Raanen Vuodna logo

Awareness of Sámi presence

RAANEN VOUDNA is an art project taking a starting point in creating awareness about the Sámi culture, history, landscapes and identity for the Rana region in the north of Norway. «Raanen vuodna» is Ume Sámi language and translates to Ranfjord (Ran fjord) or Ranbygden (Ran village). Raane means green and can refer to a lush area. RAANEN VUODNA by artist Sissel M. Bergh has been presented throughout 2018/2019 and in close dialogue with RAANEN SAEMIEH (an association  for Sámi  language, culture and society in Nord-Helgeland, Norway). The project is commissioned by North Norwegian Art Centre. 

The first part of Raanen Vuodna took shape as a seminar, 8-10. November 2018, at the public library of Mo i Ranathat highlighted various aspects of Sami culture, its landscape, and history in the Rana area, and its connection to the coast and the islands, as well as the inland across the border mountains.


Raanen Vuodna means the Ran-Fjord/Ran-Village in the Ume-Sami language. Raane means green, and can refer to a snug and lush area. On satellite images, it is possible to see that inner parts of the Rana fjord, in particular, is definitely green, because the sea is relatively shallow there. In addition, ice cold and greenish water is flowing from Svartisen, down the river and out into the fjord. The inmost part of Ranfjorden lies like a verdant nook, protected by mountains on all sides. Vuodna means both village and fjord in the Ume-Sami language; maybe because the first permanent settlements were established around the fjords? Raanen Vuodna is a project that aims to bring attention to Sami culture, history, landscape, and identity in the Rana area. Sami history is not completely gone from Rana, but it is not a particularly notable aspect of the identity of the city and the surrounding area as of today.


North Norwegian Art Centre (NNKS) invited the artist, Sissel M. Bergh, to make an art project for Mo i Rana, in the period 2018/2019, using Sami presence and history as a starting point. NNKS has throughout 2017–2019 put limelight on the city of Mo i Rana by initiating four new context specific art projects. The activities on Mo has also been activated in a series of presentations and talks at Raana public library titled “Kunstens plass på Mo” (Art´s place at Mo).

FIRST PART – SEMINAR, 8-10. November 2018

The first part of Raanen Vuodna took shape as a seminar,
8-10. November 2018, that highlighted various aspects of Sami culture, its landscape, and history in the Rana area, and its connection to the coast and the islands, as well as the inland across the border mountains. Part 2 was initiated in 2019 and consists of a signpost project: Throughout the Rana area, we will give signposts to past events, places, place names, persons, myths, holy sites, and cultural heritage sites.


Sami culture, history, and philosophy has until now been part of Mo i Rana’s self-understanding and narratives only to a small degree. In the earliest stories that are told about Mo, the place is cast as an important centre of commerce, where exchange of goods between visiting Sami people and traders took place in a bustling crowd. The Meyer family was central to this trade, and their presence at Mo is still visible in the shape of the conveniently situated old hotel, Meyergården, as well as the building that served as a model for Norwegian shopping centres, Amfi at Mo. In the Mo i Rana of today, the industrial history is the dominating narrative that has served as a unifying storyline for the city. It is a story of the emergence of modernity, the industrialisation through hydropower and mining, and all the migrants that arrived, from near and far, to work for the industry.

At the same time, it is true that Mo i Rana is situated in the middle of Raane, an ancient Sami region with long traditions; stretching up to Svartisen and Reevhtse/Røssvatnet in the south, out to the coast, and far into Sweden. The Sami history in the Rana area is not entirely unknown. A fair amount of local history has been written down, and there are quite a few historical sources available. In addition, a comprehensive mapping has been carried out, registering settlements and constructions associated with reindeer husbandry, etc. This has been done by, among others, Tormod Steen at the Rana department of Helgeland Museum, in collaboration with Toamma Bientie. And by archaeologist Sven-Donald Hedman in collaboration with Roy Kappfjell. In Raane, many holy landscapes are to be found, which have had, and still have, a strong significance for the Sami population, and which has been adopted by other migrants that have settled in the area at an early stage. In addition to this, it is a well-known fact that the first church at Mo was financed by the Sami people of Rana after being pressured by the Danish-Norwegian mission in the person of the missionary Thomas von Westen.


