Nature and culture comes together above the Polar Circle


Though I have often told friends and other travellers about the far North of my country, the enticing wonders of Northern Lights and the spectacular Midnight Sun, me myself actually never set foot further north than half way up the country. I knew there’s a nature as well as a culture that’s unfortunately too unknown for us southerners, that we are shamelessly unaware of and that most of the Swedish population never take time to explore. When we travel, we travel south, most of the rest of the world is south, and, for that instance, it’s warmer than what we can offer here. If it’s anything we get bored with in Sweden, it’s the cold and the darkness. But then you start travel north during winter time and actually, it dawns on you that it’s really not that cold nor that dark above the polar circle. For the white, white snow that covers every nook and cranny, stretches into the horizon, is reflecting every little flash of light possible. Even on a cloudy day, that pure, knee deep snow shines like silver. In the south, if we’re lucky we experience that crisp, clear beautiful winter landscape maybe one day each winter. The rest of the time, the ground lays bare, the mud growing out of previously green carpets turning everything 50 shades of proper grey. And though it sure gets cold up in the north, it’s never like here. People look you in the eyes, they greet you. The population is scarce and therefore, you are dependent on making friends. Without friends in a climate like that, you will not survive. I think it’s a significant different in cultures, affected by the long years of living off grid, as a marginalised minority in a marginalised country. There’s something magic in the people we met up there. One friendlier than the other, one more helpful and accommodating than the other. The whole institution, every person we met, all of them, a simple heart warming friendliness like in no other place in Sweden. The long and beautifully sad story about the Sami people in Sweden, our native population, is something most schools neglect to teach about. There’s no real understanding how we, the Swedes, have mistreated and prosecuted the natives in this country, just as bad as all the big colonial powers did in their colonies. For many years they were denied their life style, language, heritage and culture. We forcedly assimilated them into the Swedish culture, robbed many of them from their rights as a native people within Sweden. They were measured, classified, stereo typified in the worlds first institute of race biology – established here in Sweden, later exported to Germany where we all know what happened. During these times, it was the Sami we tried to wipe out, here in the great progressive Sweden. Today, the complications remains. To be able to define yourself as a Sami, you must speak one of the Sami languages from home, from birth or your parents must have. But for decades the Swedish government prohibited use of the Sami languages in schools and society in general. Sami children never learnt to speak their language, and today, their kids and grand kids no longer have access to their heritage. And all though we today acknowledge that they are, in fact, our native population, we have still not given them their full rights according to the UN ILO-declaration. Why?
Some Sami continues to live half-nomadic or nomadic, but most of the population have integrated and live as ”regular Swedes”. While doing so they still kept a sense of the collective need, a friendliness and a respect for others that left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling after every personal interaction while above the Polar circle. I am still enchanted by these few days in the real, far, north and though it’s just a small scratch on a big surface, I fell in love with the vastness, the pride of Mother Nature and her children living there.

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