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The Consequences of Colonization – Demographical and Cultural Explanations of Changes in Mortality in Northern Sweden 1750-1900

Research project 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?

We know that the sami has improved their health status very much during the last two hundred years. We also know that any differences to the majority population no longer exist. But we do not know the mechanisms behind this progress. That, is the main challenge for the project. The approach is most relevant in an international, indigenous perspective. Since ethnic groups with distinct cultural differences came to live in the same area, Sweden has 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 of the groups was nomadic the others settled, their food cultures where different, as was their needs for household composition. The Swedish settlers had increased contacts with the medical system and medical knowledge, while Sami continued to rely on traditional knowledge and healing. This project is a collaboration between CeSam and Centre for Populations Studies (CPS) and is funded by the Swedish council for Working life and Social Research (FAS) and the Swedish Research Councils support for Strong Research Environments.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period

2006-07-01 2009-12-31

Funding

Finansår , 2006, 2007, 2008

huvudman: CeSam, finansiar: FAS, y2006: 800, y2007: 800, y2008: 800,

Research subject

Demography, History

Project description

CPS and CeSam are considered as key research groups in the predominantly interdisciplinary research programme on the Northern Dimension - one of the main strategic research areas of Umeå University. DDB and CeSam are joining forces to build a new longitudinal population database covering inland areas in northern Sweden with substantial Sami population (Sápmi) 1750-1900. The database will be the first of its kind building on indigenous populations, and contains today its three first parishes.
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).