Mo i Rana is the fourth largest Sami city, and the third largest area of reindeer husbandry in Norway. There are three reindeer grazing districts within the boundaries of Rana municipality: Saltfjellet reindeer grazing district to the northeast, Hestmona/Strandtindene to the northwest, as well as Ildgruben to the southeast. The reindeer grazing districts towards the border also include winter pastures on the Swedish side of the border, and vice versa. 

Something that has been paid less heed is that the village histories are full of intimations of Sami culture among the small farmers, boat builders, fishermen, and trappers. In addition, it has been told of how the prospective industry workers “buried the kommages”1) when they reached the edge of the city: To cross over and adapt to “modernity”, Sami culture and identity had to be hidden.

During the first forays that were made in March 2018, contact was established with a number of persons within the Sami network in town. Since then, these have initiated a new Sami Association, Raanen Saemieh, which as of today counts 100 members. There is a lot of goodwill towards Sami culture in Mo i Rana, but Sami issues are not very visible. Through the signpost project, aspects of Sami and common history will be made visible and can then become a part of the population’s awareness.


Today, Raanen Vuodna part 2 consists of 37 signposts.

Events, archival discoveries, place names, persons, myths, nature farms, dialect words, cultural heritage sites, and folklore with connection to Sami presence, culture, and history is signposted across a large area from Ranfjorden to the Polar Circle. The signposts are based on information obtained from individuals, articles, and notes that have been given to the project. The book series, “Årbok for Rana med omliggende strøk” 2) – published by the Rana Historical Society, is a source of reference that has been used frequently. Other important writings are Anne Severinsen’s contribution from NOU-2007: Samerettsutvalget II 3), in addition to the yearbook for Helgeland series, published by the Helgeland Historical Society, i.a..

Raanen Vuodna has been created in collaboration with Rana municipality, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, Utskarpen landowner association, and Raanen Saemieh. During the first part of Raanen Vuodna, which was a seminar stretching over three days at the public library of Mo, Raanen Saemieh hosted a gala dinner for everyone. Both the Mayor of Rana, Geir Waage, and the plenary leader of the Sami Parliament, Tom Sottinen, were present. There is initially a lot of goodwill towards the project, and the seminar garnered a lot of interest. Approximately 200 persons participated during the three days of the seminar.

Based on the budget at our disposal, Raanen Vuodna now consists of 37 signposts. In the long term, the project aims to present these signposts on this webpage in both English and the Southern Sami language. 


We want to give thanks to Herzen’s Memorial Fund for contributing towards the project’s webpage, which has been made by Daniel Jahrø Jensen. We also want to thank Ada Einmo, who has provided accommodation and reconnaissance assistance, among other things. In addition, we would like to thank Fransisca Kappfjell Herbst and Mads Utstrand, who have contributed by mounting signposts at schools in the municipality! We also thank the Utskarpen neighbourhood, who received and distributed five signposts in the Utskarpen area. Thank you also to Storli Camping, Stjernen Silversmiths, Krogstad Camping, and Umbukta Mountain Lodge, all of whom willingly received signposts. Thank you, Elin Loftfjell, who received and mounted a signpost at Sjonfjellet. Thank you, Toamma Bientie, Else Lifjell, Tom Lifjell, Roy Kappfjell, Trond Møllersen, Sissel Lillebjerka at Helgeland Museum at Hemnes, and many others (!) for their input and information.

1) i.e. traditional Sami footwear.

2) “Yearbook for Rana and the surrounding area“

3) The Sami Rights Committee.