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Les Finno-ougriens et la nature

Plant knowledge among the remaining Pite Saami (Bidumsámegiella) speakers in Swedish Sápmi

La connaissance des plantes par les derniers locuteurs du same de Pite (Bidumsámegiella) dans le Sápmi suédois
Växtkunskaper bland kvarvarande talare av pitesamiska (bidumsámegiella) i svenska Sápmi
Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton et Ingvar Svanberg
p. 63-85

Résumés

Cet article traite d’ethnobotanique linguistique parmi les locuteurs restants du same de Pite. De nos jours, seuls 20 à 40 personnes parlent la langue. La fréquence des catégories dans le lexique de la flore est proportionnelle à la part des phytonymes et des termes en rapport avec les plantes les plus accessibles au lexique et à la mémoire des locuteurs. Le lexique est dominé par les termes relatifs aux arbres, qui ont été les plus simples à se remémorer de la part de tous les locuteurs, de même que leurs utilisations. Les plantes sont périphériques, dans certains cas seul un locuteur interviewé s’est souvenu de leurs noms. Aucun des informateurs n’a pu se rappeler de l’usage médical des plantes à fleurs ou des herbes.

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Texte intégral

We express our deep gratitude to the interviewed speakers Ester Ranberg, Elsy Rankvist, Tage Rankvist, Tora Larsson, Karl Einar Enarsson, Valborg Sjaggo and Nils-Henrik Bengtsson for sharing their knowledge about plants, trees, lichens, and other organisms. We are also very grateful to language consultant and Pite Saami speaker Mr. Peter Steggo (Jåhkåmåhkke/Jokkmokk) for all the help he provided during the fieldwork. Deborah’s fieldwork was made possible due to a generous grant from the network Fieldwork in Anthropology and Linguistics (FAL).

Introduction

  • 1 Nolan, 2007, p. v.
  • 2 Rensund, 1986.
  • 3 Anderson, 2000.

1The study of the complex interrelationship between people and plants is the scientific aim of ethnobotanists. How people understand the environment and its biota poses important questions for us.1 “Keep in mind that it is the ancient Saami who guide us here, through the grazing lands and migration routes. It is probably so that most of today’s reindeer herders have never heard of these old names and have never understood the severity and accuracy with which our fathers followed and separated the grazing areas with different kinds of names and expressions”.2 So writes the reindeer herder and author Lars Rensund from Semisjaur in Arjeplog (Pite Saami Árjepluovve). Deep knowledge of the landscape and its living organisms was an important component for the subsistence of Saami hunters, fishermen, and herders well into recent times.3

  • 4 Svanberg & Ståhlberg, 2020.
  • 5 Singh, 2008.
  • 6 Nolan & Turner, 2011.

2This knowledge is embedded in the language. Local names given, for instance, to plants and plant parts by Saami and other indigenous peoples in their local vernaculars often reflect a broad spectrum of information about their understanding of the environment and its biota.4 Most often, the local names given are based on some salient features such as appearance, shape, size, habit, habitat, smell, taste, colour, utility, and other peculiar characteristics of plants.5 To record the linguistic expression of all plants in a specific context is something more than just documenting the utilisation of a few plants. It provides a deeper insight into the plant knowledge of a sociocultural group.6

  • 7 Kolosova, Jernigan & Belichenko, 2021.
  • 8 Hunn & Brown, 2011.
  • 9 Lévi-Strauss, 1962, p. 3-15.

3These phytonyms and plant-related terms are now fast disappearing along with the traditions of the specific ethno-linguistic groups in the circumpolar areas.7 Therefore, it is important to record, to preserve, and to document this specific biocultural heritage before it is lost forever. For ethnobotanical research, recording phytonyms and flora-related terms is essential because it gives us deep insights in the local ecological knowledge and cognitive reality.8 Emic names for plants and plant parts form a fundamental part for our understanding of a specific group’s close relationship to the landscape.9 Therefore, the choice to document the disappearing phytonyms and flora-related terms of the Pite Saami felt like a meaningful and crucial task.

  • 10 Qvigstad, 1901.
  • 11 Svanberg, 2004.
  • 12 Bergman, Östlund & Zackrisson, 2004; Rautio, 2014; Magnani, 2016.

