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With the Lapps in the High Mountains

A Woman among the Sami, 1907–1908

Emilie Demant Hatt; Edited and translated by Barbara Sjoholm; Foreword by Hugh Beach

Publication Year: 2013

With the Lapps in the High Mountains is an entrancing true account, a classic of travel literature, and a work that deserves wider recognition as an early contribution to ethnographic writing. Published in 1913 and available here in its first English translation, it is the narrative of Emilie Demant Hatt's nine-month stay in the tent of a Sami family in northern Sweden in 1907–8 and her participation in a dramatic reindeer migration over snow-packed mountains to Norway with another Sami community in 1908. A single woman in her thirties, Demant Hatt immersed herself in the Sami language and culture. She writes vividly of daily life, women's work, children's play, and the care of reindeer herds in Lapland a century ago.
            While still an art student in Copenhagen in 1904, Demant Hatt had taken a vacation trip to northern Sweden, where she chanced to meet Sami wolf hunter Johan Turi. His dream of writing a book about his people sparked her interest in the culture, and she began to study the Sami language at the University of Copenhagen. Though not formally trained as an ethnographer, she had an eye for detail. The journals, photographs, sketches, and paintings she made during her travels with the Sami enriched her eventual book, and in With the Lapps in the High Mountains she memorably portrays people, dogs, reindeer, and the beauty of the landscape above the Arctic Circle. This English-language edition also includes photographs by Demant Hatt, an introduction by translator Barbara Sjoholm, and a foreword by Hugh Beach, author of A Year in Lapland: Guest of the Reindeer Herders.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

No one wishing to know anything about the Sami reindeer herding people of northern Fennoscandia can fail to encounter the name of Emilie Demant Hatt, a name forever associated with that of Johan Turi and his book Muitalus sámiid birra. Muitalus appeared in English in 1931 as Turi’s Book of Lappland, the first book by a Sami author, ...

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pp. xi-xii

Thanks are due the following people for help with the translation and my research on Emilie Demant Hatt’s life and work over the years: in Denmark, Lis Bruselius, Mette Dyrberg of the Skive Art Museum, John Fellow, and Rolf Gilberg and Jesper Kurt-Nielsen of the National Museum of Denmark’s Ethnographic Collection; ...

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pp. xiii-xxxvi

In the summer of 1908, a small item appeared in a newspaper in Tromsø, Norway, under the title “A Danish Lapp-Lady.” A Miss Demant was to be found not far from town in Tromsdalen—a valley that served as a summer home for the Sami pastoralists who followed their reindeer herds in an annual migration from Sweden. ...

Translator’s Notes

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pp. xxxvii-xl

With the Lapps in the High Mountains

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pp. 3-9

June 8, and there’s snow everywhere! That means experiencing spring twice this year. At home in Denmark, in Jutland, the fjords already wore their summer colors, and when I traveled through the moors between Viborg and Langå on the night of May 28, the dark hills lay breathing in the white night, ...

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pp. 9-13

The evening after, all the other tents moved from Kattuvuoma to Laimo. It was a large community, or siida, but spaced out.6 When families stayed together, the groups made up two or three tents. It grew lively when the others arrived, for they had cows and goats with them. ...

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pp. 13-18

Now it grew quiet in the camp with the men and boys away and some of the young girls too; in other words, all the reindeer herders. Only the housewives, children, and old people stayed behind. The women quickly took up the various summer tasks, and they had a great deal to do. ...

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pp. 18-23

Not until July was the tent moved to a more sheltered spot. You had to be prepared well in advance for the autumn storms. In particular, everyone built a hedge of birch trees around their tent, a couple of meters off, a sort of fence of trunks and branches almost as tall as the tent itself. ...

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pp. 23-28

I was sewing my Lapp-style clothes and on Saturday was going to try part of my dress on, but that couldn’t happen in the tent, where you could be disturbed at any moment by visitors. So Inga decided we should go up to the forest. There, up on a flat boulder, the fitting took place with great hilarity. ...

