Skolt Saami siida council systems strategies and tactics of influencing 1920–1979

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa campus, L10

Topic of the dissertation

Skolt Saami siida council systems strategies and tactics of influencing 1920–1979

Doctoral candidate

Master of Arts Sonja Tanhua

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, Giellagas Institute

Subject of study

Saami Culture


Professor Helena Ruotsala, University of Turku


Professor Veli-Pekka Lehtola, Giellagas Institute, University of Oulu

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Skolt Saami siida council systems strategies and tactics of influencing 1920–1979

In my doctoral dissertation, I study the history of the siida council systems of the Skolt Saami Suõʹnn'jel, Peäccam and Paččjokk siidas, their significance as a form of Skolt Sami decisionmaking, and the ways in which the Skolt Saami Siida council system was influenced between 1920 and 1979.

One of the starting points of my research is the question of the status of the siida council system as a Sámi and, more broadly, indigenous form of self-government. Instead of considering the role of the siida council through "authentic" originality, I found it more rewarding to ask how the Skolt Saami have sought and been able to apply their siida council system as part of the governance of the current mainstream society.

To open up this development, I have used concepts of strategy and tactics that illustrate the extent to which the Skolt Saami have been able to influence their own circumstances and opportunities, which, over the decades and centuries, have become increasingly connected to the frameworks of the societies of the majority populations.

The siida council system has adapted to the administration of the majority population, but by no means a consolidated system of decision-making and social control, which at the turn of the 1800s and 1900s was still part of the Russian government. The village assemblies operated relatively independently and had the opportunity to decide to some extent on the use of their territories. From the beginning of the 1920s, the functions of the village councils or headmanship system of siidas, which belonged to Finnish territory, merged into the decision-making bodies and forms of organization required by Finnish authorities and legislators. The same development continued even after the wars.

The Skolt Saami Act of 1955 and the Headmans Statute of 1972 recognised the role of the Skolt Saami systems in legislation. With their help, the headman and siida councils strive to promote the cause of the Skolt saami community as a whole. With the help of both archival sources and diverse written source material, I have outlined several ways in which the Skolt Saami have pursued their goals from the activities of siida councils and headmans.

The goals appear to be the desire of the Skolt Saami community to safeguard the exercise of traditional livelihoods and the preservation of decision-making power, above all over the natural resources of its area and their use. Securing these was also aimed at preserving the language and culture.
Last updated: 23.1.2024