My anthropology professor approached me a few months ago to inform me about this internship opportunity. At the time, I had no idea what Digital Humanities was or how it worked. While the idea of learning to program and putting together a digital project is daunting, I am excited to do in depth research on a topic that matters to me.
With my family originally coming from Sweden and Peru, I have always been interested in the histories of these nations. However, when one thinks of Peru, one immediately thinks of Machu Picchu and the Incas, as well as to indigenous traditions and culture. Thinking of Sweden on the other hand, it is easy to discount the importance of indigenous culture and how the modernization of Scandinavia has affected their lives and influenced their native culture and habitat. Across the world, indigenous peoples have been affected by industrialization and even environmentalist movements. Seen as a part of nature or as even less than human, indigenous peoples have struggled to maintain authority over their own landscapes and ways of life over the push from national governments to develop the land or even preserve it as national parks. From a national perspective, it may seem like the right course to take, but doing so oppresses and manipulates the ways in which indigenous peoples get to live their lives.
While the Sami People now have more authority in Scandinavia then they have in the past, their landscape is changing. Efforts to preserve the forests in the arctic and to find alternative sources of energy (both valid and important efforts) have had an impact on the ability of Sami to hunt and raise their reindeer. Originally, my research question was focused on how conservation efforts have affected the land available to the Sami and to look into how the government perceives these people and their community. Now, as I have had time to think, my question is adapting. While I was in Stockholm visiting my family over spring break, my aunt asked me about the application I had sent in for this internship. When I mentioned that I was curious as to how conservation and arctic development has impacted the Sami community, she pointed out that her summer home was located in a Sami community—far from where they are originally considered to be from in the Arctic Circle. I know that Sami people in the past were forced to integrate with Swedish “modern” society (learning the language, going to Swedish schools, etc), but how do the Sami associate themselves with Sweden today? What are their motives for migration and how has that changed over time? This is a broad question that must be narrowed down, but I hope to outline how different Sami communities across Sweden have developed and how they interact with their areas. I want to look into different factors that have influenced Sami migration and by looking into the different communities that have formed, see how they have both maintained and adapted their tradition.
By doing this research, I hope to expose the importance of indigenous communities and their treatment. The removal of authority and legitimacy from indigenous peoples is a problem that exists across the world. Here in the United States Native Americans at Standing Rock, North Dakota have struggled and fought to maintain their mother—their home. In my Culture and the Environment Class, I watched a documentary about how the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, Canada, has been removed access from a lake that is rightfully theirs. Yet, through it all, these people persist, and I wish to humanize them in ways that many people are unable to understand. These communities are strong and determined, even if their ways of life are perceived as inferior by others.
I am planning on using GIS to do digital mapping in order to display Sami migration in Sweden. I want to mark various Sami communities across the nation and describe the interaction with other people in the area as well as how they got to be where they are. This will not be a simple task. My question must be narrowed down and refined in order to achieve my goal in the six weeks that I have. Furthermore, I am unsure of how I will conduct my research. I am currently looking into different Swedish census websites and I plan to look at government documents as well, but I am not sure how consistent or informational my data will be in terms of what I am looking for. But overall, I am confident that this project will have the potential to create an impact. I am excited to get the opportunity to use Digital Humanities to portray my research. Digital Humanities gives me the ability to share on a wider scale than I could have ever imagined.