“With the exception of the Sami, the Murman Coast was virtually uninhabited when the colonists settled there.”
From the website Murman: The Coast of Hope, designed for the exhibition of the same name celebrating (surprise!) settler history.
I already posted my most immediate impression and feelings re: this type of language but there’s more to be said about how this shit is not only irresponsible, distorting the truth of the area having a millennia-long continuous indigenous human population but also downright dangerous.
Contrast this with, for example, this article on Barents Observer about the declining numbers of Saami ppl in the Kola Peninsula. The article also informs us that
The Sami are the youngest nationality in Murmansk, with an average age of only 31.6 years. The average age of the total population is 37 years.
It sounds frightening*. I am not going to get any deeper on the many challenges the indigenous Saami face on the eastern side of the border because that is too much for my heart at this hour, but my people over there are suffering from all the typical ills of colonization: poverty, alcoholism, unemployment, destruction of traditions, culture and livelihoods, loss of language. It’s not a very good place to be Saami, in short.
And I keep going back to this quote from Andrea Smith’s Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy:
[…] indigenous peoples must disappear. In fact, they must always be disappearing, in order to enable non-indigenous peoples’ rightful claim to land. Through this logic of genocide, non-Native peoples then become the rightful inheritors of all that was indigenous—land, resources, indigenous spirituality, and culture. Genocide serves as the anchor of colonialism: it is what allows non-Native peoples to feel they can rightfully own indigenous peoples’ land. It is acceptable exclusively to possess land that is the home of indigenous peoples because indigenous peoples have disappeared.
And it is eerie how the language used by this exhibition, again celebrating settler history in the area, follows this logic as laid out by Smith in a real-life context where the indigenous people are disappearing. Literally. Smith’s text deals mainly with Native American genocide and colonization, but I feel it is entirely applicable for this part.
So no, I do not think this settler history needs to be celebrated. And certainly not at the expense of the indigenous people, who get almost totally erased from the picture. It’s eerie how this shit works.
*) UPDATE: Omitted passage abt avg life expectancy in the Russian Federation since it was confusing the issue and only there bc of my own misunderstanding.