Johan Turi

An Account of the Sámi

2010 marked the one-hundred anniversary of the first publication of Johan Turi's Muitalus sámiid birra, the first secular book published in Sámi language. Turi's book is a classic in Sámi literature and cultural history. It provides insights into Sámi traditional practices, from reindeer husbandry to hunting and trapping, to childbirth, healing, courtship and song. Turi's account provides a unique glimpse at turn-of-the-twentieth-century Sámi life, and provides points of comparison with the work of indigenous authors from all parts of the world.

Turi wanted to write a book about Sámi life. He completed the task when he met Emilie Demant, a Danish ethnographer and artist who wanted to experience the Sámi. Turi and Demant made a deal. Turi helped Demant experience the Sámi life, while Demant in turn helped Turi write his book.

Demant lived with Turi’s brother Aslak and his family for one year, then she helped Turi write his book. The result was unique: a bilingual text called Muitalus sámiid birra, An Account of the Sámi.

A new edition of Turi's text is published, produced through reexamination of Turi's original manuscript, preserved at Stockholm's Nordiska museet.

The book was first published in 1910. Turi's masterpiece has been translated into Swedish, English, Finnish, French, Hungarian, Italian and Japanese. This is the first translation translated directly from Sámi language.

Johan Turi

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Johan Turi was born in Guovdageaidnu (Kautokeino) in Northern Norway in 1854. He became a member of the Dálmmá reindeer herding collective in Čohkkiras (Jukkasjärvi) in Sweden in the 1870s, and worked as a wolf hunter and trapper in northern Sweden until his death in 1936.

Turi is the "first author of the Sámi" and additionally "first multi-media artist and researcher."

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Edited July 29, 2019 by Cálliid Lágádus