THE DELOS INITIATIVE

 

Äjjis / Ukonsaari Island

 

The Inari Hiking Area is situated in the municipality of Inari, Northern Lapland. The Hiking Area covers 1,215 km2. It is being planned as a national hiking area, protected on the basis of the Recreational Act (not on the basis of the Nature Conservation Act as national parks and strict nature reserves are). However, the whole area belongs to the European NATURA 2000 Network. The area is managed by the Natural Heritage Services of Metsähallitus.

In the middle of Ukonselkä open water area on Lake Inarijärvi, about 11 km east of the village of Inari, there is a strange-looking rocky island, the tall and hunchbacked island called Ukonsaari, Ukonkivi or Ukko (Äjjis in Inarisámi language).  The island is 50 metres wide, 100 metres long and 30 metres high. It is a famous natural sight and it was a very important, well-known worshipping site of the indigenous Sámi people, as well as the most examined sacred place.

 

The Sámi people have lived in Finland since prehistoric times and were hunters. Apart from hunters, they were famous magicians and shamans, just as many ancient Finns. Scarce archaeological evidence documents their presence and their settlements. What we know of them is based on that evidence and the written documents of Christian missionaries, but the existing knowledge about the pre-Christian religion of the Sámi people is discursive and ambiguous. We know that in their culture, religion was closely connected to nature. The natural world was a place full of spirits and hidden information. Their entire land was sacred. It was marked by specific holy places, such as fells, sacred hills, stones and springs.

 

In the Middle Age, the Sámi people were suppressed by those who make up the dominant ethnic groups of present-day Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and in the nineteenth century, the Sámi were considered of a lower social evolutionary level than other Scandinavians. In the 1960’s, the Sámi begun to assert themselves and today their societal standing is very strong. There are Sámi schools, social organisations, businesses, and political parties.  In addition to Finland, the Sámi also lived and live in northern Sweden, northern Norway and on the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

 

The Äjjis / Ukonsaari Island has been proposed to the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention as a cultural site.

           

            Responsible: Y. Norokorpi

            E-mail: yrjo.norokorpi@metsa.fi