4Saami phytonyms were already gathered by Carl Linnaeus in 1732 (about 30 names, mostly in Lule Saami) and published in his Flora Lapponica in 1737. In 1901, Norwegian linguist Just Qvigstad compiled a list of Saami phytonyms from all Saami languages using every known source at that time. He reported eight plant names of Pite Saami origin.10 There is so far no comprehensive ethnobotanical study made from any defined cultural, geographical, and linguistic context and published. The senior author published a small list of North Sami phytonyms in 2004.11 However, there are some ethnobotanical studies that limited themselves to the utilisation of plants as food and medicine.12

Aims, Sources, and Method

5The aims of this paper are to: 1) present some plant names and flora-related terms recently recorded in Pite Saami—from contemporary speakers; 2) investigate some socio-linguistic predictors potentially endangering or negatively affecting the survival of some flora-related lexes in the vocabulary of speakers.

  • 13 Ruong, 1943.
  • 14 Halasz, 1896; Wilbur, 2016.

6Thanks to the documentation and research efforts of different actors during the twentieth century, such as Joshua Wilbur (2014, 2016), Lars Rensund (1986), Carl Johansson (1989), Juhani Lehtiranta (1992), Israel Ruong (1943), Torsten Kolmodin (1914), Eliel Lagercrantz (1926), Edvin Brännström (2017), Justus Qvigstad (1928), Ignác Halász (1896) and Sigrid Drake (1918), we have at our disposal a substantial body of data regarding phytonyms, plant knowledge, and utilisation of plants from the Pite Saami. For instance, Professor Israel Ruong, a native speaker brought up in a Pite Saami environment, gives penetrating perspectives on his relatives relationship to the landscape and its resources,13 while especially Ignác Halász and, more recently, Joshua Wilbur have published dictionaries which also contain phytonyms and plant-related terms.14 Wilbur’s dictionary is mostly based on the results of the project “Collection of Pite Saami Words” (Insamling av pitesamiska ord), carried out by a group of Pite Saami speakers, which included folk botanical data and phytonyms.

  • 15 Lundqvist, 2013.

7There are also recorded, unpublished data of great interest kept at the Institute for Language and Folklore in Uppsala, which remains to be analysed. Data on folk botany, ecological knowledge, oral traditions, toponyms, and various aspects of daily life have been documented through these records.15

8However, our research is mainly based on two field trips carried out by Deborah in September and December 2021. The phytonyms and plant-related terms were gathered through semi-structured interviews with eight speakers (one was interviewed over the phone). Since different speakers remembered different words during the documentation sessions, all the collected words were later gathered in one document and sent back to them. They were then asked to confirm if they also recognized the words given by the rest of speakers.

9Questions that were used during the documentation included childhood memories of picking, preparing, and using plants; games or children’s activities including plants or trees; which plants and trees were present in daily life; memories of adults making remedies from plants when someone got ill; what lichens the reindeer ate, etc. These questions worked well as stimuli for recalling names and uses of plants and trees for food; tool making (as in the case of fishing net sinkers made of birch bark); extraction of tar; furnishing as in preparing the floor of the gåhte (Saami tent); for clothing (hay for shoes and gloves) and others. The overall objectives during the study were to examine: 1) what plant names remain in the vocabulary of Pite Saami-spears to date; 2) morphological and semantic analysis of complex plant name forms; and 3) what sociolinguistic predictors exist for their preservation vs. absence.

A Critically Endangered Saami language

  • 16 Sapir, 2021.
  • 17 Jahr, 1996.

10Pite Saami (bidusámegiella) is one of the five Saami languages spoken in contemporary Sweden. Several of these languages are endangered. The Pite Saami is critically endangered according to UNESCO’s Language Vitality Scale, with approximately 20-40 speakers left.16 In the current paradigm of high language death rates globally, it is the sociolinguist’s duty to serve language communities in the documentation and preservation of their languages.17

Figure 1—Linguistic and ethnobotanical documentation in action.

Figure 1—Linguistic and ethnobotanical documentation in action.

