The legacy of Elsa Laula Renberg
20 years ago we celebrated The Sami People´s Day for the first time. Elsa Laula Renberg organized the first Sámi convention in 1917 in Trondheim, Norway. Over 150 Sámi delegates gathered on the first meeting day, February the 6th, to discuss core Sámi issues such as education in Sámi langauge and reindeer husbandry.
The first heart touching issues still seem to resonate today, over 100 years since they were published. Land and water rights, education in Sámi in addition to prejudices against the Sámis were cross-cutting issues then as they still are today.Elsa Laula Renberg. Photo: Tromsø Museum
The South Sámi Elsa Laula Renberg was born in 1877 and took her primary eduaction in to Örebro and further, her midwife education in Stockholm, Sweden. Simultaneously as she was educating herself, she started to work with Sámi rights which became more important to her than a life as a professional midwife.
With her book “Infor lif eller död” (Within life or death) (1904) Elsa Laula Renberg adressed core Sámi rights issues in addition to other issues of importance to the Sámi people. She was a skilled speaker and a political agitator launching numerous Sámi organizations. In addition she organized many political meetings.
The first convention in 1917 in Trondheim, Norway gathered over 150 Sámis. Photo: Tromsø museum
Alongside all of her political work, she was rasing her family and working with her familiy business. She had six children of whom four survived as adults.
Elsa Laula Renberg was a powerful person with an intense personality and for that reason she attracted opposition. Among others there were many newspaper articles describing her as a lunatic with no support from her peers. However among the Sámi she was highly respected because of her level of education and ressourcefulness. She was also regarded as an eloquent speaker who raised awareness on Sámi issues and as a skillfull networker, especially in regards to powerful people.
22nd of July, 1931 Elsa Laula Renberg took her last breathe in her damaged lungs as tuberculosis became her destiny. At age 53 she sadly left behind her husband and four children between the ages of 10 and 15 years. To the Sámi people she left a political legacy that among others has led to the celebration of the Sámi national day, February the 6th. With appreciation to Elsa Laula Renberg.
Published by: Máret Kemi