The Three Burials of Aslak Hætta and Mons Somby

Repatriation Narratives and Ritual Performances

in Museum Worlds
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ABSTRACT

The backdrop for the events discussed in this article is the Kautokeino rebellion in 1852, a violent uprising wherein a group of indigenous Sámi attacked and killed representatives of the local Norwegian authorities. This led to death sentences for two Sámi men who participated in the uprising. While their bodies were buried outside the local church, their decapitated heads were sent away, became objects of research, and ended up in scientific collections. Tracing the intricate movements of these skulls, as well as subsequent indigenous struggles for their repatriation and reburial, the focus here is on the ceremonies arranged in the course of these actions. The ceremonies depart from different narratives and myths connected to these historical events. Contextualization is important to understand how a multitude of different interests and strategies are invested, resulting in different understandings and interpretations in these contemporary ceremonies of repatriation and reburial.

Contributor Notes

STEIN R. MATHISEN is Professor of Culture Research at the Department of Tourism and Northern Studies, UiT The Arctic University of Norway in Alta, where he teaches heritage tourism and researches questions of heritage politics and ethnopolitics. Other major research interests include folk medicine and folk belief, the role of folk narratives in the constitution of identity and ethnicity, and the history of cultural research in the Arctic. His current research focuses on the use of traditional culture, beliefs, and narratives in the contexts of museums, festivals, and tourism. He has published several articles and edited on these subjects. E-mail: stein.r.mathisen@uit.no

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