Jokkmokk’s Market has a long history and is considered to have a four hundred-year unbroken tradition. Permanent marketplaces near the Sámi’s winter settlements were established by the Swedish crown at the beginning of the 17th century in all the Sámi Lappish territories on both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia. The purpose was to strengthen the state’s control of the population in the north as well as to collect taxes, hold legal court and spread the Word of God. Planning a market in the Lappish territories during the coldest time of the year had several advantages. The Sámi were gathered in their winter settlements in the forest area with winter grazing for their reindeer and the frozen waterways constituted magnificent roads for the merchants, state officials and men of the church.
During the Middle Ages the Sámi had acquired economic well-being based on trade with skins and leather goods. The Sámi were integrated in a network of trading contacts, dominated by the German Hanseatic League with ties to merchants in Novgorod and Moscow. Their leather goods were coveted by traders. At the end of the 15th century the trading towns were weakened and the expanding royal powers of Sweden-Finland and Denmark-Norway fought with Russia over the dominance of the area around the Arctic Ocean. It became important to strengthen control over the Lappish territories, both to safeguard the borders of the country in the north, as well as to tax an area rich in natural resources. The Swedish royal power’s trading policy aimed at having all trade go through the customs in Stockholm, the so-called Bothnian Trade Coercion which was in effect until 1765.
In writings dated from around the turn of the 17th century the Swedish king Carl IX expressed concern about the welfare of the population of the Lappish territories. In 1602 he undertook a journey around the Gulf of Bothnia. Already in 1599 the king had given his bailiff Daniel Hjort the assignment of finding places which would be appropriate as church and market locations, at least one in every Lappish area. The Sámi were seen as being at the mercy of the tax collectors as well as living in spiritual darkness. They were also hard to keep track of–they were not settled down in one place. The crown wanted to take control of the Sámi and of the “birkarl” tax collectors.
By establishing permanent marketplaces and building churches in the Lappish territories during the first few years of the 17th century, the northern part of the country could be secured and the population would become more closely tied to the Swedish royal power. The tax collectors and the merchants from the coast lost their right to freely trade in Lappish territories and were allowed only to trade during the established market days. Taxes were to be collected directly by the crown’s own officials. At the beginning many of these officials were the former tax collectors who knew the language, the conditions and had contacts from earlier on with the Sámi. Only after the crown had collected its taxes could the market trading begin. By attaching a Lutheran pastor to the church located in the market towns, at least the Word of God would be heard a few times a year.
The land in the north was divided into five areas already from the days of king Gustav Vasa: Ume, Pite. Lule, Torne and Kemi Lappish territories. In the Lule Lappish territory the inhabitants belonged to four villages, namely Sjocksjock, Jockmock, Sirkas and Tuorpon. The Sámi lived mainly by hunting and fishing and moved between different fishing lakes. Reindeer were used as draft animals and as a lure for hunting the wild reindeer.
The population in Lule was small. According to tax records from the first decades of the 17th century, it consisted of 150-200 households. The tax collectors, and the merchants from the coastlands of Norrbotten traded with the Sámi and had, until the middle of the 16th century, the right to collect taxes. For this privilege they paid a lease to the crown. The tax collectors contacted the Sámi where they were settled during the winter, but there were also marketplaces for the Lule Lappish territories farther down the river valley, in areas around Harads and Bredåker. Probably their market was held in mid-winter as well.
Tax and trading articles which left the area were skins and leather goods made from animals which were hunted as well as reindeer and dry fish. The crown was interested in live reindeer. Both the reindeer and reindeer herders, preferably women, were taken south for a period of time. Articles which were imported were things like salt, butter, flour, silver, homespun, broadcloth and iron goods.
When permanent market and church locations were to be established, they looked for areas which could be reached in the wintertime and which were near areas in which the Sámi grazed their reindeer. The village of Jockmock had had winter grazing for a long time in the forest area by the little and the big Lule rivers. The ridge which runs east to west above a marshy area (present day Talvatis Lake), was chosen as the location of the first church in Jokkmokk. The Sámi name was Dálvvadis, which means winter settlement. A simple parsonage, a tax collector booth and market booths were built. But it took a long time before a parish priest lived permanently in the church town of Jokkmokk. Instead the priests would travel up from the coast for the markets and preach their sermons, hold catechetical meetings, weddings and baptisms as well as update the parish register.
The obligation to go to church was the law of the land, and this included the Sámi. However it was possible only during the market time, when there was already a lot to do. One of the priests in the 17th century complained that things were terribly busy during the market time. There was so much to do that people did not have the time to go to church, even if the services would be held at night.
