Skolt Saami Memory Bank

Skolt Saami Memory Bank - A Pilot for Data Management and Revitalisation of Endangered Skolt Saami Music, Language, and Culture
kolttasaamelaisia naisia ja lapsia veneessä soutamassa järvellä

Project information

Project duration


Project coordinator

University of Oulu

Contact information

Project leader

  • University lecturer in Sámi Cultural Studies, reseacher, developer of the Saami Culture Archive

Other persons

Project description

The present day Skolt Saami community requires material for maintaining their language and cultural ability. In the Finnish archives there is a large collection of archive material, gathered from the Skolt Saami during the 20th century, which can be used for revitalising purposes. The Skolt Saami Memory Bank is a new operational model, consisting of both data management of archive sources and organised culture revitalisation, returning the immaterial cultural heritage of the Skolt Saami community. The project will be conducted in co-operation with the already existing network of cultural and social institutions operating in the Saami home area (Sámi Parliament, The Sámi Education Institute, SámiSoster, Sámi Museum Siida and the Giellagas Institute of Oulu University).

Key information

Site of research: University of Oulu, The Giellagas Institute

Funding: The Project is funded by the Academy of Finland

Principal Investigator: Postdoctoral Researcher, Ph.D. Marko Jouste

Other Project Staff

  • MA Markus Juutinen (Doctoral Candidate)
  • Anna Lumikivi (Research Assistant)
  • Hanna-Maaria Kiprianoff (Research Assistant)
  • BA Miika Lehtinen (Research Assistant)

Project summary

The project will support the utilisation of results from the Principal investigator Marko Jouste's present research Historical Turning Points of Multilayered Music Tradition among the Skolt Saami in Finland. At the same time it will help the Skolt Saami community to preserve, revitalise and develop their own traditional music culture.

As a new feature, this project includes active culture work and workers, creating an interaction between archive research and the Skolt Saami people. This interaction is designed to serve many different interest groups, ranging from language nests to academic research. Archive material can be used in teaching at various levels. Historical recordings of music and storytelling can strengthen knowledge of Skolt Saami oral history, and present day artists and entrepreneurs can benefit from the archives even in the form of sustainable commercialisation of Skolt Saami cultural heritage.

The scientific work will take place in the Giellagas Institute, whereas the active culture work will be carried out in language nests, schools, retirement homes and in pursuance of other culture activities. In addition to the principal investigator Marko Jouste, MA Markus Juutinen and BA Miika Lehtinen work in the Saami Culture Archive and prepares Skolt Saami archive material for the use. Anna Lumikivi and Hanna-Maaria Kiprianoff, Skolt Saami research assistants operating actively in the Skolt Saami community, will publish data from archive collections as a part of the project. The evaluation of the project will be published in scientific articles by the PI.

What makes the Memory Bank unique is that it contains both organised and analysed research data (e.g. musical notations, transcriptions, audio files with annotations) and original Skolt Saami music and language material (audio, video, photographs, manuscripts). Therefore a notable amount of the material is ready for cultural use. This work has been actively done for many years with the support e.g. The Academy of Finland. Being linked to the question of the indigenous people’s rights to their own cultural heritage, the repatriation is in the core of the whole project, in co-operation with Skolt Saami community. Indigenous involvement means the strong role of the Giellagas Institute and the participation of two Skolt Saami research assistants. These themes have also been emphasised in the work of UNESCO and World Intellectual Property Organisation, and they are a part of the national and international agreements concerning the rights of the Saami people.

