KARASJOK (VG) A Sami drum that was confiscated after the witchcraft trials in 1692 has created a riot between Norway’s indigenous people and Denmark. Now the Sami Parliament is asking Queen Margrethe for help.
– This is unworthy. Should we beg and smile like kind girls to keep our own cultural objects, asks Sami Parliament President Aili Keskitalo.
She has asked the Danish queen for help to keep the Sami cultural treasure in Sápmi which was confiscated by the Danes after a bestial ax murder in 1692.
Since 1979, the rare Sami drum from the 17th century has been kept on loan to RiddoDuottarMuseat, the Sami museum in Karasjok. On 1 December, the loan agreement with the Danish National Museum expires.
Keskitalo has sent a letter to the Danish queen asking her to get involved in returning the valuable drum.
This spring, the Sami Museum in Karasjok sent and demands to Denmark to formally take over ownership of the drum.
The answer has not been forthcoming, and when the end date of the lending agreement approaches by leaps and bounds, the president of the Sami Parliament hopes that the Queen of Denmark can take responsibility for the drum – which has belonged to the Danish royal family’s art collection – being returned to the same.
– We have very few drums left in the same ownership, and this concrete drum has great significance for our cultural history. It is horrible that Sami can hardly see our own cultural objects, without going to Germany, Denmark or London, says Keskitalo.
The newspaper iFinnmark has also mentioned battle over the drum.
The core of the dispute stretches back several hundred years, and is about a Sami, ritual drum. Sami drums were supposed to have “Magic” force, and was used in Sami rituals.
The drum in question was taken from the Sami shaman Anders Poulsson in 1692. He was arrested for possession of the drum as part of the witchcraft proceedings, in which Sami men in particular were exposed.
In interrogation, Poulsson stated that he used the drum to provide happiness for reindeer herding and relieve pain. The drum was confiscated and sent to the Danish king’s art chamber in Copenhagen.
Judge Niels Knag dealt with the case against the Sami Shaman. The magistrate believed that the cases were about “wickedness” and “devil art”, and wanted to set an “abominable example”. Before a verdict was handed down, it should be worthwhile to come of age in Copenhagen. In the indictment, it was stated that the shaman had “Practice the Evil and Wicked Magic”.
But before Poulsson received the verdict, he was killed in his bed with an ax of a servant boy who thought the shaman was a wizard. The murder happened while Poulsson was still in custody.
Both the museum director and the president of the Sami Parliament think that what makes the drum unique is how much of its history and origins are known. The case is referred to as the most well-documented witchcraft case in Norwegian history.
When VG visits the museum, the Sami drum lies under a woolen blanket in a separate climate stand in the magazine, where it is shielded from light and other external influences that can damage the over 300-year-old Sami cultural treasure.
Discussion between the museums
The museum director at RiddoDuottarMuseat says the loan agreement in 2016 was extended by five years.
– On the phone with the National Museum’s employees, it was explained that there was a desire to complement the collection of drums belonging to home in Denmark. Then I was quite “pissed”, because the drum is already at home, says Olli.
Since then, the director and the museum have been working to have the ownership of the drum formally transferred to Sápmi.
On several occasions, the Danish museum has mentioned that they want to return the drum to Denmark, something that may become a theme in both 2007 and 2011 according to written documentation between those to the museums that VG has had access to.
Letter to the Queen
In 1849, the drum was moved from the king’s art chamber to the Danish National Museum – where it had been until 1979, when it was loaned to the Sami Museum in Karasjok. And it is because of the history of the Danish royal family with the drum, that the Sami Parliament has now sent a letter to the Queen of Denmark.
– It is to speed up this case, and with a hope that the Queen of Denmark can act as a conscience for the Danish state in this case. In addition, I have a drum of royal history, as it was sent to the Danish king in 1692, and she had part of the Danish royal art chamber at the museum, says Keskitalo.
The President of the Sami Parliament also shows that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which both Denmark and Norway have ratified, and believes that they give them the right to own the drum themselves.
– The drum was taken by force. It was neither sold nor exchanged when it was sent to Denmark. We now demand that the ownership be transferred to us, where it rightfully belongs, says Keskiltao.
The killer case
The Danish National Museum is familiar with the Sami Parliament’s struggle to preserve the drum. Christian Sune Pedersen, head of research at the Danish Museum, says that they are now considering the claim for repatriation of the drum.
«The drum has been lent to the museum in Karasjok since 1979. According to the National Museum’s current lending procedure, we can offer loans for up to two to five years, and these loans can be extended. As we have received a request for repatriation of the drum, it will quiet and lending request pending. This is not a recall of the drum.
Repatriation cases take significantly longer to decide than lending cases, e.g. because they must be decided by the Danish Minister of Culture. We are in the process and hope for a final clarification to ours.
The National Museum is proud of the history of the drum and the significance it has for the Sami people, and this entry into the museum’s considerations. »
VG has also been in contact with the Danish royal family, which has referred to the National Museum for a statement on the matter.
– They can take it by force
Keskitalo resigns as president when a new Sami Parliament takes office in a few weeks. She had a hope that the matter would be clear before she resigned. She says that the Sami Parliament would like to go to Denmark and take the Danish museum and the royal house because they have preserved and taken care of the drum for several hundred years – if they get back the ownership.
If not, there will still be no talk of sending the drum back to Denmark.
– They get done as they did, that they could be picked up in 1692. They get here and take it by force, Keskitalo says.
Olli votes in:
– Yes, it’s me now who has the keys to the museum. So they can only come to pick it up, but then they will come to locked doors, she says wisely.