13. Gender in Sámi and indigenous research

Gender in Sámi and indigenous research

Convenors: Helena Ristaniemi & Michelle Francett-Hermes, University of Oulu

Contact: helena.ristaniemi (at) oulu.fi

Seminar room: Tellus Stage (Parallel session 1); Frost Club (Parallel session 2); TM103 (Parallel session 3)

Format: Hybrid

The lack of gender perspectives in indigenous research has been criticized and its inclusion is called for (Kuokkanen 2004, 143–149, 155; Finney 2016, 32). There has, however, been an increase in queer and feminist perspectives in research publications during the last decade (Grey 2022; Huuki & Juutilainen 2016; Huuki & Kyrölä 2022; Huuki & Lanas; Kylli 2021; Kyrölä & Huuki 2021; Løvold 2015 Olsen 2015; Valkonen 2013). The topics have varied from autoethnographic research to media research, museology and history research, study on masculinity, and breaking Sámi queer silence. Beyond academia, gender has become pronounced in several Sámi and other indigenous discussions, media, and other artistic projects (i.e.the rematriation of Ládjogahpir -project by Eeva-Kristiina Harlin and Outi Pieski, 2019-, Warrior Women –film/project by Elisabeth A. Castle ja Christina D. King, 2019-). Hence, it can be stated that focus on gender is a rising theme in indigenous and Sámi social justice trajectories. The increase in gender research highlights the need for more inclusive and attentive ways to approach indigenous themes.

In our open workshop, we seek to examine contemporary indigenous research topics and gaps from the perspective of gender in social action and decolonization (e.g., language revitalization/transmission, rema(pa)triation, truth and reconciliation processes, history/herstory, media, education and music (including but not limited to these)). We warmly invite papers and presentations to discuss gender in Sámi and indigenous research from across academic fields and beyond academia. The workshop is organized in a hybrid model.


Jebunnessa Chapola

Wasiq Silan (I-An Gao)

Lena Gross

Angelika Sjöstedt & Anna Olovsdotter Lööv

Assi Harkoma


Jebunnessa Chapola, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada, jchapola@mtroyal.ca

A racialized settler woman's transformative journey in Canada: Building relational accountabilities for indigenous ways of knowing

My presentation tells the learning, re-learning and un-learning stories of a racialized settler woman’s mutual empowerment and transformative journey toward reconciliation in Canada. My research discusses how Indigenous Land-based learning became healing and empowering for the author, a newly arrived settler woman of a colour, learning about her positioning on the stolen Indigenous Lands of treaty six territories, Saskatoon, Canada. The dissertation recounts the journey of migrating from one colonial Land to another, building a family and new community networks, and learning about Indigenous histories, cultures, Land-based learning, and about diverse newcomer settler communities. This paper discusses the author’s collaborative learning toward taking responsibility for understanding the meaning of Land in solidarity with Indigenous and newcomer communities, through involvement in a community garden project, community radio show, and various cultural community activities. Using decolonial feminist relational autoethnography as a method, the presentation highlights the author’s quest to challenge everyday racism and colonial practices ingrained in the daily lives of newcomer Canadians. Following 12 years of community activities in Treaty 6 and 7 territories in Canada, my research emphasizes a key lesson from this life journey: the need to be responsible for understanding the Indigenous meaning of Land in order to create belongingness with the Land and its original peoples, while resisting the assimilationist forces impacting Indigenous and newcomer communities, through their unique histories as orchestrated through colonialist structures. My research seeks to find new feminist and Indigenous thought to reimagine Indigenous and non-Indigenous future solidarities, various ways of knowing and learning the meaning of land together.

Wasiq Silan (I-An Gao),  Postdoc researcher at Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism (CEREN)/ Core fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki 

Pinhkngyan : paths taken to recognizing, doing and developing Indigenous methodologies

It is agreed that Indigenous scholars should be central in researching Indigenous issues. However, the literature on Indigenous research methodologies remains vague on who should be involved. This study aims to lower the entry barrier to Indigenous methodologies for anyone wholeheartedly committed to contribute to the decolonizing processes of Indigenous communities and beyond. We do so by exploring the main challenges experienced by the first author during her doctoral journey and highlighting how these challenges were dealt with. Four themes identified were: (1) the colonial gaze, (2) battling with the concept of authenticity, (3) recognizing Indigeneity in the ordinary, and (4) reconciliation with the past to pave the way towards a better future. Three lessons learned are discussed. A vision for a more inclusive Indigenous inquiry is offered, suggesting that reconnection, reclaiming and sovereignty are key to establishing an ethical space between Indigenous ways of knowing and the existing dominant knowledge systems.

Lena Gross, PhD, Sámi dutkamiid guovddáš / Centre for Sami Studies (SESAM), Norgga árktalaš universitehta / UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Lena.gross@uit.no 

Ungendered assessments, Gendered implications: The role of gender in environmental decision making on Indigenous lands 

In Norway, knowledge-based governance, is seen as best practice following a distinctive Nordic model of a Nordic knowledge regime. Indigenous knowledges (IK) are to be included in land and marine based planning processes, environmental decision making, and other decision-making processes that impact Sámi rights. Decision-makers rely in these cases on several tools like hearings, consultations, and environmental impact assessments (EIAs).  

