'Reindeer in my Saami Heart' is an inspiring documentary about the life and poetry of Inghilda Tapio, one of the last generation of Indigenous children to be born into a nomadic Saami reindeer herding family in Sweden's Arctic Circle. She is now inspirational poet and community activist. Inghilda is a member of Sweden’s own ‘stolen generation’, where nomadic children were forced by the Swedish government to attend residential boarding schools in northern towns after the Second World War, as part of an attempted policy of cultural 'assimilation'. At the age of seven Inghilda was removed from her teepee home, reindeer herds and Saami parents for months at a time, isolated and confused by the difficult Swedish language, intimidated by unfamiliar boarding school buildings and foreign customs. Despite these challenges, Inghilda continued on to university to become a poet, performer, and champion of her Northern Saami language and culture, and lives most of the year in Karesuando, on the border between Sweden and Finland, over two hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Her extended family continues its herding practices, despite challenges from Sweden’s hydroelectric industry and multinational mining companies, whose activities disrupt the ancient migratory pathways of the reindeer herds. The Saami, one of Europe’s last Indigenous cultures, and an ethnic minority in Sweden, are regaining their voice to fight for independence for their culture and traditional lands, which they refer to as Saapmi, but which the rest of the world refers to as Lapland. This visually innovative documentary by award-winning documentary maker Janet Merewether blends English and Saami languages to present Inghilda’s life and evocative poetry in a cinematic style, and will be engaging for festival, indigenous, student and broader television audiences around the world.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
‘Reindeer in my Saami Heart’ will contribute to the worldwide dialogue about the treatment of Indigenous peoples, and the impact of western and colonial government policies, as well as religious institutions, on traditional herding cultures. Specific issues such as the impact of damming, hydroelectric power generation, mining and climate change in Sweden on the activities of contemporary Saami reindeer herders will be considered in the film. The documentary will analyse the impact of harsh ‘assimilation’ and Christianization policies on the Saami in the past, which may help to engage audiences familiar with similar Indigenous policies in North America and Australia.This film will be relevant in the fields of:Education – for primary, secondary and tertiary students studying a wide range of subjects including literature, history, media, anthropology, Indigenous cultures, arts, human societies and the environment.Indigenous Health – This film hopes to provide a pathway to healing for those who suffered due to government residential boarding school policies in Nordic countries and elsewhere.History – This documentary will bring an awareness of Saami culture, history and language to a broad audience of all ages.Social Justice – This documentary highlights human rights, dignity, and the preservation of minority and Indigenous languages.Youth – the documentary will provide information about Saami culture and language, and will help to promote pride and self-awareness within the Saami community itself.Arts & Literature - poetry, preservation of language and Indigenous arts.Environment – the relationship between herding cultures and the environment, and the study of sustainable living.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
Filmed in English and Saami this documentary will explore a subject that is both specific and universal – the forcible placement of nomadic Indigenous peoples into townships and residential boarding schools in the post-war period, and the attempted destruction by Church and State of cultures by the restriction of the use of language and traditional lifestyles. The impact of the documentary will be measured through festival and broadcast screenings, the integration of the documentary into educational curricula in primary, secondary and tertiary levels, downloads of study materials and discussion of the work on activist sites and blogs. I intend to launch the documentary with Inghilda Tapio in her Saami community, to celebrate the strength of their culture and talent of their writers who have been able to preserve their language and cultural heritage. We hope to have a launch in Saapmi at the Skábmagovat – Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival, which takes place in Inari on 26-29 of January 2017, the week before the Saami celebrate 100 years of political activism on their National Day on February 6th 2017. Reindeer in my Saami Heart is in both English and Northern Saami, which will increase knowledge of these issues beyond Sweden, and alert international audiences to the specific cultural and political struggles Tapio’s community has endured and continues to face. This film may also be of use to Saami communities currently struggling against British and Australian mining companies within Sweden. The World Premiere in Sydney at the Volvo International Film Festival, and the International Launch of the film at the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History in New York will also provide opportunities to discuss a way forward for the Saami.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
‘Reindeer in My Saami Heart’ will be released with a downloadable ATOM study guide. This, along with a website, will extend audience accessibility, and will provide a valuable complementary resource, particularly to international audiences. A digital study guide will be designed to get the most out of ‘Reindeer in My Saami Heart’. It will contain information, exercises and activities that promote positive reflection on the themes of the film, and stimulate a conversation about the Saami language, culture and community today and in previous times. Images and illustrations to teach basic Northern Saami words to students is planned for this education package. Video extras highlighting specific cultural practices and language, and an archive photo-essay, will be prepared as DVD and Blu-ray extras, in order to broaden market appeal whilst contributing a photographic archive back to Inghilda Tapio’s community. Premium DVD and Blu-ray extras will also include a music CD, highlighting the numerous talented sound artists and musicians featured on the soundtrack. International viewers will be engaged through film festivals, international broadcasters as well as distribution to the WITBN, the Worldwide Indigenous Television Broadcaster Network. This includes broadcasters from around the world including NITV (Aust), Maori Television (NZ), NRK Sápmi (Norway), APTN Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (Canada) and PTS (Taiwan).