The past is present: Death systems among the Indigenous Sámi in Northern Scandinavia today

Lena Kroik* (Corresponding Author), Olav Lindqvist, Krister Stoor, Carol Tishelman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Despite growing interest in Indigenous health, the lack of end-of-life (EOL) research about the Sámi people led us to explore experience-based knowledge about EoL issues among the Sámi. We aim here to describe Sámi death systems and the extent to which Kastenbaum’s conceptualisation of death systems is appropriate to Sámi culture. Transcribed conversational interviews with 15 individuals, chosen for their varied experiences with EoL issues among Sámi, were first inductively analysed. Kastenbaum’s model of death systems, with functions along a time trajectory from prevention to social consolidation after death, and the components of people, times, places, and symbols/objects, was applied thereafter in an effort to understand the data. The model provides a framework for understanding aspects of the death system that were Sámi-specific, Sámi-relevant as well as what has changed over time. Whereas Kastenbaum differentiated among the components of the death system, our analysis indicated these were often so interrelated as to be nearly inseparable among the Sámi. Seasonal changes and relationships to nature instead of calendar time dominated death systems, linking people, places and times. The extended family’s role in enculturation across generations and EoL support was salient. Numerous markers of Sámi culture, both death-specific and those recruited into the death system, strengthened community identity in the EoL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-489
Number of pages20
Issue number4
Early online date27 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Culture
  • Indigenous
  • Kastenbaum
  • Sámi
  • death system
  • end-of-life care


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