While there is plenty academic literature on IK and natural science, as well as how IK is integrated or excluded in EIAs and decision-making processes, the role of social sciences, IK, gender expertise, and their interplay in environmental decision-making processes is highly under researched. In the Norwegian context, there is surprisingly little focus on gendered aspects of the choice of knowledge holders, the kind of knowledge presented, or of possible impacts. This paper asks what is lost and how can we do research that takes gender into account in the field of environmental decision making on Indigenous lands.

Jebunnessa Chapola, University of Regina, jchapola@mtroyal.ca

Women-led Climate Change Solutions (WCCS): Developing A Policy Guide from Indigenous and Immigrants Perspectives

Indigenous and immigrant women’s communities in Canada have been characterized as increasingly “vulnerable” in the context of climate change (CC) research, as direct victims of climate change facing everyday livelihood and health challenges. There is a significant lack of research and analysis concerning the gendered dimensions of climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, and solutions in Canada. This study aims to: 1) create practices for establishing Women-led Climate Change Solutions (WCCS) based on the principles of equity, fair and inclusive practices, fostering community resiliencies in response to climate changes (CC); 2) addressing climate change risks specific to communities’ vulnerabilities, particularly focusing on Indigenous and transnational immigrant community; and 3) providing concrete recommendations to policy-makers for creating socially inclusive anti-racist climate adaptation policies and practices at local, provincial, and federal levels.

This research will focus on active engagement, relationship-building and community-led climate change solutions with Indigenous and immigrants women communities to ensure meaningful implications for their everyday lives. Developing a WCCS framework draws attention to multiple social dimensions (gender, culture, racialization and ethnicity), identifies the potential effects of social inequities on climate change vulnerabilities, and employs mixed participatory methods to address barriers in developing CC solutions.

Angelika Sjöstedt, Associate Professor, Gender Studies, Gaskeuniversiteete/Mid Sweden University, Sweden angelika.sjostedt@miun.se 

Anna Olovsdotter Lööv, Senior lecturer, Gender Studies, Gaskeuniversiteete/Mid Sweden University, Sweden  anna.olovsdotterloov@miun.se 

Reading through the periphery: epistemological approach for decolonizing the university 

This paper proposes an initiative to share experiences and learn from each other to strengthen strategies for decolonization in collaboration between universities and with various Saami actors in the southern parts of Saepmie. The project is based on a need for theoretical and methodological development within existing Swedish/Nordic institutions for examining practices of decolonization and on the ground of Saami epistémes. The initiative also weave together research across academic borders of gender studies, sociology, indigenous studies, and indigenous pedagogy. This theorizing and methodological development takes place with the awareness that our university is located on colonized land. The work of theoretical and methodological development is done through the explorative approach "reading through the periphery" containing three research initiatives that are based on each other: Reading through peripheries, Restructuring relations and Building solidarities.  By testing theoretical and methodological strategies for decolonization, we want to challenge the hegemonic knowledge regime in which the university is currently promoted as an obvious center. This project therefore responds to calls for ruining settler colonial supremacy guided by indigenous feminist queer knowledge in action.  

Assi Harkoma, PhD Candidate, assi.harkoma@ulapland.fi

Gender-based Structural Inequality in Sami Reindeer Herding Communities

The aim of my research is to study social structures that cause gender-based inequality in Sami reindeer herding communities and the means for reducing these inequalities in society. There is a need for critical research that identifies structural inequalities that are deeply embedded in the normal operations of dominant societal institutions causing people to be blind to the true extent of it. Therefore, this research is examining the inequalities that originate and are cumulative products of legal and policy decisions made by the government, and women are experiencing in Sami reindeer herding communities because Indigenous women are at risk of encountering multiple levels of discrimination, and exclusion. Climate change is threatening to aggravate these risks. By using decolonizing methods, the results of this multidisciplinary study are expected to increase critical understanding of complex and interconnected social/power structures, and promote social justice, gender equality and sustainable reindeer herding in the Arctic area.

Jebunnessa Chapola, University of Regina, jebunnessa@gmail.com

Climate Change Resiliency from and within Cross-cultural Community Activities in Arctic

Developing cross-cultural community-led climate change activities that draw attention to multiple social dimensions (gender, culture, racialization, and ethnicity) and identifying the potential effect of social inequality on climate change vulnerability promotes social sustainability in local communities, particularly Arctic Indigenous women communities. The work develops and elaborates on intersectionality and anti-racism approaches. This research promotes transformative approaches both in the process ('how') and content ('what') of understanding and practising community-led climate change risk and sustainable adaptation action research. Our aspiration goes beyond merely acknowledging the relevance of intersectionality for studying climate issues; we will find out how differences are implicated in the context of climate change, in material and institutional, as well as normative senses. We propose that relational, antiracist, postcolonial frameworks help to explain how social differences give rise to social inequalities in climate vulnerability and adaptation, and to identify fair and inclusive strategies for addressing the differential impacts of future climate hazards.