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Research article2014Peer reviewedOpen access

Exploring Pre-Colonial Resource Control of Individual Sami Households

Norstedt, Gudrun; Axelsson, Anna-Lena; Östlund, Lars


In order to understand the use and control of resources by indigenous households and bands, information on territorial division is crucial. However, although indigenous resource use has been quantified in several studies, such information has usually been lacking. A unique map provides this kind of information for the Swedish Sami. Drawn by Jonas Persson Gedda in 1671, before the Swedish state started to interfere with Sami territorial division, it shows the borders of 37 household territories. We have combined the geographical information from Gedda's map with historical sources and modern land survey data to quantify the resources controlled by each household and relate them to taxation. Three crucial resources are identified: alpine heath together with subalpine birch forest, pine-dominated forests, and fishing waters. Only the fishing resource showed any correlation to taxation, which underlines its importance as the main subsistence mode, at least for the forest Sami. Mountain Sami, who lived primarily on reindeer husbandry, controlled abundant alpine heath and subalpine birch forests that were used as summer pastures, but virtually no pine-dominated forests with winter pastures. The necessary winter pastures were located in the territories of the forest Sami, who controlled extensive pine-dominated forests and who were able to combine reindeer herding and wild reindeer hunting.


northern Sweden; Sami; land use; historical maps; archival sources; 17th century; taxation; reindeer herding; reindeer hunting; fishing

Published in

2014, Volume: 67, number: 2, pages: 223-237 Publisher: ARCTIC INST N AMER