In the photo: the recording equipment used for the interviews, the last standing flowers of the Nordic autumn brought to be identified, and of course some pastry to share during the documentation sessions.

Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, September 2021.

  • 18 Ejven & Myrvoll, 2015.

11Pite Saami has traditionally been spoken in what is known as Pite Lappmark in Sweden, covering the territory along the Pite River (Bidumedno) and Skellefte River (Seldutiedno). The Pite Saami area is concentrated mainly around Arjeplog municipality on the Swedish side, where Arjeplog constitutes the central location and where the Pite Saami still today remains as a spoken language, even if there are very few speakers and it is used in limited domains. On the Norwegian side of the border, important Pite Saami places are Beiarn, Misvaer, Saltfjell/Lonsdalen, and Sulitelma, although the language is not spoken there anymore.18 Today, there are some Pite Saami speakers living in Arjeplog municipality, while others have moved to different places in Sweden, such as Jokkmokk, Luleå, Piteå, and Umeå. During encounters with speakers, most of them referred to their own language as just “samiska” (Saami). In 2019, the Sámi parliaments of Sweden and Norway approved an official Pite Saami orthography.

Figure 2—Ester Ranberg, 94 years old, one of the oldest Pite Saami speakers, enjoying a documentation session. Arjeplog, Sweden.

Figure 2—Ester Ranberg, 94 years old, one of the oldest Pite Saami speakers, enjoying a documentation session. Arjeplog, Sweden.

Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, September 2021.

  • 19 Wilbur, 2014.
  • 20 Valijärvi & Wilbur, 2011, p. 302.
  • 21 Moseley, 2010.

12Pite Saami is linguistically most similar to Lule Saami and Ume Saami (the bulk of the vocabulary is the same and only some suffixes are different). It belongs to the northern group of the western Saami languages, all of which are part of the Uralic language family.19 Speakers use the language within their close family and between relatives. It is also used in connection with reindeer herding, hunting, and fishing, although Swedish language is also used within these contexts.20 The native speakers do not use the language daily, partly due to the lack of fellow speakers they can talk to. Furthermore, very few children (three confirmed by speakers) are learning the language today, since the youngest native speakers belong to the elderly generation (grandparents) and did not pass on the language to their children. This coincides with the criterion of UNESCO for critical endangered languages: “the youngest speakers are grandparents and older and they speak the language partially and infrequently”.21

Figure 3—Swedish Pite Saami district on Anders Bure’s map of the Nordic countries, Orbis arctoi nova et accurate delineation, from 1626.

Figure 3—Swedish Pite Saami district on Anders Bure’s map of the Nordic countries, Orbis arctoi nova et accurate delineation, from 1626.

The two largest lakes are Hornavan and Storavan in the Skellefte River. The tents symbolise the four historic Saami communities of the Pite Saami district: Luokta, Semisjaur, Arvidsjaur, and Lais.

  • 22 See Harrison, 2007.
  • 23 Jahr, 1996, p. 255.

13Language loss is an issue affecting people all over the globe,22 “it calls for action, first from committed linguists, but then—eventually and hopefully—from the international community at large”.23 The same motivations are also important for ethnobotanists.

Pite Sami ethnobotany

14Israel Ruong gives an illustrative description of the importance of the plant life in his childhood:

  • 24 Ruong, 1943, p. 165-166.

We also used to mix mountain angelica [påskå, Angelica] in the reindeer milk. We had a good friend among the sedentary Lapps in Sweden, whom we asked to gather some angelica for us and cook it ready until we came back from the summer pastures; all the plants had long ago withered, when we returned to the autumn quarters. You have to gather the angelica before the flower bud [påskån-åive] opens and the stem [påskå] starts to become overripe and hard [takta]. The stem and flower bud were cut into pieces and boiled in a little water. The broth was then poured away and the angelica [kress] was put into wooden kegs. The mixture of milk and angelica was called krasse-mälke. It was made from equal parts of milk and angelica; yes, if you had plenty of milk, the milk content was increased [takaimäh melkusubbon]. We also boiled juomo [sorrel, Rumex acetosa L.] and mixed it into the milk, but almost only in the summer up in the high mountains, and we never used to save juomo milk over the winter, as we did with the angelica mixture; namely, it did not want to hold, but easily went mouldy.24

  • 25 Drake, 1918, p. 152-153; Fjellström, 1964 & Svanberg, 2002.

