Essay: Indigenous resistance and historical sources – The case of forced dislocation of northern Sami in Sweden                


A central challenge in postcolonial historical studies is compensating for the lack of sources regarding perspectives and voices of the colonized, especially the indigenous populations. It has generally not been in the interest of the colonizers to record negative reactions or resistance towards measures taken by the state, in particular when evidence could point towards suffering caused or injustices committed.

An illustrative Swedish case is the forced dislocation of northern Sami. A recently published nonfiction book, Herrarna satte oss hit. Om tvångsförflyttningarna i Sverige (”Our Masters put us here. About forced dislocations in Sweden”, my translation) by the journalist Elin Anna Labba, has highlighted the issue and invigorated the debate.  This essay will investigate the issue of resistance and the sources used in Labba’s book and in some scholarly studies about Sami resistance in the Nordic countries and the forced dislocations in Sweden.


Resistance is not always the obvious and visible. For indigenous populations as the Sami it can also take the shape of silence, feigning acceptance or playing cunning games with the authorities, turning their own weapons against them. These strategies can be seen in accounts of Sami resistance all the way from the early modern examples of Lindmark’s essay to Lehtola’s description of evasive strategies of defiance in the 1930s.

Retrieving lost voices and opinions of oppressed and sometimes silenced indigenous populations requires conscious work. The examples show that methods such as extracting from the margins of colonial archives, using fiction and other non-academic sources or digging deep into oral history through interviews and examining longstanding traditions can be useful. An important factor that has been lifted in postcolonial studies is questioning the very knowledge regimes of Eurocentricity, opening for different cultural perspectives.

Read the whole essay / Läs hela uppsatsen

This essay has been written as part of a History course on advanced level at Linné University (“Colonial histories and postcolonial theory: concurrences as historical methodology”, 2020).

Denna uppsats har skrivits inom en historiekurs på avancerad nivå på Linnéuniversitetet: (”Koloniala historier och postkolonial teori: samtidigheter som historisk metodologi”, 2020).


Dipesh Chakrabarty, Gunlög Fur, Karen V Hansen, Hans Hägerdal, Elin Anna Labba, Patrik Lantto, Veli-Pekka Lehtola, Daniel Lindmark, Rochona Majumdar.


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