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The Sami revolt in Guovdageaidnu, also known as the Kautokeino Uprising, was a revolt in the town of Kautokeino in northern Norway in 1852 by a group of Sami who attacked representatives of the Norwegian authorities. The rebels killed the local merchant and sheriff, whipped their servants and the village priest, and burned down the merchant's house. The rebels were later seized by other Sami, during which two of the rebels were killed. Later, two leaders, Mons Somby and Aslak Hætta were executed by the Norwegian government.



The background for this incident was connected to a religious revival movement which was inspired by the preacher Lars Levi Læstadius. His teaching had great influence on the Sami in Norway at the time, which demanded a more spiritually pure lifestyle and abandoning liquor and other alcohol. The movement turned more militant as their followers, called Læstadians, saw the Norwegian State Church as too close to the government, alcohol industry. They formed their own congregations separate from the State Church. Their meetings were, according to contemporary sources, highly charismatic, emotional, and appealed to their feelings. In a short period of time, a minority of these followers became more militant; they believing their moral authority was greater than that of the State Church; They were later accused of interrupting these Church services.

During this time, the Sami were economically far poorer than their Norwegian neighbors, counting wealth in reindeer or other livestock (rather than currency) and were considered socially inferior to the Norwegians. The local merchant, who sold the local Sami liquor, was a target for the rebellion for his widespread cheating and exploitation of Sami customers, many of whom were vulnerable alcoholics. Alcoholism was common - and had been highly destructive to the Sami and Sami culture during this time. The Laestadians were against the sale and use of liquor. But preaching outside of the Church - both physically and spiritually, was also illegal at the time. Thus, the Sami were at odds not only with the priest and merchant - but Norwegian law as well.


All the men arrested for participating in the revolt, except the two leaders Aslak Hætta[1] and Mons Somby[2] (who were beheaded in Alta) ended up in Akershus Fortress at Oslo; - the women were imprisoned in Trondheim.

Many of the rebels died after a few years in captivity.[3][4][5][6][7]

Among the survivors was Lars Hætta[8] (18 years at the time of imprisonment), who during his stay was allowed time and means to write the first translation of the Bible into North Sámi.[9]

The Kautokeino rebellion is one of the few violent reactions from the Sami against the exploitation policies enforced by the Norwegian government and was the only known confrontation between the Sami and Norwegian with loss of human lives. The rebellion was not a direct response to the forced assimilation policy of Norwegianization, that will become an official government policy later, but the 1852 rebellion had an impact on the choices made by the new Norwegian state as this policy was implemented. Norway had yet to develop enough cultural self-esteem to assimilate the Sami into ethnic Norwegians, as they themselves were struggling to find their own identity during this time, compared with Danes and Swedes.

However, Norwegianization would greatly intensify after the Dissolution of the Union between Norway and Sweden in 1905. This policy would continue until the Alta controversy in the early 1980s and was not fully eliminated until the 1990s.

See also



  • NRK Radio interview Niillas Somby, ancestor of Mons Somby November 13, 2008. Retrieved February 18, 2009. [1].
  • Kautokeino-opprøret: Kautokeino 1852, April 17, 1997. Retrieved February 21, 2009. [2]
This article incorporates information from the revision as of 2007-12-29 of the equivalent article on the Norwegian Nynorsk Wikipedia.


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