15Numerous folk botanical terms can be found in Drake, 1918, where the Pite Saami words are marked with the abbreviation Arj. Three phytonyms are recorded in this source, specifying if they were or were not eaten in Pite Lappmark. They are järja, Cicerbita alpina (L.) Wallr., påskå, Angelica archangelica L., and atja grasse, Aconitum septentrionale Koelle. Drake’s records are mainly taken from an early nineteenth century manuscript by Reverend Jonas A. Nenzen (1791-1881). The first two species were eaten by the Pite Saami.25

  • 26 Rautio, Axelsson Linkowski & Östlund, 2016.
  • 27 Svanberg, 2005.
  • 28 For further examples, see Aldana Shelton, 2022.

16Flowers and flowering plants were otherwise the least mentioned and known category among the interviewed speakers, except for Angelica archangelica, which has been of great importance as a food plant among the Saami.26 As has been noted elsewhere, despite the fact that flowering plants are highly visible in the Saami landscape, the Saami nevertheless mostly gave names to the plants that were used as food, medicine, or materials, or plants that were important fodder for reindeer and goats.27 Only 20 flowering plants were mentioned by the interviewees, among them äbbro for Oxyria digyna (L.) Hill, vuolpok for Alchemilla vulgaris L., njouhtso for Menyanthes trifoliata L., gájjtsagålle for Chamaenerion angustifolium (L.) Scop., etc.28

17In addition, a contemporary interviewee remembered how plants were used in her childhood:

When [my sister] and I were little, we went on a picnic. And we went and we had a small coffee pot—if you think about that little coffee pot over there—but it was made of copper. Then we picked crowberries, and then we boiled them in the forest and made cordial of it, and drank as coffee. And my mother always used to say: “Remember when you are out and make fire, make sure you put it out!”. We made fire in such a place where the fire would not spread easily. We were small but we listened, and we did as the older ones said.

  • 29 Aldana Shelton, 2022.

18A few examples of plant use were gathered during the fieldwork in 2021.29

19Harvest seasons of plants are the following in Pite Saami:

Table 1

Pite Saami English
Gámasuäjdneájjge Season to harvest shoe hay
Njalatájjge Harvest of birch bark during the sap harvesting time in the spring
Slájjo/Sládjo Hay harvesting season
Suobetájjge Sap season

Recording the phytonyms

  • 30 Martin, 1995, p. 206.

20As ethnobotanist Gary J. Martin30 writes, when researching folk botanical knowledge, one “should also seek to understand the meaning of the plant names and other terms used to describe the natural environment”. This is important to avoid misunderstandings when documenting in a language not spoken by the fieldworker, as in the case of the present study, and to be sure each form is properly transcribed.

  • 31 Hällzon, Ståhlberg & Svanberg, 2019.
  • 32 Martin, 1995.

21A deeper understanding of the forms is also important for the extraction of plant names from older sources where the words are phonetically transcribed or written using a very different spelling.31 Knowing the morphological composition of the field documented forms has been helpful when identifying and interpreting forms found in older sources. Martin32 also mentions the value of “seeking assistance from a native speaker who is fluent in a major non-indigenous language” in the process. Many complex forms have been discussed with speaker and language consultant Peter Steggo, who possesses a broad syntactic and historical knowledge of the language and who provided important information and sources for the comprehension, spelling, and meaning of several forms. Given the low number of Pite Saami speakers, collaboration and consultation with Steggo was an essential part of the morphological and semantic analysis.

22Morpho-semantic analysis of folk nomenclature facilitates the access to deeper investigations into folk classification systems and taxonomic patterns, and only through it can ethnobotanical knowledge coded in the forms be revealed, as in the cases of guoksakrásse (verbatim translated “Siberian jay grass”), which is Rhododendron tomentosum (Stokes) Harmaja; gerunlassta (verbatim translated “rock ptarmigan leaf”), which is Salix herbacea L. and gieganjuolla (verbatim translated “cuckoo arrow”), which is Eriophorum angustifolium Honck.

