University of Oulu

Harlin, E.-K. (2019). Sámi Archaeology and the Fear of Political Involvement: Finnish Archaeologists’ Perspectives on Ethnicity and the Repatriation of Sámi Cultural Heritage. Archaeologies, 15(2), 254–284.

Sámi archaeology and the fear of political involvement : Finnish archaeologists’ perspectives on ethnicity and the repatriation of Sámi cultural heritage

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Author: Harlin, Eeva-Kristiina1
Organizations: 1Giellagas Institute, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-09-11


In recent years, there have been remarkable developments in the repatriation of Sámi ethnographic objects in Finland. The repatriation of large archaeological collections excavated from Sápmi, the homeland of the Sámi people (the only indigenous people in the European Union), however, has not been discussed. Based on thirteen interviews, this article examines Finnish archaeologists’ views on the repatriation of the Sámi cultural heritage. The research shows that there is suspicion or wariness towards questions of ethnicity in Finnish archaeology and a fear of political involvement, which makes the matter of repatriation an uncomfortable issue. Nonetheless, the practices of doing research in Sápmi or studying Sámi materials are changing as a result of the Sámi gradually taking a stronger role and engaging in and governing research in Finland, too, especially with the stronger role, through the Sámi parliament and the Sámi Museum, in the administration of archaeological heritage in Sápmi.

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Series: Archaeologies
ISSN: 1555-8622
ISSN-E: 1935-3987
ISSN-L: 1555-8622
Volume: 12
Issue: 2
Pages: 254 - 284
DOI: 10.1007/s11759-019-09366-7
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
616 Other humanities
520 Other social sciences
Funding: Open access funding provided by University of Oulu including Oulu University Hospital. Funding was provided by Suomen Akatemia (Grant No. 243018021), Vetenskapsrådet (Grant No. 421-2013-1917).
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.