Traditional Sámi religious rites and ceremonies continued alongside the church’s established rituals, and were probably the strongest of the two. Children who were to be baptized by the priest had already been given their Sámi name in a christening ceremony shortly after birth. The parents chose a name for the child from a deceased relative whose positive character they wanted to see in their child. After the church baptism they carried out a cleansing ceremony to wash away the Christian name which could actually be harmful to the child. Church weddings were not considered important. The marriage proposal was that which was important and that both families were in agreement. But little by little as church population records were established in the Lappish territories, the Christian ceremonies gained in importance. According to Sámi beliefs, the dead lived on in a shadow world. So funerals were not that important. Often the dead corpse was left in the mountains in a crevice covered with rocks to protect it from wild animals. Burials could only take place when the ground was not frozen. The bodies were transported to the church and put in a burial booth beside the church until the ground thawed out and the funeral could take place.
In the 18th century the church’s mission to the Sámi became harsher. Under the influence of Pietism a personal conversion was demanded as well as a clear denial of the old faith. The church and the state confiscated Sámi drums and persecuted the shamans and others who tried to maintain their traditional convictions.
What would a market held at the beginning of the 17th century look like? How many people would come? How were people clothed? What did they eat? What language was spoken? Though there is a lot we do not know, some things can be discovered in contemporary reports, others we can guess or imagine.
In a report written in April 1606 by Daniel Hjort, the king’s envoy, he tells of the situation in Jokkmokk. From the 11-13th of February he had held court in Jokkmokk for the Sámi and the tax collectors from the Lule Lappish territories. They had created regulations for the market and the church town. It is easy to see there were a lot of impediments. The priest, Rev. Lars, who had been assigned to Jokkmokk was quite sickly, didn’t know the Sámi language and was “not very well learned”. The parish desired that another priest be assigned who could handle the conditions in the Lappish territories. Rev. Laurentius Olai, the chaplain in Luleå, was considered a better fit and was chosen as replacement.
Those present promised to deliver logs to build the church by Easter, and the building would be finished during the summer. Appropriate dates for market and for the court sessions had also been discussed. The Sámi were willing to be in the area from Thomasmass and stay until Candlemas, in other words, from Christmastime until early February. The bailiff was ordered to be here by Epiphany to collect taxes for the crown. After the mass of January 25th it was free for the former tax collectors, the birlkarlar, to trade with the Sámi. For that privilege they were to pay one tenth as a tariff to the crown.
After Candlemas the Sámi were free to leave the church town in Jokkmokk. On the 25th of March, the day of Mary’s Annunciation, they were to return for two weeks. They would once again meet the priest and the traders. First the bailiff would buy the furs from wild game for the needs of the crown. After that the traders were welcome to deal with the Sámi. And the priest was ordered to be as busy as he could in his call and office.
To hold court sessions during the market was an important duty of the bailiff. Already during the first documented court session in Jokkmokk in 1606, the jury consisted of both Sámi and traders. After some time the jury consisted only of Sámi. The court sessions dealt mainly with issues that affected the local population—questions about fishing rights, grazing areas for the reindeer and economic disputes. During the 17th century mountain reindeer herding was developed in the Lule Lappish territories and the mountain Sámi villages were given the elongated shape they still have today. The right to grazing lands and border disputes became more common in the cases heard in court.
During the archeological diggings in the 1930s prior to the construction of the town’s clinic, remains of a log structure were found. The conclusion arrived at that time was that this was what was left of the first church which was completed in 1607. Remains of graves were also found. Later diggings have shown that there are other possible locations for the church. It might have been located on the ridge or beside it between what is now the Homestead Museum and Ájtte Museum. Even the market booths and a few cabins were built along the ridge. Traces of houses and Sámi hut foundations were found in the area of the Homestead Museum where the Historic Market takes place today.
From about 1690 to the end of the 18th century the vicar was placed in Hyttan or what is called Kvikkjokk today. And in Jokkmokk there was a chapel. Silver ore had been discovered in the mountains near Kvikkjokk and the crown established a smelting hut there. The silver ore was transported from where it was mined in Sarek and Bádjelandda to the smelting furnace and once processed it was transported on to the coast. The Sámi and their draft-reindeer were forced to undertake the difficult and heavy transportation of the ore. The smelting hut was manned by soldiers given the normal military pay. The operation continued for only forty years since the silver deposits did not give the earnings which they expected. But the enterprise led to some new homesteads being claimed following the shore of the Lule River from Luleå up to Kvikkjokk, homesteads which had the legal duty of housing and transporting travelers.