Key measures in terms of the research

Skolt Saami Memory Bank is a tool for repatriation of original archive material used in the study of principal investigator. Practical objectives are divided into three parts:

1) Organising The Skolt Saami Memory Bank

  • The aim of the project is to introduce new operational model called The Skolt Saami 
Memory Bank. Through the work of previous research projects it is possible to manage the 
data of Skolt Saami archive sources.
  • During the project, the principal investigator Ph. D. Marko Jouste continues his research 
producing and analysing new data on Skolt Saami musical heritage and its modern 
implementations. These results guide the formation of the Skolt Saami Memory Bank.
  • FM Markus Juutinen will begin working as a doctoral candidate and continue his work 
on transcribing, annotating and research on the spoken Skolt Saami language material. He will prepare archive material for the cultural use in the Skolt Saami community so that Skolt Saamis can get better access to it and utilise the original sources desribed and analysed 
in the research of the principal investigator.

  • BA Miika Lehtinen will transcribe and annotate as a research assistant on the spoken Skolt Saami archive materials.

2) Organised interaction between the archive, users of archive material and research results

  • A new innovation is to plan and organise active interaction between archive and the people who utilise the results of research and Skolt Saami archive material.
  • Principal investigator Ph. D. Marko Jouste plans the guidelines for the interaction, which will be tested during the project.
  • Skolt Saami research assistants, Anna Lumikivi and Hanna-Maaria Kiprianoff will publish a book on Skolt Saami music for children, adults and elderly people. It will be written in Skolt Saami and Finnish and contain transcriptions of traditional material found from the archives.

3) Revitalising work in the Skolt Saami community

  • The project will produce music and language activities to the Skolt Saami community. This will be carried out by research assistants Anna Lumikivi and Hanna-Maaria Kiprianoff.
  • This includes active work on revitalising traditional Skolt Saami music, especially leu´dd-tradition, which has a link to other forms of Skolt Saami oral tradition. It is also possible to collect new material by recording present forms of Skolt Saami oral tradition.
  • The work among the Skolt Saami will be carried out in co-operation with existing network of cultural and social institutions operating in the Saami home area.

Collaborative partners

The work done in the Saami Culture Archive and Giellagas Institute has both national and international connections. Within this project the partners represent public administration, but also the non-profit sector and business can benefit from revitalising of a local culture. The main partners in the Skolt Saami community are:

1) Public administration

  • Sámi Parliament of Finland has already started co-operative work with Jouste’s project by 
ordering a series of Skolt Saami music workshops. These will be carried out during autumn 
  • Skolt Saami village administration is the official representative of all Skolt Saamis and 
therefore it has an important supportive role on this project.
  • The Sámi Education Institute organises two important training programmes where Skolt Saami music is present: The Skolt Sámi Language and Culture programme and Čuojat Juoigga Livđuu Leuʹdde! - Sámi Music Adult Education Project (ESR). Jouste has been already lecturing in both programmes during 2014–2015.
  • Sámi Museum Siida is administrating the Skolt Sámi Heritage House in Sevettijärvi, where some of the activities can be organised.

2) Non-profit sector

  • SámiSoster is a Saami organisation for social and healthcare issues. It also organises 
activities at retirement homes. They have been interested to organise Skolt Saami cultural 
actions for elders together with this project.
  • Saa ́mi nue ́tt is cultural society, and their goal is to improve the conditions for the continuation of the Skolt Saami cultural heritage. Co-operation with Saa ́mi nue ́tt will enhance the use of the Skolt Saami Memory Bank. 
During the past decade, Saami studies has been a growing field of science, and lately researchers have begun to revalue and re-examine historical archive sources (Länsman 2008, 87–88, 90).

By combining the scientific research, availability of the archive materials and active culture work done by the Skolt Saami themselves, the project will support the skills of the present day tradition holders. The hypothesis is that this will lead to improved local environment for cultural activities and new learning materials. Furthermore, this process most likely boosts a new kind of culture work needed in educational, social and culture sectors. It can also support musicians and artists to develop their artistic work. This is notable, since nowadays there are plenty of work opportunities for artists: music festivals, concerts, school tours, radio and television. The project is very likely to have some impact on culture based tourism as well, since cultural activities often attract travellers to come to the Skolt Saami area.

