Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Remembering Faith Fjeld

Faith Fjeld (1935-2014)

Faith Fjeld was, among many other roles in life, the founding editor of Baíki. This international Sami journal was one of the first publications to give voice to Sami descendants in North America, in the context of the worldwide indigenous people's movement. The journal came out on an irregular basis, but in the end the 37 issues, full of thoughtful personal articles, book reviews, art, and photographs from Sami descendants and from writers and artists in Sápmi, such as Harald Gaski, Elina Helander-Renvall, and Hans Ragnar Mathisen, formed a portrait of an emerging movement.

Guided by Faith’s warmth and vision, the journal made space for talk, memories, and sometimes hard truths. I loved to read it and contributed a book review at one point. It was where I became aware of all the work Faith and others like Nathan Muus and Ruthanne Cecil had done to archive Sami material and to create exhibits about the Sami reindeer herders history in Alaska.

Now the last issue of Baíki has come out, #38, Summer 2015. Not only does it tell the story of Baíki and of Faith’s life, but it contains stories and memories from many of those who knew her well. Their moving words are testament to Faith’s profound and enduring influence.

In 1991, in the first issue of Baíki, Faith wrote: “It is my hope that Baíki will represent the reawakening of the Sami spirit in America, a spirit that has been dormant for many decades. . .The clandestine immigration of thousands of our ancestors to America under the guise of being ‘Norwegian,’ ‘Swedish,’ and ‘Finnish’ has created generations of descendants whose Sami identity has either been totally lost, or treated like an amusing joke to be disclaimed whenever it surfaced. . .Supposedly well-researched books and scholarly papers on Scandinavian-American Immigration ignore us completely.” Faith Fjeld was an inspiring mentor to many and Baíki was a catalyst for Sami awakening. Her journal, she wrote, “will celebrate the survival of Sami roots and Sami connections.”

For more about Faith Fjeld, seen through the eyes of those who admired and loved her, see