cover image The Rocks Will Echo Our Sorrow: The Forced Displacement of the Northern Sámi

The Rocks Will Echo Our Sorrow: The Forced Displacement of the Northern Sámi

Elin Anna Labba, trans. from the Swedish by Fiona Graham. Univ. of Minnesota, $22.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-517-91330-4

Sámi journalist Labba makes the trauma of the forced removal of her people from northern Norway and Sweden both palpable and painful in this profound debut history. For centuries, Scandinavian countries recognized the fishing, hunting, and reindeer herding rights of the Indigenous Sámi, who had “lived since time immemorial from the land, in a borderless region” of northern Scandinavia. After Norway became independent in the early 20th century, however, the government wanted the Sámi homeland for settlement by Norwegian citizens. Norway reached an arrangement with Sweden, and in 1919 Sweden began forcibly moving Sámi people to the south. Labba’s own family refused to discuss the past, sparking both her curiosity about her people’s history and the realization that reticence was a common response (“Where I grew up is full of people who have bound their wounds with silence”). Her tranquil prose and sleek fusing of various sources—poetry, joiks (traditional Sámi vocal music), interviews with elders, and government archives—mirror via their meditative stillness the silences imposed by collective dispossession, including history’s long erasure of this crime (as one interviewee implores: “Just put that in your book, will you? Our story. It’s all true”). This is a powerful testament to an Indigenous people’s perseverance and to the monstrosity of forced displacement. Photos. Agent: Catherine Mörk, Norstedts Agency. (Apr.)