Tree-related names

Figure 4—Speaker Tage Rankvist showing a dry trunk of gaskas, Juniperus communis. Luleå, Sweden.

Figure 4—Speaker Tage Rankvist showing a dry trunk of gaskas, Juniperus communis. Luleå, Sweden.

Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, September 2021.

23Folk botanical knowledge is not only about phytonyms of species, but our study also indicates that the nomenclature can be more complex, something that ethnobotanists must pay attention to as well. The botanical nomenclature can arrive from a diverse set of criteria, such as habitat, use, and the different life stages of plants. The words ruotka for “dry spruce”, sårrve for “dry pine” and bissuk for “tall thin young birch tree” are illustrative examples. The collected data shows a rich terminology, where trees stand undoubtedly as the main characters of the vegetation. Terms referring to trees, their life stages, parts, and objects derived from trees predominate in the flora vocabulary.

  • 33 Drake, 1918, p. 68-132.

24Taxonomies are clearly bound to the uses of trees. The rich ethnographical literature and the present data shows that Saami people got most of their raw material from trees: birch, pine, and spruce.33 Wood, bark, and roots of trees have offered material for construction, utensils, fuel, hunting, tools, medicine, dyeing, and rope making. The different parts and life stages of trees were important to distinguish since they were used in diverse ways and for different purposes. An illustrative example is the many lexical items surrounding Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris L. (see table 2).

Table 2

Pite Saami (Nom. Singular) English
Ássnagiera Dry top of a pine
Biehtse Pine tree
Biehtsegásse Pine resin
Biehtsegiera Top of a pine
Biehtseguolban Pine heaths rich in lichen,
excellent winter grazing land
Biehtsegåhttse Pine needle
Biehtseguolma Pine forest
Biehsenállo Pine needle
Biehtsevuobme Pine forest
Biŋal Compression wood of pine
Guolban Flat pine heath
Guolmas A pine tree’s white inner bark
Gåljåg-biethse-iednam Pine forest where lichen is scarce
Hajjkamuorra Big pine
Jillgis lánnda Pine heaths rich in lichen; excellent winter grazing land
Lahpodis biehtselánnda Pine forest where lichen is scarce
Lahppos biehtseidednam Area with pine forest rich in lichen, e.g., certain mountain areas, valleys, etc.
Lahppos biehtselánnda Area with pine forest rich in lichen, e.g., certain mountain areas, valleys, etc.
Suhkkis bietsástak //Suhkkis iednam biehtselánnda Area with dense pine forest
Sullgis elánnda/Suugisiehtseidednam/Njárbes Area with sparse pine forest
Suosnoj Dry pine from which the bark has not yet fallen off
Susstu/Suossto Partially dried-out pine tree
Suässnot Dry, rotten pine
Sårvve Dry pine
Säđitj/Säritj / Säditj Young pine
Tjåsskå Log of felled pine tree
  • 34 Cf. Rautio, Axelsson Linkowski & Östlund, 2016.

25The rich terminology connected with the pine indicates its importance in the cognitive reality and the economy of the traditional Pite Saami society.34 Compression wood, biŋal, of pine was for instance used to make skis. The bark of sällja, Salix caprea L., was boiled in order to dye leather with. The shrub gerunlassta, Salix herbacea L., was used as fuel when making coffee in the mountains.

Berries, Grass, and Shoe Hay

26Grass-like plants, such as sedges, Carex sp., different kind of hay, and berries were, after the trees, the botanical categories most present in the Pite Saami speakers’ vocabularies and among the first to be mentioned during the documenting sessions. Twenty-one terms for berries were collected.

Figure 5—Speaker Karl Einar Enarsson showing ropes, gájdno, made of birch roots, Umeå Sweden.

Figure 5—Speaker Karl Einar Enarsson showing ropes, gájdno, made of birch roots, Umeå Sweden.

Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, September 2021.

27Many of the berries mentioned by the interviewees were edible and could be harvested.

