Laura Ricketts Designs

"She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands..."

Laura Ricketts Designs is a personal and business website for Laura Ricketts, hand-knitwear designer, author, teacher, crafter, mother and wife.

Kautokeino

I drove into Kautokeino, so happy to finally be there.

 Kautokeino road sign in both Sámi and Norwegian

Kautokeino road sign in both Sámi and Norwegian

Kautokeino and Karasjok are the heartland of Sápmi -- full of Sámi culture and history. They even have a kind of rivalry. Karasjok got the Norwegian Sámi parliament, and Kautokeino got the Sámi University College. 

Kautokeino is noted for its gorgeous (over-the-top?) gákti. Both the men's and women's outfits have a flared skirting on the bottom edge, which utilizes rows and rows of ribbon.  Rows and rows, ya'll.  I have read the lower edge can consume 20 meters of fabric with the correlating amount of ribbon.  I didn't think about it before visiting, but this can result in quite heavy dresses. The ribbons and trim are echoed on the cuffs, and shoulders of the garment and hat for men. It's like, someone took a dare and thought -- just one more row of ribbon; surely, just one more row of ribbon could fit!

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I do feel the need to tell you, I did not take these four pictures of Kautokeino dress.  Many, if not most, of the Sámi people own a gákti, but it is the rare person who uses it for an everyday outfit. It is reserved for special occasions: weddings, confirmation, sometimes Sunday church. Here are two gorgeous pictures of a confirmation Sunday.

 Boys at confirmation

Boys at confirmation

 girls at confirmation

girls at confirmation

This last photo is of Nils Thomas Outsiders in front of the town. He was one of the producers of the movie, Kautokeino Rebellion about the famous uprising 150 years ago. Really, it was a kind of backwards rebellion, towards a more conservative life. Kautokeino was, and is, a conservative town, but, during that time, the merchant in town was trying to pay trappers and traders in alcohol. Discontent brewed, as more and more of the people wanted nothing to do with alcohol, influenced by the religious teachings of Laestadius. 

 Nils Thomas Outsider

Nils Thomas Outsider

Unfortunately, because of the extreme northern location, the Lutheran priests were usually lousy, assigned there to be out-of-the-way. They often were not sympathetic to their parishioners, their language or way of life. About 30 men and women marched on the liquor seller and law enforcement. At the end, both the merchant and the sheriff were dead, and the town priest was beaten and flogged. On the Sámi side, 30 were arrested. One died on the way to prison. Two were executed by decapitation, and three died in prison. One of the men in prison went on to translate the Bible into the North Sámi language during his confinement.

The reprisals, really, were quite awful. One family was completely destroyed: two sons dead, a daughter in prison, the mother interrogated… Even in death, the punishment continued.  The bodies of the two men who were decapitated were buried outside the church graveyard walls, signifying no church blessing on their lives or deaths.  Their heads were sent to Oslo and became part of a medical facilities skull collection. Even in 1985, when a relative requested the skulls be returned, bureaucrats in Oslo stated, "Mons Somby was a convicted criminal and a murderer and that no attempt should be made to describe Mons as a martyr to any cause." Can you imagine?! It took 12 years, and significant political pressure, to get the skulls returned and buried with the bodies in Kåfjord. I visited the Kåfjord church the day before I drove to Kautokeino.

 Kåfjord church near Alta, Norway

Kåfjord church near Alta, Norway

150 years later, people are still talking about the rebellion. It is a bitter memory. I heard of the horrible circumstances for the families left without providers. I also heard of the relatives of those from nearby Avži who marched to go help quell the rebellion. Even the movie is discussed and debated for its details that were altered to increase drama. I don't know why that is so often the case -- history, itself, seems pretty riveting to me.

Next up: Kautokeino, the personal touch