94 Sami skeletons brought to final rest

Skolt sami skeletons brought back to Neiden.

In 1915 Norwegian researchers from the University of Oslo bought 94 buried Skolt Sami skeletons for less than one Euro per person. The skeletons were brought to the laboratory with the aim to study race and migration. On Sunday the skeletons were finally put to rest in their original grave on the river banks of the Neiden river. After 96 years in laboratory storage.


Skolt sami skeletons brought back to Neiden.
Norwegian Minister of Administration, Rigmor Aaserud said sorry for what happened to the Skolt Samis in Neiden i 1915. (Photo: Marianne Bergseth/Sør-Varanger Avis)


Despite the protest from the Skolt Sami people in Neiden, the researchers from the University of Oslo were permitted to buy the skeletons and bring them to Oslo in the name of science and research. For people in the small North Norway community it was a tragic experience, but as a minority group living in the far periphery of Norway they had no possibility to stop the violation performed by high ranked professors.

The Skolt Sami, or East Sami which they are also called, is a Sami minority based in the border areas of Norway, Finland and Russia. They are considered to be linked to indigenous peoples on the Russian Kola Peninsula and are mainly Russian Orthodox.

Grave robbery
The actions performed in Neiden are described as a grave robbery by the descendants and the fight to bring the skeletons back has been going on ever since. On Sunday the 25th of September the skeletons where finally brought to rest in their original graves.

- The University in Oslo would like to express how deeply sorry we are for this unlawful intervention in an indigenous peoples group’s human rights. This should never have happened, said Vise Principal at the University of Oslo Ragnhild Henum according to Sør-Varanger Avis.

Also the Norwegian Minister of Government Administration, Rigmor Aaserud attended the ceremony.

- There are things which have been done in the past, which would not have happened today. I am especially sorry that these horrible actions harmed the Sami population, with the race ideology of that time as the excuse, said Aaserud.

In the speeches after the ceremony, several speakers talked about the hardship which the Skolt sami people has been living under during the 19th century.

- No minority in Norway which has been living under any similar suppression from both the greater society and local society than the Skolt Sami, said bishop Per Oskar Kjølås in his speech.

Several hundred attended the funeral ceremony in Neiden and guests came from all three neighboring countries in the region. The ceremony was performed in the traditional Orthodox way and was lead by Archbishop Gabriel of Paris.