“The North Chose Us”: Selected Poems by Nils-Aslak Valkeapää as Expressions of Sami Cultural Ecology and Indigenous Rights Concerns

Christopher Greiner

Abstract


This article analyzes three poems by acclaimed Sami poet Nils-Aslak Valkeapää. The author examines poetic language to underscore its ability to evoke Sami identity and the geography and ecology found where the Sami live in Fennoscandia (the far north of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and northwestern Russia). The author also weaves together each poem’s theme(s) in order to emphasize the importance of the Sami’s distinct perspective toward the lands surrounding them, and the Sami’s place as its first inhabitants. Throughout the article, the author connects poetic structure, form, and content, bringing together aesthetic and indigenous rights concerns, especially Sami rights to determine their own cultural practices, which involve a deep relationship with Fennoscandia’s ecologically-specific co-inhabitants: for example, its reindeer, fish, and birds.

Keywords


poetry; poems; Nils-Aslak Valkeapää; Sami; identity; geography; ecology; Fennoscandia; Sweden; Norway; Finland; northwestern Russia; aesthetic; indigenous rights; cultural practices; reindeer; fish; birds

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