Kautokeino Rebellion, 1852

January 16, 2008 • Philip BurgessReindeer

(Pic NRK Sami Radio) A much awaited film premiere occurs this month (January 18th) with the release of Nils Gaup’s film, The Kautokeino Rebellion (Kautokeino-opprøret) an epic that cost NOK 53.6 million (10 million USD), based on a real-life event in 1852.  Gaup, whose Oscar-nominated feature, Pathfinder (Ofelas/Veiviseren/1987), was based on an ancient Sami legend, has again returned to Sapmi. In 1852, against the backdrop of a religious awakening, a group of 35 Sami – outraged by years of subjugation – staged a riot in Kautokeino, killing the sheriff and the merchant and flogging the clergyman. Two years later in Alta, two of the leaders were decapitated and were buried without their heads. After years of research the skull were found in Oslo and Copenhagen and were finally reunited with the skeletons.

“Until recently the uprising was a taboo subject among the 1,600 population in Kautokeino; still it has inspired five novels, two operas, one symphony, and several documentaries. But since most families have ancestors who were involved, it was not considered proper tea time conversation,” explained Gaup, who has worked on the project for 10 years

Born in Kautokeino, himself a descendant of Aslak Hætta – one of the executed leaders – Gaup has written the script with Nils Aslak Eira, Reidar Jönsson and Pelone Wahl. His production team includes cinematographer Philip Øgaard and set designer Karl Juliusson, and he has shot several scenes with a rare contingency of extras – 1,500 reindeer. (Norwegian Film Institute)

The events in 1852 are also linked to the closing of the border between Finland (then Russia) and Norway which had a momentous impact on the traditional migration routes of Sami reindeer husbandry in the region, the effects of which are still being seen today. 

You can watch a trailer of the Kautokeino Rebellion here. The film is in Sami, Norwegian and Swedish, presumably with English subtitles to come in the near future.

You can watch the internationally renowned Mari Boine’s song and video for the movie here, which also features a good number of those reindeer..

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