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Finnmark 2007 Diary » Blog Archive » Home to Johan Turi

Home to Johan Turi


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Date: April 4th Time: 20.30pm
Air temp: minus 4
Snow temp: minus 5
Lat: 68 degrees, 17, 24 N Long: 19 degrees, 15, 44 E

Today we travelled from beneath Cokcu (the Holy Mountain) to Lahtteluokta, where, at the beginning of the 20th century Johan Turi lived and wrote the first book ever written by a Sami. My grandfather was one of those who helped him get it published, and about one hundred years ago they made a journey together through parts of Sapmi where Turi showed the famous physician, “ real things that should be known by all people”. Here on the great lake of Torneträsk, we found his cabin, thanks to a string of neighbours who helped us locate the site. Turi was and is a hero for the Sami. As Marja, our young guide says, “ He was a great man who opened a view about Sami people, and gave their eyes to the world.” Her uncle, Ola Påve, a wily, witty herder to whom we listened half the night, and again this morning, put it as beautifully but differently; “He was the first to tell the stories properly, so we can be understood, because the Sami are a story-telling people:” Turi was a teller of tales old and new, of the Sami legends, of Sami practises on medicine, reindeer herding lore (still used by modern herders like Ola), of the spirits, and Shamen. He told and drew his stories too, and his drawings are famous now. He was also a hunter, herder, and himself a Shaman, in the tradition which still holds good today, of those who do not speak of their skills but merely use them.

Our day started in a white-out, and we had doubts as to the possibility of travelling at all. At 12.45pm Tom-Frode made his decision and we set off into a swirling maelstrom. After an hour we started our descent into the Taiga (more birch and small pine trees), the wind dropped, and patches of blue sky unfurled above us. We were grateful for the cabin Tom-Frode found us for the night, thanks to friends up for the Easter week, having been promised only a tent in the violent conditions prevailing. We then moved into the hills above Torneträsk on our search. A tipsy herder, Lars Mikel Svuoni (here he is) gave us the final clue, and the team let me run down to the old shack just above what must have been old Johan Turi’s Lavvu. (photo) I peered in through the windows to see a neat old-fashioned kitchen area, with a basket of birch wood waiting for the next fire to be lit. Without this old man, and my grandfather’s admiration for him, our journey today would not have been made…and my eldest son would never have been christened so oddly…so here this diary entry comes – with admiration and love – for an old man, and for Turi Benjamin…

Johan Turi’s cabin where he wrote Turi’s Book of Lapland.

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Lars Mikel Svuoni, who gave us the last clue as to Turi’s whereabouts, and then sang us his Joik on lost and found reindeer.

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A wolf’s footprint, close to our sledges, following the trail of a herd of reindeer.

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