There are also several current language documentation and linguistic research projects working on the Skolt Saami material, many of them developing language technological solutions, to which the Saami Culture Archive's Skolt Saami Memory Bank project is linked. The connection has been established as Network on Saami Language Documentation and Description in A Seminar on Saami language documentation, research and the use of language technology hosted by Giellagas Institute of the University of Oulu in December 2015. The cooperation continued in a seminar on Skolt Saami organised by Sámi Giellagáldu in Sevettijärvi 27.1.2016.

The most important partners are: In the University of Freiburg, Germany there is The Freiburg Research Group in Saami Studies, with a special program for language documentation and the use of language technology in research of Saami language (PI Ph.D. Michael Rießler). In Giellagas Institute and Saami Culture Archive in University of Oulu there are two ongoing language projects: Giellagas Corpus of Spoken Saami Languages and Máinnasheargi project. The Department of Modern Languages of University of Helsinki hosts two important projects on Skolt Saami language: Skolt Saami documentation project (PI Professor Matti Miestamo) and Skolt Sami revitalization ICALL-project and the development of guidelines for its application in other endangered languages (PI Ph.D. Jack Rueter). In addition to many other institutions, especially in Nordic level, national co-operation with Finnish sound archives preserving Saami material (i.e. The Society of Finnish Literary, the Institute for the Languages of Finland and the Cultural Archives of the University of Turku) is very significant.

Research ethics

The research and revitalisation work will be conducted following the rules of research ethics guidelines provided by the National Advisory Board on Research Ethics appointed by The Ministry of Education and Culture and used by the Academy of Finland. In addition, in the research and projects concerning indigenous peoples, ethical questions are particularly important.

This research follows the ethical codes of the University of Oulu and Saami Culture Archive (The Giellagas Institute). An important part of the work of the Saami Culture Archive focuses on the legal issues and questions on the rights to the material gathered from the indigenous peoples. These themes have been emphasised in the work of UNESCO and World Intellectual Property Organisation, and they are part of the national and international agreements concerning the rights of the Saami people.

The study on legal issues and ethical questions is done in co-operation with University of Lapland by a lawyer Piia Nuorgam in a report on the legal questions concerning the Saami Culture Archive’ (Nuorgam 2013).

The Skolt Saami Memory Bank functions as a pilot case, which may be of benefit to collections of other ethnic and minority cultures found in sound archives both in Finland and in the Nordic countries.

Possible risks lie mainly in the lack of support from the community would endanger the objectives of the project. In addition to on-going discourse in the Skolt Saami community, there are two Skolt Saami research assistants. The research is carried out in the Giellagas Institute, which is governed by Saami, and in close co-operation with other Saami institutions. The principle of supporting a local culture and providing assistance and material for the revitalisation of the culture also strengthens the co-operation. This further reduces the risk of revealing sensitive material, which could insult local people. The contacts between Skolt Saami community and Giellagas Institute have already been established during the earlier project. The project will organize opening and closing seminars of the project in Inari for informing the Skolt Saami about the project and welcoming them into discussions about the culture revitalisation and use of the archive material.

There have been earlier attempts to revitalise Skolt Saami music culture by providing archive material to the use of Skolt Saami community. Some of these have failed, like one in the early 1990s, probably due to lack of resources to deal with notable archive collections still on analogue tape. Since then, the Skolt Saami material has been digitalised by the archives, which helps data management.

The principal investigator organised the research and publication of a book and a CD was successful, as the objective was small enough to be achieved (see Jouste, Moshnikoff and Sivertsen 2007). During the last ten years, there have been projects inventorying and cataloguing the Skolt Saami material.

Hypothesis is that revitalising process and interaction between researchers and local community can most likely succeed when there are enough local people involved with education in the field of culture. Revitalising process also requires some institutional structures, where revitalising work can be organised. There has been a positive development in this sector. The project has been able to establish partnership with all the main Skolt Saami cultural institutions.