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Health and Family Life in Sápmi

Research project CeSam is one of the actors within the center for Population Studies, which during 2005 was awarded support to strong research environment from the Swedish Research Council. This opens up for an extensive demographic project, where CeSam is responsible for the Sami part.

The demographic research field has yet not been interested in the Sami or the indigenous area to any greater extent. We still do not know the features of the general population development, nor do we have any deeper knowledge about mortality, fertility, marriages and migration. The project will be an important contribution for the crude demograpic experiences during the process of colonization, 1750-1900.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2005-07-01 2010-06-30


Finansår , 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

huvudman: CBS (CeSam), finansiar: Vetenkapsrådet, y2005: 400, y2006: 550, y2007: 550, y2008: 550, y2009: 550,

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Várdduo - Centre for Sami research

Research area

Demography, History, Public health and health care science

Project description

Indigenous studies have been an expanding research field in many countries. International scholars have studied the effects of colonisation and the aspects of life and death under influence of colonisation as a demographic process. Unfortunately, Sweden has not contributed to any large extent. There is actually very little known of the demographic development, for both Sami and settlers in Sápmi. Several issues need exploration: what happened when the interior parts of northern Sweden were colonized and the Sami population changed from being a sole majority to a marginalized minority? How did different causes of death affect the populations? Why was infant and childhood mortality much higher among the indigenous groups? What demographic differences can be found within the complex Sami population?
Since ethnic groups with distinct cultural differences came to live in the same area, we have a unique possibility to explore these factors in the demographic analysis. They shared the same geographical position and climate, but had different lifestyles. Their conceptions of disease and death differed, one group was nomadic the other settled, their food cultures were different, as was their needs for household composition. The Swedish settlers had increased contacts with the medical system and medical knowledge, while the Sami continued to rely on traditional knowledge and healing. However, we do not know much about the differences between the two groups concerning any demographic parameters, including the causes of death. Furthermore, our current understanding of the Sami population indicates that it is not a homogenous group, something previous research has not acknowledged.
The Sami are one of many indigenous peoples around the world. The work of our research group will provide results that will be of great value for the understanding of the demographic experiences during the process of colonisation. The unique data for a long and coherent period of time allow studies without comparison today. The present project is of great importance in two perspectives. Firstly, it will contribute to the development of the discipline of historical demography in an international context. Ethnic parameters have been neglected, and in most countries with indigenous populations there is a lack of possibilities to analyse the process of colonisation with demographic tools. Our research environment at CPS and CeSam, with the new Sápmi population database, has an advantage in this context. Secondly, the project will present results that are important for the Sami research in Scandinavia and Russia. Demographic studies have been neglected in the academic analysis of Sápmi, but are nevertheless necessary for a good understanding of the development and for the answers of many of the questions raised by politicians, scientists, and Sami people today (headed by Peter Sköld and Per Axelsson).
Latest update: 2018-06-20