For a long time the village of Jokkmokk consisted only of the church, the parsonage, cabins for those attending church and market booths. In 1732 a school for Sámi children opened, and the permanent settlers increased in the person of the school master! During the 18th century there was an increase in population, both among the Sámi as well as among settlers. The oldest church was too small and a new church was inaugurated in 1753. It burned down in 1972, but a few years later a replica of the old church was rebuilt on the same place. It was built following the building plans from the 18th century. It is this church that is called the “old church”.
As parish church the old church had already been replaced by the new church which was completed in 1888. The church village had continued to grow. The new church was large and stately, built to the taste of the era and fit for a town which was developing into the administrative center of the whole parish. The irregular and temporary character of buildings which had been typical for Jokkmokk up to now had by this time been replaced by a modern local development plan with square blocks and straight streets. The new church was built conforming to this grid plan. The old market booths and church cabins were torn down or moved as new construction took place.
In 1943 loans to build private homes were made available even to the reindeer-herding Sámi, despite hard opposition from the Lappish bailiffs and Norrbotten’s County Administrative Board. So permanent winter housing could now be built. At the beginning of the 1950s steps were taken to provide housing for reindeer herders. Specially designed houses were constructed in “Lapp town”. The area had previously been called Gielas (Sámi for pine heath). This had earlier been the location of a number of church cabins, which were now torn down.
In the 18th century the intensive reindeer husbandry was established with migrations in the different seasons. The inhabitants and reindeer from the Sirkas, Tuorpon and the newly established Kaitum Sámi villages migrated in the summer to the mountains, while those of the Jockmock and Sjocksjock villages moved within the forest areas.
The state encouraged homesteaders to colonize the area. By-laws in the “Lappmarksplakatet” of 1695 regulated the relationship between the Sámi and the settlers. The settlers were to dedicate themselves to agriculture and animal husbandry and thus not encroach on the Sámi livelihood. In reality agriculture in the Lappish territories was very limited. At best barley could be grown and later on potatoes when they came to Sweden. The settlers, just like the Sámi, were forced to hunt and fish to survive.
In reality, though, it was only when intensive forestry which supplied the growing saw mills with raw material at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th , that colonization brought about an increase in population. There was now need for many workers in the forests as loggers and rafters. Many villages were established with housing for lumberjacks and their families. In the winter the men spent their time felling trees and transporting the logs by horse. In the spring, once the ice melted, they floated the logs down the streams and rivers to the saw mills. During the summer and autumn they farmed and made hay. The women took care of the home and farm alone most of the year.
The growing industries in Sweden needed electricity. At the beginning of the 20th century it became economically advantageous to exploit the hydropower in the larger rivers of the north, despite the distance and the difficult conditions due to the long winters. The first hydroelectric power plant on the Lule River, the Pioneer Plant in Porjus, produced electricity beginning in the autumn of 1914 and became the starting point for the development of the Lule River which continued until the 1970s.
The exploitation of hydroelectric power meant big changes for Jokkmokk. For the Sámi it meant that grazing lands, calving areas, settlements and holy places disappeared underwater in the large dam facilities. Many people, both reindeer herders and small farmers left their jobs to work on the hydroelectric plants. Temporary towns such as Harsprånget and Messaure existed for a number of intensive years while dams were being built. When everything was completed, the houses were taken down, sold or moved to another facility.
The law giving industrial freedom from 1846 allowed free trade in time and space. But the winter market continued to gather people from the whole parish. The length of the market was reduced from several weeks to one week, and the market now was more just for trade and barter. Worship services and Laestadian gatherings were still important. Weddings and baptisms were planned for the market time, as well as the bailiff meeting with the Sámi villages to deal with reindeer herding issues. But the king’s tax collectors had left the scene.
During the 20th century trading took on many new forms, with the arrival of post order, department stores and supermarkets. Railroads and highways were expanded and after the Second World War car ownership grew. Many traditional markets disappeared for good. Jokkmokk’s final spring market was held in the beginning of the 1930s.
Jokkmokk’s winter market lived on but under strong competition from shops which became more numerous as the population grew, both in the town and outlying villages. Especially the trade with animal skins remained strong. The Sámi came with both the furs of game animals and reindeer skins and sold them to the merchants from the coast. The church had worship services and Laestadian meetings, weddings and baptisms. Modern time market wares with candy for the children, trinkets and carnival rides were now part of the picture, but the winter market was also a place to purchase something new and exclusive which the local shops would not have. It was also an important occasion to meet old and new friends in the market crowd.