Table 3

Pite Saami Scientific name
Áhkarmuärrje Rubus arcticus L.
Ávvtjamuärrje Prunus padus L.
Blávvamuärrje Juniperus communis L.
Gahpermuärrje Rubus idaeus L.
Gájjtsamuärrje Rubus saxatilis L.
Gárranasamuärrje Arctostaphylos uva-ursi L. verbatim
translated “raven berry”
Hállon / Hállona Rubus idaeus L. (Swedish loanword)
Hiestamuärrja Vaccinium uliginosum L. verbatim
translated “horse berry”
Jågŋå Vaccinium vitis-idaeus L.
Jäggemuärrje Vaccinium oxycoccos L. verbatim
translated “marsh berry”
Järre Ribes sp.
Láddak Rubus chamaemorus L.
Rávnamuärrje Sorbus aucuparia L.
Ruppsismuärrje Ribes rubrum L.
Sarre Vaccinium myrtillus L.
Tjuobmá Empetrum hermaphroditum (LangeBöcher 
Tjähppismuärrje Ribes nigrum L.
Vuarrtjamuärrje Empetrum hermaphroditum (LangeBöcher 

28Further berry-related terms are reported in Aldana Shelton, 2022.

29For grass and hay, 20 terms were collected, including four verbs.

Table 4

Pite Saami English
Billgá Harvested shoe hay, before it has been braided. Shoe hay that one has just cut and knotted.
Båldne Tuft of grass
Gámasuäjdne Shoe hay
Gisstásuäjdne Hay for gloves
Gäddesuäjdne Hay from meadow
Hähkaldit (verb) To process shoe hay, beat shoe
as against something hard
Jäggesuädne Marsh hay (different kind of sedges)
Sidno Grass
Slájjojägge/Sládjojägge Mow fen, marsh with hay for harvesting
Snuvvto Bundle of shoe hay
Stárro Sedge hay (Carex)
Suäjdne Hay
Suäjdnebillgá Braid made of shoe hay
Suäjderåhto Place for harvesting shoe hay
Tjåhkot (verb) To comb shoe hay
Várregrásse/Várrerásse Alpine grass
Dällistit (verb) To quickly stuff shoe hay into shoes
Dällit (verb) To pack shoe hay in shoes
  • 35 Johansson, 1989, p. 112-114.

30For a full description of the gathering and preparing of shoe hay, see Johansson, 1989.35 Further recorded names for grass and grass-like plants were ulloåjvve for common cottonsedge, Eriophorum angustifolium Honck and sidno for moor matgrass, Nardus stricta L.

Lichen and fungi

  • 36 Nissen, 1921.

31Nissen36 shows what extensive and intricate terminology the reindeer-herding Saami once had about lichens. There has been a highly developed lichen taxonomy which stands in strong contrast to the Nordic peasantry’s folk knowledge of these organisms. Among our interviewees, the lichens were not easily remembered. Only a few samples were collected.

Table 5

Pite Saami English
Gadna Crustose lichen on rocks and tree trunks
Gärrgevisste Parmelia saxatilis (L.) Ach. verbatim
translation “stone lichen”
Lahppo/Slahppo Usnea filipendula Stirt
Sarvavisste Cetraria islandica (L.) Ach.
Visste/Båtsojvisste Cladonia rangiferina (L.) Weber
  • 37 Qvigstad, 1893, p. 311.

32Very few names for fungi were recorded. They had not been regarded as edible by the Saami. Guobbar was mushrooms in general. For puffball (Lycoperdon) átjábåjjgå was recorded. Some brackets have been used for technical purposes, like the birch bracket, Fomitopsis betulina (Bull.) B.K.Cui, M.L.Han & Y.C.Dai, which is called tjadná. For the tinder fungus, Fomes fomentarius (L. Fr.), J.Kickx, Just Qvigstad37 recorded the name sváhppa. We have recorded the word guohpa for “mould”.

Devolution of plant knowledge

  • 38 Poncet, Schunko, Vogl et al., 2015.

