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2nd showing of ETL film April 29

Students create documentary on Sámi people of Norway & Sweden

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April 15, 2015

By Jake Schultz ’16

SJU students Jacob Shawback (middle) and Steven Pignato (right) walk up a road in Jokkmokk, Sweden, that used to be designated for Sámi people in an effort to segregate them.

Five CSB/SJU students found themselves two hours from what the locals call "the end of the road" in northern Norway at the end of December.

This is where the Sámi people call home. The Sámi, who have more than 150 words for snow, are the only recognized indigenous people in Scandinavia and are the focus of Extending the Link's newest documentary, "Obbasa Ain Gállit: We Continue."

The documentary's debut was April 23 and will be shown again at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, at Alumnae Hall, CSB.

Extending the Link (ETL) is a non-profit, student-run venture sponsored by the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship, and makes annual documentaries to promote positive social change.

ETL brought its event coordinator, fundraising coordinator, a videographer and the group's two co-directors from their team of 12 students to Norway and Sweden to film and interview Sámi people and the landscape around them — the Sámi homeland, Sápmi. The trek, which lasted close to three weeks, is part of the year-long process that culminates with the premiere.

"Our mission is to cover under-reported social justice issues," said Ana Nugent, a senior global business leadership and art major at CSB and one of the two co-directors for ETL. "Since we saw this as an issue that not many people know about, including ourselves, it was a completely new topic for all of us."

ETL specifically chose the Sámi people because of the large population of Sámi-Americans in Minnesota and their willingness to have their stories heard.

"They have been marginalized. They are a minority. They try to stick together and create an indigenous voice, but they also accept allies. They want you as their ally and they need allies. That's a huge reason we do what we do, to make those connections and build awareness of these great people," said Megan Boettcher, a senior art major at CSB and co-director of ETL.

The group's motto of "Think globally, act locally," has been a driving force for the documentary. Their goal is to open people's eyes to a group of indigenous people that is trying to keep their cultural traditions while assimilating in the United States.

Part of acting locally will come when the documentary is premiered with members of the Sámi-American community in attendance, including Kurt Seaberg, a Sámi-American artist from Minneapolis.

The film and the discussion afterwards are meant to get people talking about the current state of the Sámi culture and indigenous issues around the world.

"We want to make a big impact in any way we can as college students and get people discussing the issues faced by indigenous people and the actions they are taking," Boettcher said.

The title of the documentary, "Obbasa Ain Gállit" is literally translated as, "We continue grinding pure snow," but the popular Sámi phrase is a message of strength and resilience. For the Sámi people, the phrase means to keep moving forward.

Despite the freezing temperatures in northern Norway where the sun doesn't rise above the horizon for months on end, Boettcher felt a connection with the Sámi people that she hopes people at CSB/SJU will feel as well.

"There was a definite contrast between how cold this place was and how warm the people were," Boettcher said. "This documentary is for them." 

View the trailer for the documentary