A Brief History of the Sami Spirit Calendar.
For a short video on the history of the calendar click HERE
I created the first Saami Spirit Calendar in 1994. I had started working, a few months earlier, on Báiki, the Sami-American journal founded and edited by Faith Fjeld, writing articles, making illustrations and participating in numerous events sponsored by our nascent Sami-American community in Minnesota. Searching for a vehicle to share the knowledge, stories and images I was accumulating about the Sami with a wider audience, I thought a yearly calendar would be ideal. Here I could introduce people to Sami past and present, make note of historical events and acknowledge birthdates of important Sami figures and organizations- whether political, cultural or religious- that have contributed to their survival and evolution and share some of their beautiful language, legends and symbols with the English speaking world. And a calendar would mirror the thinking of indigenous people- and the Sami are an indigenous, European people- thinking that is cyclical, i.e. directed by the endless turning of days, moon phases and seasons: the circle dance of the sun, moon and earth.
Of course this obligated me to create a new calendar each year, with new illustrations to keep it fresh, which I wasn’t always able to do due to time constrictions and printing costs. Fortunately I had a community that was supportive and understanding and parents who could help me financially from time to time. My father in particular had the greatest influence on me. An artist and student of the Sami himself, he laid the foundation for my project many years earlier, which I would later expand and build upon.
My father, Albin Gert Seaberg, who passed away in 2005, was a graphic illustrator by profession and painter at home who traveled widely and read constantly, for he was curious by nature. What interested him most was his family origins and cultural heritage. Orphaned at the age of 12, he spent his entire life trying to unravel the mystery of his parents, Albin and Gerda Anderson, who immigrated to Minneapolis from northern Sweden in 1913. I say mystery because his parents died (his mother in 1928, his father in 1930) before he was mature and courageous enough to ask them too many questions about their lives. He did know that they had come from Gällivare in Swedish Lapland, that his mother had “Lappish” features (as did he) and had left him a needlepoint tapestry she had made depicting two Sami on skis with a reindeer pulling a sled- clues that fueled a lifelong obsession. And he expressed that obsession through his art, drawing or painting portraits of Sami inspired by the many books about them he had collected during my childhood. He also made several trips to Scandinavia with my mother, including one to Lapland to visit the places his parents came from, and spoke fluent Swedish.
This was the environment I grew up in, so it was bound to rub off on me. Like my father I began drawing at an early age. It became my solace and my passion, a way of conveying my soul to the world. Like my father, who took long walks every day through our neighborhood, I got energized by being outdoors, and was particularly drawn to wild, natural areas, which comprise the subject matter of much of my art today. And like my father I took an interest in my heritage, researching our family tree, reading books on Sami history and culture and traveling to Scandinavia. But I went deeper, perhaps, than my father did, thinking a lot about what it means to be indigenous, especially when you no longer live on the land your ancestors lived on and no longer speak their language.
Like many Sami-Americans, I took an interest in the native people of this land- North America- learning about their history, participating in their spiritual traditions and supporting their causes. Eventually it became clear that I needed to focus on my own roots if I wanted to find my place in the human family and be an effective advocate for the living. Creating the Saami Spirit Calendar has been a vital part of that journey. My early calendars had sparse information and I relied heavily on my father’s illustrations. Soon I was making my own illustrations and collecting information through my own research. And I was helped along by many people in my community, both at home and abroad. After I published and began distributing the calendars to as many people, businesses and institutions as I could think of, surprising things started to happen. People wrote to me about how it had changed their lives, inspiring them to make a journey of discovery into their own past. It was as if the calendar had taken on a life of its own as it traveled throughout the world. I heard from a Sami language school in Norway, who told me they were using my calendar in their classes. I heard from a craft school in Iowa who told me their students were inspired by the traditional Sami patterns and designs I had incorporated into the calendar. I heard from people as far away as Australia and northern Alaska- and of course Scandinavia and Finland. When I traveled to Kautokeino in northern Norway (home of the Norwegian Sami Parliament) in the spring of 2000 I walked into a local bar and saw several illustrations I had made for the calendar cut out, framed and hanging on the wall!
These experiences, and many like them- profound, magical, even humorous- have been like affirmations on my personal journey, reminding me that I am not alone, that I have touched and been touched by people throughout the world, many of whom I may never meet but who give me strength nevertheless. For I know they are my friends, that they are part my family of fellow travelers in this great life who care about the earth and all of its inhabitants.
More than anything I am indebted to my ancestors, to my parents and their parents and forbears- Swedish, Sami and now American- who learned to survive and thrive in a land that was not always very forgiving and through times of great peril. Without their struggles, without their determination to live I would not be here to witness the mystery of being alive on this beautiful earth. And I am indebted to the many friends who have given and continue to give me support. To all of you, thank you. And to my friends who I have yet to meet I look forward to crossing paths and getting to know you better. Until then peace to you and good luck on your journey.
In the Sami spirit,
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