Toponymic Notions of Sámi Past(s)

Karl Nickul and the Historicity of Skolt Sámi Place Names



The Finnish geodesist and self-taught ethnographer Karl Nickul (1900–1980) studied the Indigenous toponymy among the  Skolt Sámi in northeastern Finland. This article analyses Nickul’s early publications and international correspondence, focusing on the ways Nickul framed Sámi notions of the past as reflected in their toponymy. Nickul argued that the Sámi possessed the ‘moral right’ to name their own region and advocated for keeping these names in cartographic  representations. According to Nickul, studying and documenting Sámi place names was a gateway to the mental imagery of the Sámi. Place names did not merely reflect the area ‘as it was’, but also reflected ancient events, beliefs, and livelihoods.

Keywords: Sámi history, Sámi toponymy, situated knowledge, Indigenous toponymy, Karl Nickul, Skolt Sámi, Petsamo, Suenjel, Suonikylä

How to Cite

Kortekangas, O. (2023). Toponymic Notions of Sámi Past(s): Karl Nickul and the Historicity of Skolt Sámi Place Names. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 47(3), 39–52.