33In the present article, the factors leading to the current state of the plant nomenclature vocabulary of Pite Saami speakers are discussed. Different socio-historical aspects have led to the reality that most speakers had difficulties remembering the names of many plants. The exact number of forms that are present vs. absent in the vocabularies remains unknown until all speakers confirm all the recorded terms. It is also worth mentioning that the disappearance of the phytonyms and plant-related terms is not unique for linguistic minorities but is an ongoing global trend imposed by various factors, including migration from rural to urban areas and lifestyles not depending on local resources. Language loss leads to unfamiliarity with plant nomenclature and to the loss of the ecological knowledge bound to them, which is also described as devolution of knowledge.38

34Trees were the category most present in speakers’ vocabularies, followed by shrubs, grass-like plants, berries, and lichen. Fungi and flowering plants were the categories most difficult to recall for all speakers.

  • 39 Wilbur, 2014, p. 6.

35Five of the interviewed Pite Saami speakers were born in a rural context. The families lived by farming, fishing, and hunting in villages of two or three households, in what is known as “roadless land” in Swedish; that is, in places with no road connections. Three of the speakers grew up in herding families, moving to different places throughout the year according to the needs of reindeer husbandry. As Wilbur39 observed:

Traditionally, most Pite Saami families lived either as semi-nomadic reindeer herders or as sedentary farmers, fishers, and hunters. Despite having always been in contact, these two groups lived very different lifestyles, and spoke Saami in relative isolation from one another.

Figure 6—Tage Rankvist showing a fishing net sinker, gippta, wrapped in birch bark.

Figure 6—Tage Rankvist showing a fishing net sinker, gippta, wrapped in birch bark.

Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, November 2021.

  • 40 Valijärvi & Wilbur, 2011.
  • 41 Jahr, 1996, p. 256.

36All the speakers, except one, were older than 65 years old, which means that most of them belong to the generations of Saami children that were forced to leave their homes at the age of 6-7 years old, to receive a Swedish education in a boarding school or in one of the so-called nomad schools. Consequently, from that early age, they were at home with their families only for three months a year approximately. The rest of the time, while living in the school environment, they were not allowed to speak Pite Saami. After graduating from elementary school, most speakers went on with their studies somewhere far from home. Thus, the majority of them were not exposed to the language on a daily basis from the age of 6-7 years. Due to the nomad school system, many Saami children lost their language.40 Another reason for language loss is that many speakers married non-Saami and did not pass on the language to their children. Shame and stigma are other reasons for not passing on the language. This is a global pattern when it comes to minority languages in nation states that have actively tried to assimilate them. Jahr41 concludes: “This development is part of a much larger process of loss of cultural and intellectual diversity in which politically dominant languages and cultures simply overwhelm indigenous local languages and cultures”.

Conclusion

37Wild plant folk nomenclature in Pite Saami is part of Sápmi’s rich patrimony of linguistic diversity and ecological knowledge. The main purpose of this study has been to document the Pite Saami flora lexicon (phytonyms and plant-related terms), interviewing speakers and analysing sources. The resulting flora lexicon contains 287 forms and can be seen as the first step in the process of preservation and hopefully revitalisation of the linguistic and ecological knowledge it contains. As a general conclusion, it can be said that the frequency of categories in the flora lexicon is proportional to the section of phytonyms and plant-related terms that were most available in the speakers’ vocabularies and memory. Terms surrounding trees dominate the lexicon, and they have been the easiest to remember for all speakers, as well as their uses. Trees have been important in the economy of the Saami (skis, construction of buildings, tool-making, etc.). Flowering plants are peripheral, some plants being remembered by only one interviewed speaker. None of the interviewed speakers could remember any medical uses of flowering plants or herbs. As for edible plants, Rumex acetosa, Oxyria digyna, and Angelica archangelica have been the ones most mentioned by speakers. Picking and preparing these plants as food is still a common practice.

Ethics

38We followed the ethical guidelines prescribed by the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE Code of Ethic 2006). Field materials were gathered and published with the written consent of the interlocutors.

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Bibliographie

Aldana Shelton Deborah Aleia, 2022, The Pite Sámi Flora Lexicon: Morphology and Sociolinguistic Aspects, Department of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University.

Anderson Myrdene, 2000, “Sámi Children and Traditional Knowledge” in Svanberg I. & Tunón H. (eds.), Ecological Knowledge of the North, Swedish Biodiversity Centre, Uppsala, p. 55-66.

