My family is Sámi on my mother’s side. My grandfather Algot is from the old Sámi family Pokka. The Pokka family was believed to be great jewelry makers back in the days, which I find very interesting as several of our family members are still working with Sámi handcraft, duodji. Algot’s nomadic mother Maria grew up herding 300 reindeer living in roadless mountains and forests in Northern Sweden above the arctic circle. Maria and most of the Pokka family later settled down in the quiet and roadless Juoksuvaara (part of the Sámi district Ängeså sameby). Juoksuvaara was a village of only 7 houses hidden in a thick forest and most people here were our family. Juoksuvaara was a very unique mixture of Sámi, reindeer herding, small sized farming, and forest work. All combined in one tiny place. They spoke Sámi, Sámi, and Finnish (Meänkieli). Maria married Hjalmar Jönsson and they had 7 children, where Algot being the youngest born in 1922. My grandfather loved living this simple life in harmony with nature and far away from civilization. He tells me all these amazing stories about their simpler way of living and all the adventures he went on. Algot and his aunt Selma Pokka helped each other to care of the reindeer herd, about 35 reindeer at the time. They used them for both forest work, farming, meat, leather, and milk. The Pokkas were also known to make delicious reindeer cheese. Algot had his own pet reindeer called Jakob that he was very found of. My grandfather tells me stories of skiing behind the reindeer, riding on them, and driving them to pull heavy loads in the forest. They basically used their reindeer like other farmers would use draft horses as the reindeer is very agile on snow.
My grandfather was pulled away from reindeer farming and had to leave his home in Juoksovaara in the late 1940s. New restricted reindeer herding legislation made it hard for our Pokka family to keep their reindeer a few years prior, and Algot needed to start providing for his wife and new born, my grandmother and my uncle. It was tough to live life in the reindeer farming industry as these new laws made it more difficult as well as the industrialization and colonization started to take place. In the 1960s almost everyone had left the small village, and many moved to Narken. This is where my grandfather decided to build the cabin that we still have today, and we spend as much time as we possible can there. The Sámi people’s situation worsened when their land and culture were being threatened by forest industry, mining and colonization. The forest industry began clear cutting, and installing hydroelectric dams, constructing highways and railroads. Also the fact that people kept moving into the areas where reindeer used to roam freely. Despite all the hardships, we still have reindeer herding in our Pokka family today which we are very proud of, and my grandfather ket working with duodji (Sámi handcraft) throughout his whole life. My mom’s cousin Sixten Keisu live of reindeer farming and Sámi handcraft in Pyhäjärvi (in Korju Sameby). Read more about Sixten here (https://sixtenkeisu.wordpress.com). Sixten is also a big inspiration for me and he has taught me a lot about Sámi culture and Sámi handcraft. I’m forever thankful for Sixten, my aunt Lisbeth, and my grandfather for teaching me everything that I know about making duodji, Sámi jewelry designs, and for always being very supportive and inspirational to me.
Blessing from Sixten Keisu
“I’m very proud of Anna. She is a very talented jewelry maker and make beautiful pieces. And even most importantly, she has her heart in the right place”