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