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Finnmark 2007 Diary » Blog Archive » Rangna Isaaks

Rangna Isaaks


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We met Rangna Isaaks, a Sea Sámi lady of 83. She’s got 4 children, 13 grandchildren, and so far only 17 greatgrandchildren, and she wants to die with her boots on. “Know what I mean?” she asked us. “No Old Age Pensioner’s home, no Alzheimers, no armchair in front of the TV wearing nappies and stinking of piss.” She’s half blind but is willing to sell us the socks she’s just finished making, but only after she’s mangled them through the washing machine so they feel like felt, for our reindeer boots. Six when her mother died, ten when her father departed, she started work at 12 years old, for a railway worker’s family. When there was no food on the table she took the children, pushed the boat out, and fished until they caught their dinner. “Never had reindeer”. She and her husband survived by fishing but “I’m still a true Sámi”, she said grinning through her wrinkles at Ellen-Anne our young translator (who does have reindeer).

The Germans set fire to her home town of Kirkenes during the 2nd World War, as they retreated before the Russians, “but I couldn’t go down to the bomb shelter so we left on foot for the mountains!” She and her husband lived and survived by fishing, and she fought her evil half-sister (who’d denied her the education she been promised) and the rest of Norwegian society who looked down on her indigenous background. Her children were shy to be proud of being Sámi, as she put it for us, but the grandchildren KNEW she was right. “And I’ve always been ahead of my time,” she told Tom Frode. “Look at the bags I made 15 years ago for the sledges! The most modern design that you’ve only just reinvented yourselves.” Tom nods his head. “She’s right!” he grins. “I should have been a boy,” she sighs, “but there were a few bits missing. God had none in the store that day, but he said to me, Rangna, you can be anything you want. And do you know fellows, I was. And still am! Come to my 100th birthday party if you’re still alive. It’s on the Norwegian National Holiday!” She showed us her baskets and quilts, and we went back at dawn the next day for our socks, and yes, they’re clearly the best.

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