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Doctoral thesis2018Open access

A land of one’s own : Sami resource use in Sweden’s boreal landscape under autonomous governance

Norstedt, Gudrun


The Sami dominated large parts of boreal Sweden well into the 18th century, and knowledge of Sami subsistence patterns is therefore a key to the region’s forest history. Although much research has been done on Sami resource use and landscape impact, the context is often vaguely understood. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to a deeper understanding of Sami land use through studies of resource division, use and management. The focus is on the period from the late 1600s to the late 1800s, a period of declining but still existing autonomous Sami resource governance. Various historical and modern sources have been analysed with an array of methods from different academic disciplines. The results show that the forest Sami’s landscape was almost entirely divided into taxlands in the 17th century and that most lands were held by a single Sami household which controlled the land’s resources. Fishing was the main subsistence mode, although it was combined with hunting, reindeer herding and plant gathering in different proportions. Taxlands were most likely created to divide lakes and rivers. Most of the year, households moved between permanent settlements close to fishing sites, and their settlement pattern is best described as semisedentary. Since each household was in control of its own taxland, resources could be used flexibly. In winter, surplus pastures and hunting grounds were leased to reindeer-herding mountain Sami. During the 18th century, the forest Sami increasingly focused more on reindeer herding and less on fish. Summer movements were now performed between settlements installed to meet the needs of the reindeer, but the settlement pattern remained semisedentary. Fences were built in strategic places to control the movements of both own and foreign reindeer. Remains of former Sami resource use are often difficult to detect. Data collected with airborne laser scanning (ALS) can be used to map several kinds of remains, provided that the data is processed in an optimising way as shown in the thesis. In short, the thesis describes former forest Sami resource use as flexible and subject to change, and presents new methods to map cultural remains with maximum coverage.


airborne laser scanning, archaeology, boreal forest, dendrochronology, forest history, historical maps, interdisciplinary research, lidar, Sami, settlement patterns

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2018, number: 2018:30
ISBN: 978-91-7760-200-2, eISBN: 978-91-7760-201-9
Publisher: Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

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