The municipal government of Jokkmokk had also begun to see the importance for tourism and business to maintain and also develop the market tradition. The municipal Tourism Board was given responsibility for the market. The chairman for many years was Gösta Åkerlund (1911-2001), an industrious and visionary person. He was the tavern keeper at Hotell Gästis and the director of theater for the Bio Norden cinema, both central facilities for the market celebrations. The market was still a so-called free market where anybody could come and sell their wares. Many rented space on the sidewalk from homeowners in the center of town. The Tourism Board booked the carnival rides and other entertainment and coordinated activities during the two market days, Thursday and Friday.
On the suggestion of the Tourism Board it was decided that in 1955 they would celebrate the 350th Anniversary Market. For the commemoration a special committee was chosen, led by Gösta Åkerlund and the municipal accountant, David Hedqvist. The committee gave the artist Runo Johansson Lette the assignment to create a market symbol. This logo is still used today, with a woman dressed in a Lule Sámi costume holding some cloth draped over her arm. Behind her is a reindeer with its head up. Lette made a metal sculpture a meter tall which is part of the Ájtte Museum collection. Uno Fransson, administrator of the Employment Office made a graphic version of the figure which was used for printing up material for advertisement such as posters and lapel pins.
The actress Ingrid Bergman who happened to be in Stockholm at this time was invited to the market by Gösta Åkerlund, but she had other engagements and could not come. But there was both a theater company and a circus for the celebration. More than one hundred merchants were here for the market of 1955, compared with the 30 to 40 of a normal year. And there were ten thousand visitors. The market area stretched from Borgarplatsen to the Outdoor Homestead Museum and not through the central part of town as had been the custom. There was a reindeer herd on the ice of the newly dredged Talvatis Lake. Local merchants were encouraged to attract customers by dressing in turn of the century clothing and burning outdoor torches in front of their shops. The market was lengthened by one day, Thursday through Saturday.
A commemorative publication “Jokkmokk’s Market 1605-1955” was put together. A film produced by Gösta Åkerlund was also completed in time for the market, a film which is still shown.
The 350th anniversary celebration was a turning point for Jokkmokk’s Market and has grown year by year since then. Guidelines for present day markets were drawn up in an attempt to raise the quality of the wares on sale and the cultural program with exhibits and seminars. The traditional reindeer caravan that goes through the town was carried out for the first time, with Amul Länta leading it. There were ideas which didn’t materialize then but became reality later, such as ice and snow sculptures. At the initiative of Gösta Äkerlund the market symbol was carved in snow for the first time in 1961 by Albert Falck, a teacher. It was placed outside Svensson’s hardware store on Storgatan. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 1990s that Albert Falck was asked to re-do the snow sculpture. Since then he has carved it every year for the market.
In 2005 the fourth centennial market was celebrated. Since the first anniversary market was held in 1955, Jokkmokk’s Winter Market has grown to be the largest winter festival and tourist magnet of the Scandinavian Arctic Circle region. Art and culture have become as important a feature as commerce. A program leaflet which has become a catalogue with the complete program has been printed and made available since 1962. In the 1970s the municipal government by means of the Tourist Office took control of the market by issuing sale permits. In this way they could maintain a certain level of quality of the wares put on sale. In the 1990s there were up to 25,000 visitors.
For the fourth centennial celebration a project organization within the municipal government was put in charge of coordination and overall planning. The culture administration and institutions such as Ájtte Museum, the Sámi Education Centre and the Swedish church were the backbone of the cultural program. Permanent and temporary taverns, restaurants and cafés met the need for food and entertainment. Hotels, rental cabins and private homes gave lodging to guests from around the world. The market had attracted the attention of the news and was covered by local and international media.
The number of visitors reached 80,000 during the market week. From a large ice stage, built on Talvatis Lake, the Swedish king and queen inaugurated the fourth centennial celebration followed by a preformance of the Norrbotten’s Chamber Orchestra. The whole town was in a festive mood, decorated with snow and ice sculptures and burning outdoor torches.
In 2005 the first Historic Market was also held. The traditional three days were now augmented to six. The week began with a worship service in the old church which followed the church rituals of the 1600s. The Historic Market attempts to recreate the experience of a market held 400 years ago and is located on the spot where the first markets were held. Trade is carried on of wares such as hand ground barley flour, homemade ointments, homespun, broadcloth and warm reindeer skin shoes.
In the years 2021 and 2022, the Covid pandemic resulted in restrictions to events with many participants, and the markets these years were therefore only held in digital form. Digital elements will certainly be part of the coming years’ markets, as a complement to the physical market.