Kautokeino-opprøret (The Kautokeino Rebellion) (2008)




Director:     Nils Gaup. 

Starring:     Anni-Kristiina Juuso (Elen Skum),  Aslat Mahtte Gaup (Mathis Hætta),   Mikkel Gaup (Aslak Hætta),   Nils Peder Gaup (Mons Somby),   Mikael Persbrandt (Carl Johan Ruth),   Bjørn Sundquist (Niels Vibe Stockfleth),   Sverre Porsanger (Ruth's assistant),  Peter Andersson (Lars Johan Bucht),   Michael Nyqvist (Lars Levi Laestadius),   Jørgen Langhelle (Halmboe).

 Sami revolt in Guovdageaidnu, Norway 1852



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 


Good movie.  But I found it a bit-misleading.  The movie made my wife and I think that this film was going to be like a western, a Clint Eastwood revenge type of film.  In revenge films, the bad guys come into town and then start taking the town over to be used, abused and run by the bad guys. Then Clint comes in and kills and/or throws the bad guys out of town.  But it didn't happen that way and we felt a bit cheated.  The reason for this misunderstanding is that the film said nothing about the legal rules in Norway.   In fact, at the time, Norway had a state religion and you could be punished for many, varied "offenses" of the Lutheran state religion and its pastors.  Moreover, in the 1800s Norway started the process of acculturation of the Sami people.

Given the character of Norway's laws and its stress on acculturation it is no wonder that there would be troubles between "soldiers and Indians".  The Sami people were being abused and pushed around by the Norwegians (like the USA and its Indians).  And Norway could have been less heavy-handed to the native peoples.  Something probably could have been worked out.  (But, for instance, that never happened in the USA until the Indians were completely beaten down.)

The actual situation in Norway was not a group of bad guys taking over a town, but representatives of the Norwegian law and government coming to town and applying Norwegian laws to the Sami people.  The most radical followers of the teachings of pastor Lars Levi Læstadius pushed very hard to resist the establishment of Norwegian ways on their own religion and way of life.  This is much like the situation in the USA where the most radical of the chiefs and braves pushed for active resistance to the Americans of the USA.  It didn't work out very well for the Indians. 

Originally, not knowing much of anything about the Sami people, I thought the hero played by Clint Eastwood would come to the rescue.  One reason for this is that in the film the government people were so nasty and corrupt, and never explained even the nature of Norway and its people, culture and laws. 

But I gather the writers and director of the film accomplished their goal.  To exaggerate the badness of the government people and praise the radical Sami group opposing them.  But, I for one, found this a mis-direction.

Like in the USA, two ways of life and culture came clashing together.  Many tribes decided to fight the whites in the USA,  but many others did not fight, like the Shoshone.  These clashes are tragic because today we think things could have been handled different.  In the USA sometimes things turned out very ugly and sometimes things turned out not so bad.  It seems it's much easier for humans to make war on each other than try to work things out.  War is still going on in many places of the world even today with out United Nations. 

The first part of the movie was very good.  It kept our interest and made our blood-pressure go up, but there was no catharsis (no Clint Eastwood) to relieve the stress.  So in the end the film is a bit of a downer.  I still recommend it, however, especially the first part.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


The Sami revolt in Guovdageaidnu, also known as the Kautokeino uprising.


Guovdageaiduu is a municipality in Finnmark county, Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the village of Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino.


In Norway at the time there was an instituted state religion, the Lutheran faith.   Those who disrespected the church or a pastor, or who rejected the Lutheran faith altogether ,could be punished by the law.  There was also a close connection between the liquor industry and the state, along with the state religion. 

The Sami people, also spelled Sámi or Saami, are the Arctic indigenous people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway.  Their traditional languages are the ten distinct Sami languages and are classified as a branch of the Uralic language family.

the Sami have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding. Their best-known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding, with which about 10% of the Sami are connected and 2,800 Tctively involved on a full-time basis.

The Sami were economically far poorer than the Norwegian settlers in the northern Norway, counting wealth in reindeer or other livestock (rather than currency), and were considered socially inferior to the Norwegians.


c. 1500  --  the Sami started to tame these animals into herding groups, becoming the well-known reindeer nomads, often portrayed by outsiders as following the archetypal Sami lifestyle.  The Mountain Sami  had to pay taxes to three nation-states, Norway, Sweden and Russia, as they crossed the borders of each of the respective countries following the annual reindeer migrations, which caused much resentment over the years.

19th century  --  Norwegian authorities put the Sami culture under pressure to make the Norwegian language and culture universal. A strong economic development of the north also took place, giving Norwegian culture and language status. This sets the stage for conflict between the Samis and the Norwegians. 

1837  --  Kistrand was the name of the municipality Porsanger from 1837 to January 1, 1964. In 1837 Kistrand municipality encompassed the contemporary municipalities Porsanger, Nordkapp, Kautokeino and Karasjok.

mid-1840s  --  Lars Levi Læstadius (January 10, 1800 - February 21, 1861) was a Swedish Lutheran pastor of partly Sami ancestry. He became the leader of the religious revival movement known as the Laestadian movement. In addition, he was an author, teetotaller and botanist.  This movement swept into the Sami communities in Norway, as well as Sweden.  The faith demanded a more spiritually pure lifestyle and abstaining from alcohol.

Some within Laestadianism believe that the movement is a contemporary descendant of an unbroken line of living Christianity via the Moravian Church, Luther, the Bohemian Brethren, the Lollards,and the Waldensians all the way back to the primitive Church. Martin Luther, Jan Hus, John Wycliffe and Peter Waldo are also seen as spiritual ancestors of Laestadianism.

In Norway the movement turned more militant as their followers began to see the Norwegian State Church as too close to the state-run alcohol industry. They formed their own congregations separate from the state church. Their meetings were, according to contemporary sources, highly charismatic and emotional and appealed to feelings. In a short period of time, a minority of these followers became more militant. They believed their moral authority was greater than that of the state church, and they were later accused of interrupting its services.

1851  --  up to this time, the municipality was part of the old Kistrand municipality.  After this date, the municipality is the village of Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino.


1852  --  the most extreme group of the Sami in terms of religion. those in Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino, attacked representatives of the Norwegian authorities. The rebels killed the local merchant and the local government official, whipped their servants and the village priest, and burned down the merchant's house.

The local merchant, who sold the local Sami liquor, was a target for the rebellion due to his repeated cheating and exploitation of Sami customers, many of whom were vulnerable alcoholics. Alcoholism was widespread and had been highly destructive to the Sami and their culture during this time. The Laestadians were against the sale and use of liquor. But preaching outside of the state church - both physically and spiritually - was also illegal at the time. Thus, the Sami were at odds not only with the local priest and merchant but also Norwegian law.

The rebels were later seized by other Sami, who killed two of the rebels in the process. Two of the leaders, Mons Somby and Aslak Hætta, were later executed by the Norwegian government.  They were beheaded. 

All the other men arrested for participating in the revolt ended up in Akershus Fortress at Oslo. The women, including Ellen Jacobsdatter Hætta, were imprisoned in Trondheim.

Many of the rebels died after a few years in captivity.

Among the survivors was Lars Hætta, who had been 18 years at the time of imprisonment. He was given the time and means in jail to make the first translation of the Bible into North Sámi.

The Kautokeino rebellion was one of the few violent reactions by the Sami against the exploitation policies of the Norwegian government and was the only known confrontation between Samis and Norwegians with loss of human lives.


1900-1940  --  the strongest pressure is now put on the Sami in Norway when Norway invested considerable money and effort to wipe out Sami culture.




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