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pp. 28-31

The Lapps often had errands at the storehouses in Kattuvuoma, and when there was good weather, the young people gladly kept one another company. Once, returning home, we filled two boats. Things grew lively on the lake in the still, light evening. The long elegant boats left a frothing wake as they raced each other—one boat oared by girls, ...

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pp. 31-35

In August the Lapps have quite an important task; they collect “shoehay” to use during the year. For stuffing their shoes they use very long sedge grass that grows in certain places. Whole small expeditions are equipped for this purpose, which for the most part consist of girls. They carry a sack of food and some bedclothes, so they can be away for a few days. ...

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pp. 35-42

On a clear and sunny October day we left Kattuvuoma in a caravan of sixteen heavily laden reindeer in three separate strings. The path that others had traveled before us went over moors and marshes eastward toward the mountains. The reindeer plodded heavily but steadily; their burdens were a little too much for them. ...

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pp. 42-59

Now that autumn had begun in earnest and all summer pastimes eliminated, conversations and the whole of life turned solely on the reindeer. The subject can never be exhausted; it’s the only thing that totally interests the Lapps. A visitor they’d been in contact with—even if he were the king himself—pales in memory ...

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pp. 59-64

While we were camped on Puollamåive’s south side, the isit, or the siida’s foreman, together with a couple of others, skied to Kattuvuoma to pick up some sleds that were needed. No siida moves before the siida’s foreman decides it should happen. He also decides where to set up camp and attends to the siida’s interests, both internal and external. ...


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pp. 65-78

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pp. 79-91

For us, home in the tent, life went on as usual. Comforts grew fewer, as the darkness and cold increased. The moon shone in the middle of the day, the northern lights flickered, and everything froze between your fingers. The knife at your belt froze fast in its sheath, and if you wanted to eat with a knife ...

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pp. 91-97

It’s not very comfortable to trek in stark cold or other bad weather. The Lapps avoid it as much as possible, but ten or fifteen degrees below zero isn’t reckoned as much, and when the reindeer herd has grazed up a place, the Lapps must move on. Regarding “grazing up,” that doesn’t mean all the lichen is eaten up, ...

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pp. 97-106

Toward December, when we had the tents in the vicinity of Tavanjunje, there began to be much talk of Ándenbeaivi (Saint Andrew’s Day) and meassoáige (market time) in Čohkkerasas ( Jukkasjärvi). The Lapps were accustomed to travel there to carry out their annual spiritual and worldly business, there being a Lapp market at the same time. ...

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pp. 106-111

The time before Christmas went quickly; dark and cold, the days slipped by, without an hour’s worth of boredom. The cold sharply intensified and reached its lowest degree on Christmas Eve. The herd was closely watched, since wolves had come quite near. ...

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pp. 111-116

The extreme cold lasted over Christmas and kept everyone except the reindeer herders partially idle. All there was during these days was work with the migrations, wood chopping, daily cooking, and, for those who had small children, careful child-minding. No one could keep up with any sort of handiwork. ...

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pp. 116-137

By happy accident, in March my wish to go to Karesuando was fulfilled. This was around Márjjábeaivi, Mary’s Day (March 22), the great Lapp fair. In Karesuando during the holiday I met many Lapps and wanted to go with them on their spring migration into Norway, which would soon begin. ...

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pp. 137-142

Early in the morning the Lapps began to get ready for the last move, from Kåbmejaure. A departure with pack reindeer is always more colorful and more troublesome than when you travel with sleds; these are already packed, and you only have to harness the reindeer. ...

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pp. 143-154

It’s summer, hot, trembling summer. The sun glints and sparkles like little bolts of lightning on all the glossy leaves and blades of grass; the brook behind the tents is gilt-edged with buttercups. You can’t imagine the pleasure of walking on soft turf after long months of only having snow, ice, and stones under your feet. ...


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pp. 155-162

Further Reading about the Sami and Sápmi

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pp. 163-219

E-ISBN-13: 9780299292331
E-ISBN-10: 0299292339
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299292348
Print-ISBN-10: 0299292347

Page Count: 203
Illustrations: 15 b/w photos, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2013