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Notes

1 Nolan, 2007, p. v.

2 Rensund, 1986.

3 Anderson, 2000.

4 Svanberg & Ståhlberg, 2020.

5 Singh, 2008.

6 Nolan & Turner, 2011.

7 Kolosova, Jernigan & Belichenko, 2021.

8 Hunn & Brown, 2011.

9 Lévi-Strauss, 1962, p. 3-15.

10 Qvigstad, 1901.

11 Svanberg, 2004.

12 Bergman, Östlund & Zackrisson, 2004; Rautio, 2014; Magnani, 2016.

13 Ruong, 1943.

14 Halasz, 1896; Wilbur, 2016.

15 Lundqvist, 2013.

16 Sapir, 2021.

17 Jahr, 1996.

18 Ejven & Myrvoll, 2015.

19 Wilbur, 2014.

20 Valijärvi & Wilbur, 2011, p. 302.

21 Moseley, 2010.

22 See Harrison, 2007.

23 Jahr, 1996, p. 255.

24 Ruong, 1943, p. 165-166.

25 Drake, 1918, p. 152-153; Fjellström, 1964 & Svanberg, 2002.

26 Rautio, Axelsson Linkowski & Östlund, 2016.

27 Svanberg, 2005.

28 For further examples, see Aldana Shelton, 2022.

29 Aldana Shelton, 2022.

30 Martin, 1995, p. 206.

31 Hällzon, Ståhlberg & Svanberg, 2019.

32 Martin, 1995.

33 Drake, 1918, p. 68-132.

34 Cf. Rautio, Axelsson Linkowski & Östlund, 2016.

35 Johansson, 1989, p. 112-114.

36 Nissen, 1921.

37 Qvigstad, 1893, p. 311.

38 Poncet, Schunko, Vogl et al., 2015.

39 Wilbur, 2014, p. 6.

40 Valijärvi & Wilbur, 2011.

41 Jahr, 1996, p. 256.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1—Linguistic and ethnobotanical documentation in action.
Légende In the photo: the recording equipment used for the interviews, the last standing flowers of the Nordic autumn brought to be identified, and of course some pastry to share during the documentation sessions.
Crédits Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, September 2021.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/efo/docannexe/image/21668/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 850k
Titre Figure 2—Ester Ranberg, 94 years old, one of the oldest Pite Saami speakers, enjoying a documentation session. Arjeplog, Sweden.
Crédits Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, September 2021.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/efo/docannexe/image/21668/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 850k
Titre Figure 3—Swedish Pite Saami district on Anders Bure’s map of the Nordic countries, Orbis arctoi nova et accurate delineation, from 1626.
Légende The two largest lakes are Hornavan and Storavan in the Skellefte River. The tents symbolise the four historic Saami communities of the Pite Saami district: Luokta, Semisjaur, Arvidsjaur, and Lais.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/efo/docannexe/image/21668/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 621k
Titre Figure 4—Speaker Tage Rankvist showing a dry trunk of gaskas, Juniperus communis. Luleå, Sweden.
Crédits Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, September 2021.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/efo/docannexe/image/21668/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 3,1M
Titre Figure 5—Speaker Karl Einar Enarsson showing ropes, gájdno, made of birch roots, Umeå Sweden.
Crédits Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, September 2021.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/efo/docannexe/image/21668/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 889k
Titre Figure 6—Tage Rankvist showing a fishing net sinker, gippta, wrapped in birch bark.
Crédits Photo by Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton, November 2021.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/efo/docannexe/image/21668/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 1,2M
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton et Ingvar Svanberg, « Plant knowledge among the remaining Pite Saami (Bidumsámegiella) speakers in Swedish Sápmi »Études finno-ougriennes, 54 | 2022, 63-85.

Référence électronique

Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton et Ingvar Svanberg, « Plant knowledge among the remaining Pite Saami (Bidumsámegiella) speakers in Swedish Sápmi »Études finno-ougriennes [En ligne], 54 | 2022, mis en ligne le 07 décembre 2023, consulté le 19 mai 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/efo/21668 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/efo.21668

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Auteurs

Deborah Aleia Aldana Shelton

Department of Linguistic and Philology, Uppsala University

Ingvar Svanberg

Institute for Russian and Eurasian Research, Uppsala University

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