Jokkmokk, its Sámi museum, its Old Church, its Winter Market and a history that goes back for centuries
The town of Jokkmokk, nestled within the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, has been the ancestral home of the indigenous Sámi people for centuries. Our journey to Jokkmokk had a single purpose: to immerse ourselves in the cultural richness of the Ájtte Museum of Sámi Culture. This museum came highly recommended as a veritable treasure trove, meticulously preserving the history and heritage of the Sámi people. The museum's presence in Jokkmokk is intrinsically tied to the town's renowned annual Winter Market. This market boasts a storied history, with an unbroken tradition spanning four centuries. In the early 17th century, the Swedish crown established permanent marketplaces near the Sámi's winter settlements across the Gulf of Bothnia. This ambitious endeavor served a dual purpose: fortifying state control in the northern territories and facilitating tax collection, legal proceedings, and the spread of religious beliefs.
A little bit of background. During the Middle Ages, the Sámi achieved economic prosperity through the trade of skins and leather goods. They seamlessly integrated into a vast trade network dominated by the German Hanseatic League, with extensive ties to merchants in Novgorod and Moscow. Their finely crafted leather products were in high demand among traders. However, as the 15th century drew to a close, the influence of these trading towns waned, and rival royal powers from Sweden-Finland and Denmark-Norway engaged in a fierce competition with Russia for dominance in the Arctic Ocean region. To assert control over the Lappish territories, fortify northern borders, and tax the region's abundant natural resources, Sweden devised a comprehensive strategy. This entailed establishing permanent marketplaces and erecting churches in the Lappish territories during the early 17th century. This strategy not only strengthened state control but also cemented the bonds between the northern population and the Swedish royal authority.
For a considerable period, the village of Jokkmokk consisted of the church, the parsonage, cabins for churchgoers, and market booths. Yet, as the 18th century dawned, both the Sámi and settlers experienced a population surge. The original church, too small to accommodate the burgeoning community, gave way to the inauguration of a new church in 1753. Tragically, this new church succumbed to fire in 1972. However, a few years later, an authentic replica of the original church was painstakingly reconstructed on the same hallowed ground – Jokkmokk, Norrbotten, Sweden.
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Before: Healthcare Exec. Based in Brussels; Heidelberg; Los Altos Hills, CA; The Hague, Geneva, Nijmegen, Groningen
Now: Non-Executive Director in the Healthcare Industry based in Ghent. A travel buff with a passion for photography, photography books, Leica, wine and Asian food. Last but not least: proud grandfather of William, Nicholas and Mateo.